For those of you who weren’t blessed with my pitiful little hyperventilating self yesterday, yesterday was A Day. The morning started out quite normal; we were all bustling around getting ready for school and for work, when all of a sudden, Gracie bit down the wrong way on a piece of cereal, yelled, and then declared that she was pretty sure she could pull her tooth out. And then she did. Normal so far, yes? Except then it happened…
After biting down on a paper towel to stop the bleeding, Gracie says, “Mom, I think the tooth fairy should give me some extra money. Since I pulled the tooth myself.”
Oh ho ho ho – the words sounded innocent enough, but I looked up at my darling little eight-year-old because those words sounded awfully full of knowing. I looked right at her, Gracie looked right at me, and damnit to the mothership if her eyes were sparkling with mischief. Did she know? She must! Wait…did she? Was she in on the Tooth Fairy Conspiracy? She had asked very leading questions about Santa the past two Christmases, but since her sister had been around each time, so there wasn’t a chance for me to confirm her suspicions. The only option I had was to heap shovels full o’ magic and believing on top of her and cross my fingers. I thought it worked…but did it?
I sent the kids off to school and then, yeah, I started breathing into a paper bag. The Ex agreed. I was going to have to do it. I was going to have The Talk with Gracie about who exactly was behind all that magic. And then her childhood would be over and she might hate me and my heart would break into a million pieces. And how was your Monday?
One of my co-workers tried reassuring me: didn’t I remember when I knew, but didn’t want to know, and didn’t want to let on that I knew so I could keep the presents coming? NOOOOO!, I told him! I never suspsected! I was the gullible kid who kept right on believing, until my mom had to break it to me sometime after Christmas in third grade, and before fourth grade. I remember bawling, sitting there on my bed. I felt so betrayed by my mom, and so sad that there was no such thing as magic. I think having the magic ripped away was even worse than feeling betrayed.
You can see why I was little worried. Kim told me she thought Gracie would be fine. Gracie loves being in on secrets, and feeling like a grown-up – what better set up for that is there?! She could help me wrap Bee’s presents and feel like she’s in on alllll the secrets. Massive power trips always make her feel better. Ah, but I know my Gracie, and she’s also prone to dramatics. Her heartbreak could be epic. This could have gone down either way.
Which is why, last night when her sister was in the bath, I handed the kiddo a soda to try to buy me some goodwill. “Gracie, I have to talk to you about something.”
“When you said you thought you should get extra money for pulling your own tooth…did you believe that? Do you really believe in the tooth fairy?” I allowed a note of incredulousness into my voice, trying to lead her to the right answer.
“Absolutely!” she fervently agreed. “Who else could find Bee’s tooth when she lost it outside and put it back under her pillow?”
I changed tactics. “You don’t believe that Steggy – your sister’s dinosaur is real, do you?”
“No. I just say I do so she won’t be afraid. There aren’t dinosaurs outside, Mom. And they’re not nocturnal.”
“Right. Because that isn’t logical. It doesn’t make any sense. We just pretend so she’ll feel good and so she’ll believe in magic, and because it’s a little fun Like tooth fairies.”
I had to spell the whole dang thing out for her. And, um, whoops – she really didn’t have any idea. I explained the tooth fairy – and assured her that she would still get money, that nothing would change even after her sister had outgrown it. Then I had to explain that meant Santa too. I thought Gracie would break down then – she looked absolutely devastated. But she rallied when she remembered that she had even said that Santa’s handwriting looked like mine. Bless her little codebreaking heart. She connected the dots to the Easter Bunny on her own. And then she did panic.
“What about God, Mom?”
Rather than give her a complete existential crisis (hey, an 8-year-old can only take so much), I said simply, “God is real. Well, God is still the same.” She can grapple with this is-he-or-isn’t-he when she’s a little more equipped to figure out her own answer. But it made me giggle a little later that one of her first reactions was to think that the entire religious sector was in on pulling a fast. I mean, I guess that made as much sense as learning that parents were playing Santa.
After that, she was completely okay. As in, unfazed. As in, really, not a single tear shed. The complete opposite of where I thought the night was going. “Are you okay? Really? You’re fine?” I asked her more than once. I told her about when I found out so she’d feel like she had “permission” to lose it a little, if she wanted. Then I played up the whole top secret nature of the Santa conspiracy. She was NOT to tell her sister – she could help me play Santa, but she wasn’t to say anything. She could NOT tell her friends. Most of them probably didn’t know, and even asking if they believed might be the thing that made them not believe any more, and that wasn’t fair. She could talk to any grown-up about it as long as she made sure it was in private, so little kids didn’t accidentally overhear anything. And, most of all, she was NOT to overdo it around her sister or anyone. “You’re a horrible liar, Gracie,” I told her. And it’s true: if she’s lying for someone else, if there isn’t any self-preservation involved, the kid couldn’t lie to save her life. Lying to me about brushing her teeth, though, sometimes she can get away with it.
Gracie laughed, knowing how true my statement was, and agreed to all of the club rules. That was it. In the blink of an eye, my kiddo wasn’t a little kid anymore. In real life. She was cool with it. We didn’t even need to make an emergency phone call to Auntie Kim, who, anticipating her ability to talk out loud after a root canal, starting practicing saying, “Thanta ith weal in thpirit, Gwacie.” But all the practice was in vain – Gracie, it turns out, is more ready to grow up than any of the grown-ups in her life are. Which is just as it should be.