I have a beautiful nearly 10 year-old grandson. He has recently learned that the Tooth Fairy is a fantasy. He has tried to share his new-found knowledge with his younger 7 year old sister who just lost a tooth and was anticipating the special endowment only a Tooth Fairy can bring. With some humor, his father told me what he said in counsel his son, “Son, I know you now know that the Tooth Fairy is really mom and dad. Please, don’t tell your younger siblings so you don’t ruin their experience.”
I’ve thought about this for the last week and about belief versus truth. My sweet granddaughter wholeheartedly believes in the Tooth Fairy and other holiday personalities that are myths. She has never even thought to question their actual existence. She just knows! Or does she? Her knowledge has come from her experiences in her young life. She may have seen a cartoon. She excitedly received some money under her pillow when she lost a tooth. She saw her older brother be the recipient of the Tooth Fairy’s favors when she was only four. She has never really seen the Tooth Fairy, or the Easter Bunny or even Santa Claus. What she has is profound belief in something that is not true.
Whether through her older brother, or well-meaning school friends, she will eventually learn the truth one day. Will she be devastated or happy? Will she get angry at her parents for having deceived her for all those many years when they knew the truth? Perhaps, she will just accept her new paradigm and know that one day too, she may be a parent of a young child and knowingly deceive her child by being a loving and generous Tooth Fairy.
Her baby sister is only 4 months old. She doesn’t yet believe in such silly ideas. Well, I don’t know if she does because she can’t speak yet. But, like her older siblings, her parents and others will eventually convince her to believe in something that is not true. Then, they will love her when she discovers the truth. What if they never teach her about the Tooth Fairy in the first place?
I have often wondered why we put children through this. Is this to help them develop cognitive thinking skills that they will need later in life? Maybe, we do it innocently, because that is what we were taught. It might be that we do it, so they will experience joy. Regardless the reasons, no one can argue this point: We teach our children a myth, perpetuate it by our actions and then are loving toward them when they learn the truth. We are not angry or demeaning. That would be silly. It was us, after all, that taught them to believe what they believe, true or not.