The lies parents tell

So, what do you do when the Tooth Fairy forgets to visit? This happened recently to Eli, and I had to explain that it was because he forgot to leave the tooth on his bedside table, opting to tie the little Tooth Fairy’s special tooth container to his bedpost instead. Now he has the impression that the Tooth Fairy is a fussy bureaucrat. I suppose I could have leveled with him and saved myself a few bucks over the coming years.

I suspect, however, that children resent parents who are painfully honest at the outset about the Tooth Fairy and Santa, who teach their young ones the clinical names for their sex organs, who assert theological opinions about the doubtfulness of a favorite pet making it to Heaven. These things suggest to me not so much a commitment to honesty as a failure of compassion and imagination.

Then again, I like to write completely made-up stories for the sheer fun of it. So perhaps I’m not the best judge in this area.


  1. Jason

    Our eldest is on her fourth tooth, which was under her pillow earlier this week. I tried at around 10 to make the exchange, and she woke up swinging at me, yelling for Dad to “get away from her tooth!” I tried again at 2, with the same result. From a dead sleep, she went immediately into “defense of her tooth mode.” Luckily it wasn’t until after the cash had been slipped under her pillow.

    I guess with three little brothers, you learn to defend yourself, even in the dead of the night…

  2. Jonny

    10yo son lost a tooth the other day. Practice is to insert a “gold” dollar under the pillow. Parents predictably forgot until the morning. Wife remembered just as son was getting out of bed. She told him to stay put and grabbed a “gold” dollar out of her purse. She gave him a big hug while he lay in bed and slipped the gold dollar under his pillow (where his hand also happened to be). Big grin on son’s face! No worries on the fiction. They figure it out naturally and love you.

  3. b

    Our practice of telling our kids the truth about Santa, the tooth fairy, easter bunny, et al. has been anything but painful. Surprisingly, it has been easy. There have been uncomfortable moments, but nothing that has caused us to reconsider what we are doing.

    We are not complicated parents. My wife has compassion, neither of us are very imaginative. We just thought that by earning our kids’ trust in little things, we would be in a better position to have it when it comes to the important truths of life. honesty and truth seem so marginalized.

    So far, the we have still enjoyed some of the greatest memories surrounding lost teeth (each child can tell you the exact number they have lost and provide explicit details on how the most recent tooth was relocated) and Christmas. My mother collected Santa stuff. She had an entire room dedicated to them in her home. Since her death, my children look on the “Santa Centered” items in our home and remember not a twisted representation of the legend of St. Nick, but the holiday time they were able to enjoy with their grandmother. Hopefully, that will be more important.

  4. Jordana

    Our tooth fairy is often very forgetful. Sometimes, she arrives the next morning and the kids discover money that wasn’t there when they looked the first time.

    Some times our tooth fairy also removes the tooth and adds money before the child goes to bed.

  5. Kim J

    My favorite was the time the tooth fairy forgot, only to have our daughter lose another tooth the next day. The tooth fairy left a 2 dollar bill, which made up for the forgetfulness the night before (plus it gave her a good story to tell everyone).

    We have told our kids that Santa is just a story, but they don’t seem to care, and they get into the story as much as other kids. We play along too, because make-believe is fun. I wonder how much you have to believe in magic’s reality to make it magical?

  6. Jeff Brokaw

    We forget *ALL* the time. It’s embarrassing. Plus we only do $2 per tooth, so I’m sure our kids think the Tooth Fairy is incredibly lame. Maybe I should start blaming all our parental inefficiencies on unions and/or big government. Can’t start the education process too soon!

    I’m really surprised that our 10 year old son still believes in Santa. There’s just no way I’m ever going to pop that bubble, but some kid at school will probably ruin it for him. Then the challenge will be not ruining it for his 8 year old brother.

  7. Ruth H

    After my first mishap like that the tooth fairy ever after always left the money in a glass of water on the kitchen counter where the child had placed it the night before. It worked very well. Sometimes those pillows just don’t work.

  8. Rachel Coleman

    The youngest child at my house *fired* the tooth fairy after several teeth were removed tardily and wrote a letter of complaint for a (home) school assignment.
    She finally forgave the tooth fairy after receiving teeny-tiny letters of apology folded into postage-sized squares.

  9. Tom

    I was caught short on Tooth Fairy duty one night and only had a €5 note to put under the pillow of our youngest – age 5.

    He’s a bit of a character and he was so delighted when he found the €5 I was afraid he was going to start knocking the rest of them out for the payoff.

  10. Michael

    Chesterton gets us out of the dilemma nicely:
    “Fairy tales are more than true. Not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be defeated”

  11. Nancy

    I used the excuse that the dogs scared her away. However when I tried to use that excuse again the next night, it didn’t work.

  12. Scott

    We promised our children to always answer their questions truthfully, but also advised them that they might not want to ask about certain things unless they really wanted to know. (works for the sex talk, too, y’know)

    They need to be able to trust us when we tell them about real beings that they cannot see.

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