A little boy opened the bedroom door and looked up at me, tears in his eyes and a tooth in his hand. “She didn’t come,” he said, lip trembling. I pulled this puddle of disappointed cuteness on to the couch, close to me and almost into my bathrobe and decided to level with him.
“I have to tell you, buddy, there is no tooth fairy, it is parents who switch the tooth for money, it is supposed to be me, but I forget. When you go to bed, I go to bed too, I am just too tired at the end of each day and I forget to go back up and be the tooth fairy. It happened to the big guys, too.”
The tears got bigger and bigger. Then I realized that I forgot something else. He’s six. That was his 3rd lost tooth. He was too little. I could have pulled it off and done some sort of quick switch, I could have made something up and gotten away with it, but he is so pulled together sometimes, so great at being a big brother, that I forgot that he was not one of the big ones. “I kind of suspected,” he said, “because I saw some boxes in the basement right after Easter.” Great, so I just killed the Easter Bunny, too. The tears were still flowing. Please don’t say Santa, please don’t say Santa.
Then I realized that if I had let him in on the tough part of being a grown up – there is no magic – I could make it better by letting him in on the great part of being a grown up – you get to make decisions and take care of people. So I asked him for help. “We need to decide if we are going to tell Jimmy.”
“Oh, no, we can’t tell Jimmy, we have to keep pretending for Jimmy, but what are we going to do when Jimmy asks if the tooth fairy came?”
“What if I just give you two quarters, and from now on when you lose a tooth I will try to remember to put two quarters under your pillow, but if I don’t you can just quietly ask me for the quarters? And when Jimmy loses a tooth, you can help me, because Holly was the tooth fairy for Mary.”
Hush money. His face lights up. “Great.” Then, because he knows he has the upper hand, “Can I watch a show?”