When our daughter was 3 years old, we were out with friends of ours, a boy and his mom. We were walking past a Santa Claus set up, and he wanted to go chat with the santa. While he was up there, I asked her if she wanted to go too. She looked at me like I was nuts. “No,” she told me.
She stared intently at the candy cane and looked back at me. “Now you want to go?” I asked.
“Will you go with me?” she asked.
“No,” I snorted, “but I’ll stand right here and watch.”
She frowned, “Okay.” She approached the santa warily and stopped just out of arms reach. She stood there, unsure how it all worked.
He ho ho ho’d and wanted to know what she wanted for Christmas.
“Actually,” she said “we don’t celebrate Christmas.” (“Actually” was her favorite way to start a sentence from ages 2-4).
The jolly act dropped from the santa’s face and he just looked at her perplexed. They stared at each other for a beat in silence. He shifted uncomfortably in his seat.
“You gave my friend a candy cane,” she told the santa matter of factly. “Can I have one?”
He smiled. This he could understand. He handed over a candy cane and she quickly made her way back to us.
“Can I have part of the candy cane and save part for Daddy?” she asked, holding it up triumphantly.
“Ask me after lunch,” I told her.
When she had her first loose tooth she came to me one day wanting to discuss The Tooth Fairy. I was a bit surprised. What was there to discuss? She wanted to know if The Tooth Fairy was real.
This was not a question I had been expecting. It wasn’t just that we didn’t tell her the Santa Claus and Easter Bunny myth, we had explained to her the nature of it, from the start. Yet here she was coming to me about The Tooth Fairy.
“Well,” I asked, “Do YOU think The Tooth Fairy is real?”
She paused for a moment and finally answered, “Yes.”
“Oh, um… why do you think that?” I inquired. I mean, really, why the fuck did she think that?
“When Maiya loses a tooth, she puts it under her pillow and in the morning there is money,” she explained.
“And who do you think put it there?” I asked hopefully.
“The Tooth Fairy.”
Let’s try this another way. “Does Maiya get things from Santa Claus and The Easter Bunny?”
“Do you think Santa Claus and The Easter Bunny are real?” I asked, pretty certain that to this I’d at least get the response I was expecting.
She laughs. “No!”
“Okay, then who do you think gives her the things from Santa Claus and The Easter Bunny?”
“And who do you think leaves money under her pillow when she loses a tooth?” I asked hopefully.
She told me, “The Tooth Fairy.”
This stunning display of non-logic was, well, stunning to me. I was seeing my child in a whole new light, and I did not like it. I was sitting there, no doubt with my mouth hanging open, wondering about the details of the return policy and whether I had kept the receipt for her. I took a deep breath. “What makes you think that?”
She leaned in very close to me and, quietly and slowly, she said something that sounded partialy like she was telling me a secret and a good deal like she was explaining something to a complete idiot, “I. just. think. it. might. be. fun.”
Ah ha. I got it. She wasn’t an idiot. She wanted the fun of pretending, and better yet she wanted money under her pillow. “Oh. Okay.”
So, we did The Tooth Fairy thing. I bought a bunch of books that were tooth related and when she’d lose a tooth and stuck it under her pillow, we’d take the tooth and leave a book and some coins. One time we could not find the tooth, it had slipped beyond reach. That time The Tooth Fairy left a letter explaining that regulation prevented her from leaving something if she could not find the tooth. She would get into trouble. The Tooth Fairy writes backwards, so it can be easily read in a mirror.
She was right. It was sort of fun.