Busting the Tooth Fairy Myth, or Not?

The 'Tooth Fairy' pang

As my 6-year old brushed his teeth this morning, I stared into the hole in the middle and asked, “Why have your teeth been missing for so long?” He smiled his foamy mouth and quipped, “The tooth fairy just took them, you know!” Um.. as if someone was supposed to bring them back as well.

There was a slight pang of guilt in me as I had previously fed into the myth of the ‘Tooth Fairy’. Not that it is a dangerous thing; just a bit of lie! And it needs being fed with more ridiculous lies to quench the curiosity of little minds.

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The start and the hiccups to the ‘Tooth Fairy Myth’

It started when my son lost his first tooth at 5 years. Like most mums, I tried to pacify the loss with the fascinating and tempting idea of a visit from a tooth fairy, taking the tooth away at night and leaving some cash in return. I had thought the magical story would be too captivating to be dismissed by disbelief. However, this notion wasn’t exactly the most sensible to his logical mind.

He wasn’t keen on the cash and asked how the whole exercise would take place once the house was locked at night. Also, he questioned the utility of so many teeth for a tiny tooth-collecting fairy. And, the unworldly appearance of some winged creature that he hadn’t ever seen! Uff....

Strengthening the myth

It didn’t seem fair to feed into the fantasy, offsetting the well-built logic and the trust he placed in me. What kind of mum was I trying to be? Wasn’t I instead misleading him deliberately? Anyway, I told him that’s how it works with all the kids.

I didn’t want him to not engage with other kids at school with similar stories to tell. Or to burst the bubble with a ‘grown-up’ view of the world amid an excited bunch of tooth-losers. I just wanted to ease the ordeal and cheer him up with a magical story, perhaps like mums have been doing for generations.

Some parents may not do it

Some parents do not entertain the idea of letting their kids believe in the tooth fairy at all. They do not like the idea of lying to their innocent and trusting children just to bring them a little happiness and comfort. More so, as trying to prove the lie even as your kid points out the inconsistencies necessitates more and stronger lies (“the tooth fairy will find even your lost tooth”).

At school, it may make your kid look silly and gullible once the lie is out in the open. As in any relationship, consistent lies may even damage the trust your child puts into you. Some parents may not want to reward their children with money for every little loss as it might send a wrong message. Some may not like the tooth fairy to take the credit for the cash; they may do it themselves instead. Yet others may deem it as too much fuss about nothing, just letting their kid get on with the rite of passage.

Whatever the views, I think your reaction to it depends on your parenting style.

So, what did we do?

As for me, I just wanted to blend in with what others were doing, topping it with a bit of drama and intrigue. What if he questions the existence of Santa Claus and Easter Bunny and of God at some point soon? Well, I was not ready for that kind of talk. Sure, there must be a place for imagination and magic in a kid’s mind, even for things they cannot see.

Those were my thoughts (they almost still are) when I decided to insist that tooth fairies manage to get to your teeth no matter what and reward you with a bit of money. The following morning he woke up with £2 under his pillow, but no tooth. He loved the idea of money although I am not sure he believed in the story. It didn’t seem to matter to him.

Where are we now?

So far he has lost four teeth and has been quite happily collecting the pounds that come in exchange. He holds it as a validation of his ‘grown-up-ness’ before his 3-year-old ‘little’ brother. He has plans to buy something big with all the money from his lost teeth. Spaceship, rocket, transformers- were some of the options!

I am beginning to think it is not about the story anymore. He is quite a logical boy who talks about the impossibility of a ‘fat Santa’ falling through a narrow chimney on Christmas and “there are always some houses without chimneys!” He seems to have found both the tooth and money twice already (thanks to a muddled mummy). One one occasion, the tooth fairy came the next day (because she didn’t want to be caught that morning). That would need a whole sac full of lies to explain.

Tooth Fairy or no Tooth Fairy?

An important question but not that tricky to answer, I guess. I would recommend taking your own approach to parenting and the readiness of your child into account before deciding which way to go.

There is no point confusing your kid with useless fibs if they find it hard to digest. Moreover, they may not always need to be awarded with money like their friends. They may like an ice cream, a little treat or perhaps a new toothbrush instead! Equally, it may not do any harm to continue the story. It may be tool for encouraging the little ones to take care of their teeth, to be given to a kind fairy later on.

As for us, it seems my boy is getting to grips with the unlikelihood of the whole tooth-fairy business. He seems to know the lie but is too happy pretending and banking the cash than challenging it. Meanwhile, I am choosing to keep mum and see him smile in ‘toothlessy’ delight. Who knows, the day of reckoning may just be a few teeth away!

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About the Author:
Esha is a mum of two boys, six and three years old. She has worked as a financial analyst before and is currently enjoying her role as companion to her kids- admiring their everyday feats, relishing their funny antics and entertaining them with fun games on-the-go. Discussion, negotiation, temptation and a little trickery- that's how she balances her books now!

On this beautiful journey of childhood, she plans to remember and cherish the best times spent with them. She writes about the special moments in their everyday lives, developmental milestones, how they adapt to new experiences and challenges and how to extract fun from the otherwise plain routine of our lives. And sometimes, when she feels like it, she makes poetic attempts to weave together the diverse threads in the distracted-cum-curious mind of a busy mum. Do read her experiences on the journey of childhood here.

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