12

The End of the Innocence

I knew this day was coming.

I’ve known it since Bookworm was 5 years old and despite her having worked that wobbly tooth back and forth with concentration and determination never seen before (and rarely since, unless a book was involved)…she just could not break free her first tooth to warrant a visit from the elusive Tooth Fairy.  In fact, more than 7 months after she first started wiggling that tiny little tooth, I had to take her to our dentist to have it pulled.  It was basically dead from so much manhandling-so much so that it had turned a funky sort of oyster grey.  Our dentist was gentle and wonderful (and had Apple TV installed in the ceiling so that she watched Barbie and the Twelve Dancing Princesses while he did the extraction-so seriously-who’s to complain?) and sweet Bookworm virtually danced out of the dentist’s office with her First Lost Tooth wrapped like a treasure for the Tooth Fairy to collect in the night.

Bookworm's First Lost Tooth

There was no bringing her down from her high.  Her smile was infectious, her joy absolutely true…and that tiny little hole on the bottom of her gums was just adorable (the days of really ganky, jack-o-lantern smiles was still years in her future) and the next morning she treasured her Tooth Fairy Money as though it were the most valuable and special thing on the planet.  Until.

The little boy in her kindergarten class told her that the Tooth Fairy wasn’t real and it was just her mom putting money under her pillow.

Now, here’s the thing.  I totally respect and understand that we choose to live in a multi-cultural environment and we also elected to live outside of our own culture.  I get that the majority of her Hong Kong classmates don’t “get” our customs. I also respect them for not adopting them.  When you really think about it, somebody sneaking into your room to steal your teeth is a little bit creepy.

But, seriously.  I wanted to thump that little kid right in the head.

I didn’t.

Which is good for many reasons.  In reality, I tried very hard not to even react.  I just asked my sweet little Bookworm what she thought.  And here is what I have always loved about my Big Girl.  For all of her troubles, my girl has an imagination and a pure soul that is just full of wonder and belief.  Often times, Circus Dad and I have pondered if it is good for her to live so much of her life in her fantasy world-in her head and in her books and in the little universes she invents in her own stories.  But, my 5-year-old Bookworm looked me straight in the eye and told me how sorry she was for that little boy because it WAS his mom.  Because, obviously , he didn’t believe in the Tooth Fairy.  And everybody knows that if you don’t believe, fairies can’t stay alive.  Therefore, he must have killed his Tooth Fairy.

What?  You didn’t know every kid has her own individual fairy?  Duh.  Of course they do.  Because how else would it even Work??

Anyway.  I knew then that the moment my sweet Bookworm matured to the point that her logic trumped her belief in magic, it would all crumble.

Last year, she very seriously asked me if I thought it were possible that Hogwarts is real.  (I answered no.  There is a Hogwarts at Harry Potter World, I think…but there isn’t a real school.)  She argued that I simply couldn’t be sure and when she had her 10th Birthday Party (It was a Hogwarts School Entrance Exam Party), she was certain that she was going to receive a REAL acceptance letter at some point before her 11th birthday.  Which is quickly approaching.

Only, no letter.  And her best friend didn’t get a letter when she turned 11.  Which has gotten her thinking.

This Christmas, we had a few conversations about how strange it is that Santa is all over the world.  And then she would get very quiet and ask why there aren’t any specific photos of the REAL Santa online when you Google him.  Circus Dad and I vacillated between wanting to go overboard with ridiculous reasons why she should believe and wanting to sit down and help her to grasp the magic versus the myth.  In the end, we decided that she would ask specific questions when she was ready for the answer and neither of us wanted it ON US-the end of the innocence.

Three years ago, Bookworm asked Santa some really deep questions about Fairies and sent it in a letter to Santa (that she thought I didn’t see).  I enlisted literary assistance (this time from my Genius Skip-Sister-see previous posts on Expertise and my giant family) and Santa delivered a brilliant 7 page explanation of the Fairy world and how it all works.  Every so often, Bookworm still pulls that letter out to disprove a classmate or friend that might cop to being a non-believer.

I found some great letters and ideas on Pinterest for how to deal with her if she came to us.  But it didn’t happen.  And Santa pulled through again-even though we were in the USA and her present was in Thailand.  Santa even brought her sister the crutches she asked for.  Yes-that’s right.  The Bean got crutches for Christmas.  We’re not Normal.

Bookworm has her mother’s bad teeth.   We’ve been discussing the inevitability of braces for at least 3 years.  Just last week, she pulled out a tooth and I happily told her that we only had one more baby tooth to go before we could get the braces on!  She grumbled a bit and acted a bit funny and sulky as she went through her little routine of making a little fairy seating area on her nightstand and left her standard letter for the Tooth Fairy.  In the letter (which was a the size of a mini-post-it-note) she wrote (in miniature lettering that I could hardly decipher with my 40-year-old-eyes) asking her Fairy for a photo.  Because The Bean got a photo of the tooth fairy when she lost her tooth last semester.

It’s an App.  You take a photo of your sleeping kid and then you pick a tiny fairy to superimpose on the photo.  It took me 60 seconds and it was free.  I just thought I was being fun.  But apparently, I kicked of a s*&%storm.  Because the fairy wasn’t REAL.  She was a cartoon.  Anyway-I didn’t know that.  I just used the same app and did the same thing (with a different fairy, obviously) for Bookworm.

When she came down to breakfast she was mopey and irritated.  It was then I heard that her fairy was a CARTOON and that wasn’t real.  Why didn’t she take a REAL photo of herself.  I didn’t reply.  How could I??  I sort of ignored the whole thing and hoped it would go away.

But tonight I returned home to find her in the kitchen with a little baggie in her hand and a strange look on her face.  I waited.  Eventually, she brought me the bag.  Inside, the last baby tooth.  I congratulated her and said, “Nice!  You’ll be rich!”  She rolled her eyes.  And Then.

“Mom.”

I’m dying a little bit inside.  Because I know what’s coming.  I’ve halfway hoped for this, I admit.  I’m old.  I’m tired.  It’s a miracle I remember to put the money under the pillow half the time.  But I know that this is such a moment.  I don’t know what to do.

“I know.”

“You know what?”

“Well, my teacher kind of gave it away”

“What?  What do you mean?”

Listen, again.  I get it.  It’s not kindergarten anymore.  I seriously think Bookworm is The Last of her friends to believe. Most of The Beans friends don’t believe anymore.  So I get it.  And I’ve appreciated that Bookworm’s friends have protected her and even coddled her in her need to believe.  But I was curious.

“Well, a boy in our class was sharing.  He said he had a terrible weekend because he asked his mom directly if she was the Tooth Fairy and she gave him a bag of his teeth.  And Ms. XX didn’t know what to do.  She got all weird and I could tell she wasn’t sure what to do.  So, then I knew.  She was afraid she was going to ruin something.”

“What do you think?”

“I think I want to believe.  But I know it’s not real.”

Oy.  Cue sappy hallmark music.  My stomach clenched up and I wanted to turn back time to when she was 5 and she was So Certain that fairies were real and magic was everywhere.  And I knew I could save her because if somebody hurt her feelings, she cared more about my opinion than anybody else’s.

But those days are over.  And they have been.  She’s lanky and angsty.  She rolls her eyes more at me than she laughs at me when I’m being silly or doing voices.  And that’s okay.

I did ask, gently, what she thought that meant about other things…like, say, for instance The Easter Bunny?  She said she didn’t think about it.  I asked about Jack Frost.  She actually raised one eyebrow and just stared at me.  We live in Thailand.  I waited.  She looked at me and said, “Santa?” her voice breaking a bit.

I asked her if she wanted to believe.  I told her that belief was important and believing in magic and all that entails is such an integral part of who she is, she should spend some time thinking about that.  I just couldn’t bear to push her one millimeter beyond where she was.

She was quiet.  She said, she believes in Santa.  I said, “I do, too”.

And then she asked me if she could help me BE the Tooth Fairy for her sister.

I cannot think of a more perfect job for my sweet dreamy girl.  It may be the end of the Innocence for her, but I know she will help to make the next few years truly magical for her sister.  I just hope I can remember to enjoy each moment while I have it.