Since Maggie was old enough to understand me, I have been lying to her. I knew that one day she would find out I was fraud. I tried to put it off as long as I could. But it happened last night.
We were alone in the car, and she asked me if I was the Tooth Fairy.
Now, you have to understand, Maggie is a brilliant child. I don’t just say that because she’s mine. It is a true fact. She is a year ahead in school, has never gotten a grade less than a 90, and excels at everything academic. So I did not want to lie to her brilliant, logical self.
But, she is also a sweet and innocent child, who still believes in Santa Claus, has absolute, unwavering faith in God, and in people, and in me. She also has an uncanny understanding of this human life; of how every thing is impermanent, of how fleeting childhood really is, and of how every moment is precious.
So, how could I tell her that I had been lying to her all of these years? How could I destroy her faith and trust in me? How could I cause her to question her faith in everything at this young age?
I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t know how to answer. I want her to hold on to her childhood, to her innocent belief in everything. But I also want to be honest with her, to respect her intelligence, to finally come clean, after all of these years. What could I say? I couldn’t form an answer.
“Do you think I am the Tooth Fairy?” was all I could muster.
“Yes, Mom. I do.” she replied.
Crushed. I was crushed by those words. They took the breath out of my lungs.
This is it. It ends here. The childhood fantasy is over, and the doorway to young adulthood opens, just a crack. Do I slam it shut!? Or do I push it open, and step through, and welcome her to this new place with open arms? Shit! I hate this moment.
I remained silent, processing her words for what felt like an hour, but was probably 30 seconds. I remember taking a huge, full inhale, and exhaling with a sigh. I turned to look at her sweet face. Her pale blue eyes, searching mine, waiting for my answer. I could lie no longer.
“Yes, Maggie. I am.”
“Awwwww” she said, in utter disappointment. “I thought so.”
What a shit I am! What did I just do? I should have said NO! I started wondering what would come out of my mouth next. Where would this conversation lead? What other dreams would I be shattering on this car ride home?
“What about the Easter Bunny? Are you the Easter Bunny?” she pleaded in her soft, sad voice.
Oh God…NO!!!! Santa is next, isn’t he? She’s going to ask me about Santa. This is really the end!
“Is this what parents do? They all lie to their kids about it?” She took a breath “And I don’t even want to KNOW about SANTA!” She said adamantly.
She feels it too. She knows what is coming. She is so smart; she knows that the truth is going to change everything.
“Mags…Do you really want to know the answers to these questions?” I asked her. It was her turn for the deep breath. She inhaled and then sighed.
“No, Mommy. I don’t. Not yet.”
Not yet, she says…this kid is amazing!
“Just the Tooth Fairy. That’s enough for now.”
“Okay, but when you want to talk about these things again, let me know.”
“I will, Mommy. I love you.”
“I love you too, kiddo.” I said, as I felt that door cracking open, just a tiny bit more.