I posted a picture this week so my friends and family could see the way my younger daughter’s advancing age has ravaged her teeth. I’m not sure how she’s actually eating right now; there are so many gaps in her ragged smile. I mourn the loss of those perfect little pearly-whites that we worked so hard for, back in that first year. I remember the chipmunk smile of her first birthday and how huge those little nubs looked in her mouth.
She, on the other hand, has no such hesitation. She bounced in from school, delighted to show us the treasure box she got from the nurse when the first of her two front incisors came out at lunch time. Yesterday, she could hardly get the blood rinsed out of her mouth; she was so thrilled with the newly empty place beside the first. And this morning she woke up an hour earlier than usual to dance the celebratory dance of a new Golden Dollar. And for that, she has her father to thank.
If I were in charge of “bringing imaginary figures to life” for our family, I’d probably be sliding the golden dollar across the table and throwing the tooth in compost. At some point, we are going to have to break off this charade. A lost tooth at family camp, where no one thought to bring a golden dollar, turned into a long yarn about how tooth-fairies have different routes and we can’t be sure, but camp might be on the “Paperdollar Tooth-Fairy’s” route. No worries, because our tooth-fairy was glad to exchange that paper dollar for a golden coin the next night.
It’s the same way at Christmas with Santa. Whoever takes the role has to mask his voice and, I’m not kidding, put gray makeup on his eyebrows to hide his natural hair color. According to family tradition, gray eyebrows are the key to the magic of Santa. Santa should also have handwriting distinctly different from that of Mom and Dad. (Of course, you can cheat at these rules, if you are desparate to get a toddler to nap.)
I’m all for the fun and games of these family traditions. It’s hilarious how the kids’ eyes light up at the magic they perceive to be happening, not just around them, but for them. I myself have helped my daughter write a note to the tooth-fairy to explain that her loose tooth fell into the toilet and couldn’t be retrieved, but could she still have a golden dollar? But there has be a point where we affirm our kids’ growing skills of reason and let them realize that this is a fun game, not the truth of how the world works. After all, if you are masking your handwriting, your kids must be old enough to read. It might be time to let them figure it out, before they embarrass themselves with the kids at school.
Maybe I shouldn’t sit them down at the table and explain that the tooth-fairy is really just Daddy. I’m sure they’ll want to realize the truth more gradually than that. But I do try to ensure that we don’t work too hard convincing them that these untrue things are true, because I don't want to sacrifice our credibility.
I want my kids to trust me, that I’m not out to fool them. It's important they know I'm not playing games when I also tell them that God came down to Earth to live among us as a human being. I tell them he died, but rose again. I tell them that living out our lives the way he told us to will bring blessing and hope to ourselves and others. They can’t actually see and touch Jesus. He doesn’t leave them money on their night stand. Their first experience of faith in their heavenly father is going to spring from their faith in their earthly parents. Maybe I take it all too seriously, but there’s too much at stake to risk leading them to doubt that the sometimes fantastic things I tell them are really true.
Then Jesus told him, "You believe because you see me. Those who believe without seeing me will be truly blessed." John 20:29