The Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny: A guest post by Kim Rich

The spring has left me struggling to preserve a sense of magic in our house. Two events caused the crisis: My daughter Mary lost yet another tooth, and Easter came.  Now seven, my girls are getting smarter and wiser about the broader world. This is both a good thing and a loss. With that awareness comes reasoning, and with that goes things like belief in the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny.

The past Christmas I was convinced the gig was up with Santa. The kids were asking way too many questions: “How Does Santa get into the house” (my girls are preoccupied, perhaps rightly, with the idea of strangers coming into our home in the middle of the night. Read on); “How does Santa’s sleigh fly?”; “Do the reindeers really fly?”; “How Does Santa get all the presents delivered?” And so on.

With each question, I managed to come up with an answer/comeback. For example, when wary of the different-looking Santa’s (“Look at his beard!” Kristan once exclaimed when we found yet another Santa at another mall), the children agreed with me that Santa used a variety/host of ‘fake’ Santas to make all the mall appearances. In fact, we even once ran into the ‘real’ Santa at one of our outings, and this confirmed his existence.

I wrestled with the idea of telling them. Was it really better for my kids to think someone was essentially breaking into our house in the middle of the night and that was OK? Not really. Their wariness of such an occurrence was heartening – they’re NOT inclined to let strangers in the house. This remains steadfast. Good.

I’ve always thought magical thinking was important to children’s development. A recent study I read about confirmed my suspicions. This particular study found that children who had active fantasy lives as toddlers and preschoolers do better in school later on.  This is probably true of children in developed nations. If you are a starving child, in say, Africa, you probably don’t spend a lot of time chasing make-believe dragons. There are sadly too many real-life dangers to deal with.

That aside, early on when I had kids I wondered how much of what I grew up with would be passed onto my children. Anyone who has read my book knows there is much about my childhood I’d just as soon not pass on. But the tradition of Santa, the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny were worth keeping.  Why? Because if for no other reason: It’s fun.

As it gets closer and to closer to coming to an end, I chronicled this issue in a series of Facebook posts titled: “The Texas Diaries: Magical Thinking meets the Age of Reason.”

First to nearly go? The Tooth fairy. When Mary lost her last tooth in March, she asked about this so-called tooth fairy. Once again, how it got in the house. “Oh, they’re very small,” her dad said. That seemed to be the end of it. Of course, things always got a bit dicey when the Tooth Fairy forgets to come by and doesn’t leave any money. We have elaborate scenarios to explain this. First, parents have to send an email alerting the Tooth Fairy that a tooth has come out. If you don’t get the notice off in time, the tooth fairy won’t come until the next night.

If I applied as much time writing as I do concocting stories to prop up and preserve the mysteries of childhood, I could have written something akin to “War and Peace.”  But remember my last post? Sitting still is not so much fun. Talking about the tooth fairy is.

Then real problems began to surface with the advent of the Easter season.  We attended a YMCA event here in Dallas where the children could get their pictures taken with the Easter Bunny. Seeing how obviously fake the Easter Bunny at the photo shoot looked, the girls concluded that the Easter Bunny, like Santa, must send out fakes to take care of photo ops. (I should note mine were the oldest children there; everybody else had babies and toddlers in their Sunday best). I cling to fantasy. So shoot me.

Later that week, while driving back from a birthday party, the girls started asking questions about the Easter bunny. Some were like the ones dealing with Santa: How does this giant rabbit get in our house?  As we drove on, it became increasingly clear that the girls were quite anxious at the prospect of this big bunny running through our house (I should mention we have a white, dwarf pet rabbit named Snowball, so the kids know real bunnies.)

“What happens if I run into him in the middle of the night?” Charlotte asked anxiously.

“What happens if dad gets up in the middle of the night?” asked Kristan.

‘You won’t,’ ‘He won’t,’ etc . . . soon the questions were coming faster and faster and I had trouble keeping up. And clearly I wasn’t very convincing. When we got home, the questions continued. I was just about to give up, figuring this bunny concept was now scaring the kids. Then I said: “Sometimes the bunny will leave the baskets at the front door. Would you like that?”

Indeed. Charlotte pulled out a sheet of paper and wrote this note: “Leave the stuff at the front door. Please. Thank you. Love, Charlotte, Kristan, Mary.”

Got it rabbit? Just do as the kid says and no one gets hurt! She taped the note to the outside of the front door. The rabbit complied.

Alas, I felt safe and secure in the knowledge I had preserved magical thinking in our house one more year. We were about to live happily ever after until Charlotte found the Wal-Mart receipt for the Easter candy on the kitchen counter. If this were a script I was writing, I would write the words: beat . . . beat . . as this sinks in.

The receipt on the counter, I might add, is the product of the recession. Dad/husband thinks I spend too much money when I go to the store. We’re tightening our belts. He thinks he can ‘help’ me by going over the receipts and seeing if he can spot some items we could have live without. You know, such as soap, bread, milk, flour, sugar . . .

Anyway, there it was and Charlotte reacted with much glee: “Mommy is the Easter bunny!!!”

You thought this post was going to end at the last sentence, just like my daughter’s belief in the Easter bunny. Well, never underestimate the power of quick thinking (because after all it is a skill I am honing when answering my husband’s questions regarding store receipts: “Ah, honey, the diamond bracelet is an investment.”).

“Oh, Charlotte, I was just afraid the Easter bunny wouldn’t be able to find our house and you guys wouldn’t get anything for Easter.” (Remember, we moved to Texas).

“Yeah,” said Dad, from the couch, where he usually can be found.

Oh. Thought Charlotte. “OK,” she said, giving a knowing smile. And while she has since talked about how mom bought some things and the bunny others, I wonder who’s trying to preserve the fantasy: Me for her; or her for me.

This got me thinking about my writing. Most of my writing life I have written nonfiction, except in screenplays. Narrative fiction scares me. After all, Tom Wolf (“The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test” “Bonfire of the Vanities”) waited until he was 50 to write his first novel.

But maybe after all this effort directed at magical thinking, I might try my hand at some fiction.

3 thoughts on “The Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny: A guest post by Kim Rich”

  1. Hi Kim. My son Tyler says, Hi" or would if he knew I was making this post. He's one of your past UAA students. I am a mother of nearly 50 years duration and a child clinician by trade — you could say, and I want to comment first from one role and then the other. You speak of the children's transition from being fooled to perhaps fooling the parents by feigning belief…that gets you to part way. The next phase is most easily seen when you have younger children. With no confession of falsehood, from the parents, the older children begin to take part in the pretense to fool the smaller ones. You can tell because they too are making up cover stories and the like. Then, you know they have grasped the whole thing… Later, they'll tell you all the things you used to say. Like "Remember Mom when I found that receipt and you said…" Never confess. That's my advice.
    The other? Fantasy and the sad kids in third world countries? As a child clinician from what I know of trauma and hardship,fantasy and dissociative daydreams might well be the saving grace for those who survive.

  2. My son recently told me, at the ripe age of 10, that he has known that Santa and the Easter bunny aren't real since he was three- but didn't want to give up the booty so pretended as long as possible. I remember that day when he appraised the fireplace chimney with his hands on his hips- at 3- and said,"That isn't a big enough hole for a man to come through." Hmmmm, was all I could muster, hoping to be off the hook. No such luck. He decided how he gets in and out of the house doesn't matter as long as the presents show up. Can't wait to see how this plays out in later life.

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