I am honest with my children.
No matter what.
It’s difficult. It means sitting with a lot of uncomfortable truths. It means prefacing a lot of statements with “I think” or “basically.” It means admitting to my own ignorance and failings more often than my ego would prefer.
It also means we don’t do those childhood myths designed to scare or haze children: no Santa Claus, no Easter Bunny, no Sugar Sprite, no Boogeyman, and no Tooth Fairy.
We do preserve the parts of those traditions that are important or fun, because growing up is significant and life should be fun, but there’s no fanciful explanation for it. My kids know that Robert hides the Easter eggs, that I make the majority of their Christmas presents, and that the house takes a cut of their Halloween candy action (which is only fair, since we supply transportation, room and board, and attire).
And most of the time I feel like it’s magic enough to have a loving and stable family,a safe home, and a beautiful world to explore.
But for some reason, when I looked in Númenor’s mouth a few months ago and saw two VERY loose front bottom teeth and the permanent teeth already erupting under them, I felt a little tug of sadness about the fact that our house is a Tooth Fairy No-Fly Zone. I worried, just a little, that somehow this milestone wouldn’t be as important or as marked as it should be.
So I thought about how we should shape our family traditions as we turned this new corner. Here’s what I came up with.
Some practical equipment, namely toothpaste. Until now our smalls have been brushing their teeth with just water, which works fine, but we want to be extra-careful with those new permanent teeth coming in because they have to last. So now Númenor has his own little pot of baking soda, bentonite clay, and coconut oil to help him clean and polish.
A special gift for this special first tooth, in this case, the A-frame play tent I’ve been planning. There will probably be a special gift for the last tooth, too, when we get there.
Two tiny bits of tradition: a tooth traded for a gold coin, and a special place for the dead drop. The trade is the magical part, and the pocket money is the bit kids actually care about.
This is the beginning of the end of the little-kid parenting in our family. Now that those first teeth have dropped, Númenor is just a regular kid, no longer a little kid. There are still others coming up the ranks, of course, but we will have one child who is too old to be called little anymore.
Which is equal parts frightening and wonderful.
And plenty magical.