Last Saturday morning, I woke up in a hot panic. I had forgotten to “help” the Tooth Fairy deliver her monetary goods to my 7-year-old daughter, Mara.
She had lost the tooth at school on Friday, so it was something I was told about later — as opposed to actually being there in the moment. Plus, we returned home late that night, and everyone went straight to bed after a fun evening at the neighbors’.
Side note: I don’t know about other parents, but by the time the kids head off to bed Friday night, I am done. The mental equivalent of the quitting-time whistle sounds off in my head, and I am off the clock until sunrise (barring illness, natural disaster or late-night kiddie wake-up calls).
So, yes, the Tooth Fairy not making the rounds last Friday night was a perfect alignment of missteps on my part. But it wasn’t entirely my fault.
Apparently, the only thing less reliable than our family’s Tooth Fairy is, thankfully, my daughter.
When Mara emerged from her bedroom that morning, I asked — with false enthusiasm — if the Tooth Fairy had visited her. She replied, “Oh, shoot! I forgot to put my tooth under my pillow last night!”
I have been pulling tooth duty for six years. So it was only a matter of time before I screwed it up. My only saving grace in this instance is that my daughter was equally forgetful. But it got me wondering, “How much longer do we keep up the charade?”
I have a very clear memory of when I found out who was behind the money under my pillow, the eggs hidden at Easter and the gifts wrapped under the Christmas tree. I was in fourth grade. My mom and I were at Target shopping, and I finally worked up the courage to ask her if the playground rumors were true about all of my mystical childhood surprises. I then made a solemn oath not to let the news trickle down to my younger sister’s ears.
The revelation came with a mixture of pride and disappointment. I was excited to be in on things with the grownups and to have this mature knowledge that my little sister didn’t share. But I also remember feeling a little deflated. Being made privy to this small inner working of the world only put into stark light the real possibility that there was no such thing as magic.
Even though Mara didn’t notice and her oversight afforded me another opportunity to get things right, part of why I felt so terrible about forgetting about her tooth was that I don’t know how many of these make-believe moments I have left in my career.
My son, Declan, turns 10 soon, so I know the sands in the believer glass are running out. My hope is that, even when the curtain is pulled back to reveal the woman behind the wonderment, he will take a page from his mama and still keep an eye out for magic while helping to keep the mystery alive for those who still truly believe.
Molly Cavanaugh of Channel 94.1 FM’s “Big Party Show” in Omaha is a mom to two children living in Chicago. She writes weekly for Momaha.com.