Friday, November 28, 2008

Post mortem

So we're in recovery mode from Thanksgiving. The dinner itself turned out well considering that my mother and father managed to squash two major childhood beliefs in the first 15 minutes we were there.

Sweet Neil was showing Marna and Pa the space in his mouth where his tooth used to be. His first tooth and first experience with the tooth fairy -- he was quite excited.

That's when my mom launched into a story about my youngest brother (he's almost 14 years younger than I am)...

"Remember when you kids didn't think I would remember to put money under Brian's pillow when he lost his first tooth?"

I stared at her in stunned silence. My boys looked at me confused. I had to take action.

"You mean when you FORGOT that the tooth fairy would be coming and you thought you should do it?!" I said as I tried to casually kick her back into the present.

"What? No. Remember when you guys put money under Brian's pillow...."

"Mom. You MEAN when you were ADDING to what the tooth fairy brings," I said kicking her harder.

She stared at me. "OH. OH."

There's a moment of silence. I briefly think we are in the clear.

And then she says, "You kids never believed in the tooth fairy or Santa. Why should you?"

That's when my dad starts in on Santa. "There was no Santa when I was a kid. You got a flannel shirt and they told you to like it!"

Sweet Mercy. Are you kidding me?! 

One of the dogs ran outside and I sent the kids after him. "Stay out there."

Now, I didn't believe in the tooth fairy or in Santa. That was my parents' choice. It was not a tradition they were interested in or had time for, I suppose. In fact, my mother is quite proud of how I would tell all the neighbor kids how stupid they were for believing and how I would "set them straight." I'm sure I was very popular with kids and parents.

But my husband believed, and it was important to him that our children believe or at least have the chance to believe in magic and mystery and childhood things.

I have to say that one of my lifetime favorite moments was when Jack was 2 and came down the stairs on Christmas morning. He didn't see the tree or the mounds of gifts for him around it. All he saw was an empty plate and glass where the night before he had left cookies and milk for Santa. Jack couldn't contain himself. The joy was contagious. Santa had been there! It didn't matter what he had brought. It mattered that by magic he had come.

I tried gently to remind my mother and father that our children believe in Santa and the tooth fairy and that we expect them not to dispel these myths. Though it was a bit like closing the barn door after the horse was already loose.

"Why should they believe in Santa?!" my mother starts in again. "You kids never believed. Why should they?"

I can see my husband about to lose it. "Why shouldn't they?!" he asks my mother.

I think I'm thankful that my dad interrupts and starts in on "kids these days." He covers spoiled kids, loser kids, too many self-esteem movements and the drugs kids are on these days...

Forty-five minutes later my dad is still going, but we are coming full circle. The kids are outside playing. My parents have stopped talking about Santa and the tooth fairy. And I feel like I've been run over by a bus.

The kids haven't asked about the tooth fairy or Santa. We haven't brought it up. But I'm sure it's coming.

I don't have any idea what to do when it does...

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