As we were getting dressed to go to the Easter egg hunt and children’s festival at our daughter’s preschool at our church, the question came blazing at me far too early on a Saturday morning. Carrying her Easter basket and dressed like a pre-tween, she walked into my bathroom with the blow-dryer running and demanded: “Is the Tooth Fairy real? I mean, don’t the parents leave the money? You said Tinker Bell was make-believe so that means the Tooth Fairy isn’t real, right? So does that mean parents hide the Easter eggs too? And bring the baskets?”
I was so shocked I turned my back to her to hide my stunned look and mouthed, “Oh shit!”
Where was my husband? Why do I always get these tough questions? She’s already asked, “Where do babies come out of a woman’s body?” and “How did the baby get in the tummy in the first place?” And on the first day of first grade, she said, “Angela said the Tooth Fairy isn’t real. Are you the one leaving the money?”
I always replied in the past with the question, “Well, what do you think?” So I tried that tactic again, but she wasn’t falling into this parent trap.
“I think the parents do it. Is the Easter Bunny real, Mom? I mean how does he even get into the house without setting off the alarm?” she asked.
And there it was—the moment of truth. I always said if our kids asked point blank, I would tell them the truth, I’ve always felt bad lying to them anyway. I mean, when they’re younger it’s a fun ritual, creating the magic of childhood. But now that she’s older, and so stinking perceptive, I feel even worse. I wanted to say right in that moment, as I stood there in my robe and with half-dried hair, already late for the event, “Yes, honey, parents help to keep the magic of the holidays alive. The Easter Bunny isn’t real. It’s always been us.”
But I couldn’t. My throat burned, and I felt the tears well up in my eyes as I choked out, “Can we talk about this later, just you and I?”
That seemed to satisfy her, but deep down inside, I knew that I needed to process what this truth meant. I wasn’t keeping the magic of the Elf, and Santa, and the Easter Bunny alive for her, I was doing it for me. I was cherishing every second of her childhood that I could, because it’s flying by too flipping fast, and I’m not ready for it to end.
As she left the room for me to finish getting ready, I wept. How did we get here? Wasn’t it just yesterday I was injecting myself multiple times a day, praying that IVF would work? And wasn’t it just yesterday I was getting up three times a night to nurse this miracle girl? When did she get so smart? Why was this happening so fast? Can’t we just stop time?
After the event, my husband and I stole a few moments and tried to figure out what to do. He was fine with us telling her the truth if she asked again, but he didn’t want to say, “If you believe, you will receive.” He felt like this would shame her into believing. We were also worried that, if we did tell her the truth, she would tell all of her friends at school and her little sister. All day, I searched online for the proper way to say it, even asking asking our pastor for advice while we were at church that morning.
So at bedtime, when she and I were alone, I was finally ready to tell her. After I tucked in her little sister, I tiptoed to her room, took a deep breath, and found my courage and confidence to have this chat.
“Hi babe, whatcha doin’?” I asked as I walked into her room, trying to sound casual and bide some time.
“Writing a letter to the Easter Bunny. I’m not sure what to say, but I figure if he brings us such nice things, maybe we could leave him a present this year?”
I exhaled and nodded, “Good idea! Let me know when you’re done, and we can read it together.”
You see, she’s in the middle, teetering in between those stages of little girl and tween, but still believing in the magic. In that moment I decided to trust my gut and give her one more year of the Easter Bunny’s cotton-ball trails. One more year of a house littered with candy-filled eggs, and one more year of eyes filled with wonder from the make-believe.
For her yes, but more for me. Next year, we will tell the truth when asked, but this year, we will savor the smiles.