When I became a mother, after exhausting, painful hours of labour and the relief/shock of suddenly finding a new little person in my arms, I was presented with a free Pampers goodie bag. Wow! I remember feeling quite excited. A pack full of free things. How lucky is that? If I’m honest, it was a total and utter let down as I discovered that this bag contained nothing more than money off vouchers for branded nappies and formula and a little NHS booklet containing patronising advice about how to care for a new born baby. Now, some years later, and with the benefit of several years of child rearing, I feel that what would have been a whole lot more useful would have been a book of rules and instructions for some of the more murky areas of parenthood…
Over the years, I have woven a complex and sometimes, although I say it myself, impressive web of lies surrounding the existence and lifestyle of the many and varied members of the magic community who populate our childrens’ lives. What is the MO of Santa’s elves, where does Santa live, what does Rudolph really like to eat on Christmas Eve? What does the Easter Bunny look like and how does he/she deliver all the branded chocolate to our homes? How does the tooth fairy get under your child’s pillow and leave money without detection?
This is a good one – How come the tooth fairy sometimes doesn’t come for days even though your child leaves countless notes and gifts with their tooth? How do parents know that the tooth fairy is sometimes so busy that they can’t come the same night, and why does it often coincide with the fact that mummy has fallen asleep on the sofa after that last glass of wine and has then hauled her fat arse to bed!
None of this is news to any parents out there. We all do it. We collude in the lie, we try desperately to remember all the elaborate tales that we tell and which seem to be swallowed whole and taken on board. Goodness only knows what our childrens’ dreams consist of.
Anyway, last week, my daughter’s tooth fell out, her 3rd. A tiny, virtually non-existent appendage. I can’t believe something so small had been carrying out a functional role in her mouth! That evening, she wrote a little note for the tooth fairy, placed it and the microscopic tooth in an envelope and slid it under her pillow.
The envelope is a new addition to the saga, following an unfortunate event when the tooth fairy spent a long time fumbling around in the dark searching for another similarly minute tooth. It was nowhere to be found so the tooth fairy had no choice (and was so tired that she just wanted to go to bed) but to leave the money and hope that the next morning the tooth would remain hidden allowing for the tooth fairy to do a full sweep of the bed area in daylight and find the tooth which was clearly not visible to the naked eye. Sadly, the child did in fact find the tooth, so mummy dutifully added yet another string to the bow of lies and explained that the tooth fairy sometimes thinks the teeth are so beautiful that the child should be able to keep the tooth for posterity. She bought it. I made a mental note to remember what I had just said. I should have written all this shit down. I really have no idea what I have said over the years.
So, this time, it would seem I had done belt and braces and this was a bog standard tooth fairy scenario – don’t go to bed and forget, take the envelope, deposit the cash, boom, the magic stays alive.
As my daughter was going to bed she smiled wistfully and told me how excited she was that the tooth fairy was coming that night. I smiled. Yes, she said, her friend had recently lost a tooth and the tooth fairy had brought her a gift.
“Oh” I said, “what was that?”
“A sticker book.” she replied. “Yes, maybe the tooth fairy will bring me that Rainbow Dash book I want”
For those of you lucky enough not to know, Rainbow Dash is a member of the (in my opinion) much reviled and hated My Little Pony franchise that has reigned for too bloody long in this house. The book in question is a free book that comes with the utterly shite magazine that costs far too much and comes adorned with plastic crap and, in this case, a thin book.
Oh how my heart sank as she said this. So many things that I wanted to say. So many feelings went coursing through me. The first one was, shit, it’s 8pm and my husband is out so it is impossible to go to a shop that might still be open and that might possibly sell this awful publication so that I can keep the tooth fairy dream alive. The second thing that went through my mind was, since when did the tooth fairy deliver actual presents – it’s money, she/he/it leaves money and surely this is understood worldwide? And yes, she leaves whatever change is available at the time – I guess there is a going rate which these days seems to have escalated to around £2. But let’s face it, at that age, a few shiny coins usually hits the spot.
I made a few comments to try and deflect this certainty on my daughter’s part, that in the morning a magazine would have replaced her diminutive piece of enamel. But it seemed to bounce off her as if there was an anti bullshit force field around her. I abandoned the child and sought solace in wine and master chef.
At midnight, true to form, I woke with a start and remembered that the fucking tooth fairy hadn’t done her duties. So I woke myself up enough to get out of bed, scrabbled around in my purse and managed to find some change. I fell back into bed feeling totally relieved that I had not completely forgotten and that I had pulled the situation back from the brink of disaster. As I drifted back off to sleep I smiled as I imagined how finding the coins would dismiss all thoughts of magazines and all would be right with the world. How ridiculous, the tooth fairy bringing presents, how ridiculous.
A new day dawned. For once, as I came crashing downstairs already racing against time, thinking only of coffee and what I could scrape together for packed lunches, I did not have to pull the duvet off my cosy, snoring child as she was already sitting up in bed. To be more accurate, she was kneeling on her bed, facing her pillow, head bowed. I approached her, expecting to find a face beaming with joy and excitement at finding money under her pillow and the envelope containing her tooth miraculously gone. But no, I found a sad face, eyes brimming with tears. Shit. The acting started:
“What’s wrong? Didn’t the tooth fairy come? What’s happened?”
“No, the tooth fairy came” – she opened her palm to reveal 2 shiny pound coins.
“Oh, that’s great! That’s so much money! You lucky girl. Go on, put it in your money box. Why are you so sad?”
Here it comes…
“Why didn’t she bring the magazine?”
“Well, she’s only tiny isn’t she. Perhaps she couldn’t carry such a big magazine. She’s really busy too.”
“But my friend got the sticker book. She must be able to carry it”
At this point my eldest daughter came into the room. She has ‘known’ for a while but she is committed to keeping the dream alive, thank goodness. She suggested that maybe it was a different tooth fairy. Obviously, there are loads of tooth fairies worldwide!
This didn’t seem to cut it for her at that moment. So we tried another angle: perhaps the tooth fairy couldn’t find that specific Rainbow Dash book;
“After all” I said, “I think that book is very hard to find. The money was clearly left for you to go and buy the magazine yourself.”
Ok, this went down a bit better, the tears were abating. Ah, but then she remembered that she only had £2 and magazines cost more than that. Yes, of course, all those occasions in the shop when I flat refuse to buy these terrible publications stating that they cost an arm and a leg. So, of course, I found myself desperately fumbling around and then I heard myself promising to buy the magazine and pay the difference. Oh for fuck’s sake. This is not what was supposed to happen.
I found myself thinking, why don’t new parents get the starter pack that we all really need? A sort of guide to the myths surrounding all the magical creatures who will fill our lives. There would be useful role play sections highlighting situations that may occur with your children, giving you possible answers and solutions to these difficult but common scenarios! Things such as, where does the tooth fairy come from? How does she get into the house? What exactly does she leave under your pillow? If she doesn’t come the first night, why not, and when will she actually get here?
Most importantly, there would be a very useful section entitled – Things NOT to do or say. These rules must NEVER be violated as it fucks it up for everyone else, right? Are you with me here? If we all stick to the rules, then we will all be happy, capiche? And our kids? Yes, one day they may hate our guts for a bit as the veil falls from their eyes and they see everything in stark, boring, grown up reality, but then they will understand and they will pass it all on and keep the dream alive. But only if we all stick to the rules – YES?