I failed at mothering yesterday. Not in a big way. Not in the kind of “I permanently damaged my kid” way. It is even worse, it was one of those teeny tiny ways that leaves a lasting effect. A heart change.
It really started last December while we were on vacation. My oldest son lost a tooth. He was sleeping on the pull-out couch and he caught me trying to sneak a couple of dollars out of my purse to put in my bedroom for the “tooth fairy” to deliver later. He hasn’t actually believed in the tooth fairy for a long time but I have kept up the façade because we have other children who DO believe and because I could tell he still needed the magic in his life.
We were in Florida, tooth lost, no glitter, no fancy origami money holders and because I knew he knew, I just didn’t bother. I handed him the money and he handed me his tooth. It was a sterile business agreement.
Sadly, in the moment, I had no idea what I had just done. I didn’t see the long range impact. The change of his child like heart and his ability to enjoy “the magic” that fairy tales and mystery provide, even when we “know” the truth. This is the kid who found our elf and was perfectly fine till one night when he said, “Mom, I really wish I hadn’t found Nico. I still want to believe.” Tears. Real tears. He was longing to still be a child and I didn’t see it.
Finally out of exasperation of my utter obliviousness, he pointed to that empty spot in his cheesy grin.
The last tooth.
I hadn’t even known it was loose and now it was gone.
Those little teeth that we had once counted and announced to the world.
First tooth, Second tooth.
Two on top.
Each one bursting through with royal fanfare until there was a full beautiful little smile.
Then it starts to happen.
The first lost tooth.
Call the paparazzi. Post it on Facebook and tweet the world.
Shortly later we find our self singing, All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth.
The proud framing of the iconic toothless school picture.
Then one day you find yourself standing in the shower at 6:00am, thinking about your day, when suddenly you remember, not only did you completely forget about being a “fake” tooth fairy to your unbelieving child, but you also realize that your child didn’t even think you would care enough to go through the actions of pretending.
It wasn’t just any tooth you forgot.
It was the last tooth. The last one of his whole childhood.
and you realize that you failed him miserably.
No, I didn’t ruin his life or cause irreparable damage but I do believe I stole something from him. Something that can’t be replaced. I took a tiny part of his childhood that was magical and mysterious. I didn’t follow through with my parenting promise and completely by accident I communicated to him that something significant in his life wasn’t important to me. I changed his heart and for all I know, I changed the way he will “do” the tooth fairy for his kids. He deserved for me to take it all the way to the end. To celebrate the last tooth falling out as much as I did the first.
So what is a failing mom to do? I lugged myself out of the shower, traipsed around the house in the dark, found some one dollar bills, made an origami box, snuck in a gold quarter, grabbed the small bottle of purple glitter and tiptoed into his room.
Because even though he doesn’t believe. Even though he knows that it is me. He deserved one last chance to wake up sprinkled in magic.
And so did I.