My wife recently received a request to submit our family experiences regarding the tooth-fairy. Because we don’t do the tooth-fairy thing around here, she asked if I’d like to write a guest post explaining our position on the matter. So here goes nothing…
Allow me to begin by making it clear that we are not hostile to childhood make-believe characters, nor do we avoid enjoying these characters as the make-believe beings that they are. Our children enjoy watching all the usual Santa and Rudolph cartoons during Christmas, and they get to participate in Easter-egg hunts on Resurrection Sunday and so forth. In fact, one of their favorite recent films is “The Rise of the Guardians”, which is based on many of the childhood characters about which I’m now addressing. Moreover, we do not frown on parents who pretend with their children that these characters are real. Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way…
My basic thoughts on the matter are this (and it’s something you’ve likely already heard from others, so it probably won’t sound new). Parents teach children that Santa is real, the Easter Bunny is real, the Tooth-Fairy is real, and God is real. Well, once a kid gets old enough to realize he’s been hoodwinked all along about the make-believe characters, he’s perfectly justified in questioning whether he was deceived about the existence of God, the one character that he hasn’t seen a picture of in any cartoon, much less in real life. I’m not suggesting that children will necessarily draw such an inference, especially since most adult theists were taught to believe in such characters when they were children. However, spend any time listening to atheists, and you’ll find they always compare God to the Tooth-fairy or some such character. They’ll also argue that no one really believes in God, but that we only believe in Him because we were taught to do so just like we were taught to believe in Santa. The point is, I don’t ever want my children to feel like we attempted to deceive them in any way, and so I’d just prefer to tell them the truth, and allow them to enjoy these characters as what they are, i.e., make-believe characters who are to be enjoyed in the context of pretend playing.
Now, I’ve been asked by some, “Don’t you want your children to enjoy Christmas?”, or some such nonsense, as if Christmas can only be enjoyed if one is duped into believing in Santa. For the record, our children have a blast at Christmas, and they don’t require a false belief to do so. They can also enjoy the whole Santa thing in the same way they enjoy Mickey Mouse. Contrary to what critics may think, children are quite capable of enjoying themselves knowing full well that a character is only make-believe.
So that’s basically how our family handle’s make-believe characters. Losing a tooth around here evokes a “Wow, another tooth missing! Cool!”, and that’s about it. No cash reward or collecting of teeth. If our kid needs some pocket change, they can ask for it. Sure, maybe it’s not as fun as submitting old body parts in exchange for hard cash, but our kids have lots of fun doing other things, so it’s all good. Your kid may not grow up damaged by believing in the Tooth-fairy, but my kid won’t grow up damaged for not believing.
In the end, my main desire for my children is that they grow up to believe in, love, and defend the Truth.