When Fantasy Explodes into Reality – by Cara Potapshyn Meyers

I woke up to the sound of my son sobbing twice over the past couple weeks. The second time I cried myself for a few minutes before I went in to console him. I already knew the reason why.
A couple weeks ago, my son lost a tooth completely without warning…at least to me. He hadn’t mentioned any loose teeth at all. He hadn’t been wiggling any teeth that I knew of. I was taken by complete surprise when he came home from karate and announced, “Mommy!! I lost another tooth! Quick! We have to tell Nute!!” Nute is my son’s personal Tooth Fairy. He wanted me to e-mail Nute to inform him that he had lost a tooth and request a specific, small gift. The e-mail wasn’t a problem. The gift was a huge problem. I had something similar hidden, which I planned to put under his pillow, but there was absolutely no way I could get the gift my son wanted with such short notice. And my son even added, “If Nute brings me what I want, then I’ll KNOW he’s real!” Ouch. Evidently friends of his with older siblings told his friends that the tooth fairy wasn’t a reality. And I could tell that my son wanted to prove them wrong.
I blame myself for this fiasco I found myself in. Every Mom I know only gives their children money when their children lose a tooth. I love lavishing my son with extra “goodies” whenever an event will allow it. I have him save up his own money to buy items he wants in between holidays and events. But I’m a sucker for my son’s happiness, especially in light of an impending divorce. I know I shouldn’t do it; I should either spend more time with him playing or give him extra attention, (and I usually do). But setting the precedent by giving him small toys as tooth fairy gifts is now not only making me want to kick myself, it forced my son to face reality in a terribly painful way.
Two weeks ago, I heard my son sobbing while I was still in bed. I panicked and raced out of bed and into his room. He was wrapped up with his covers over his head and the toy I had put under his pillow was thrown across the room. I didn’t even have to ask. I sat down next to my son and hugged him, rocking him back and forth. In between sobs, I heard, “Nute is not real!! They told me he wasn’t real and I didn’t believe them (evidently his friends)! But they were right! I hate Nute!! I hate the tooth fairy!!” The pain of reality was almost palpable. I started crying too. How do you apologize for wanting to be a really good Mom?? I tried to convince him that the toy was close to what he wanted and that maybe Nute just couldn’t get exactly what my son wanted? My son sobbed even more, “No!! There IS no Nute!! There IS no Tooth Fairy!! Nute would have gotten me what I wanted if he was real!! He’s not real!! He doesn’t exist!!” I didn’t say a word. I had nothing I could say that would take away his “growing pain.” The pain that every child has to feel eventually. The pain every child has to work through. The pain that slices through a Mother’s heart.
Fast forward to this past weekend. My son and I went to an Easter Carnival with some close friends and their kids. There were Hula Hoop contests and Sack Races, a Magician displayed magic tricks and crafts were available to make foam bunnies or sheep. Considering that it was indoors on a miserable, cold, raining day, it was perfect for our active kids. When the carnival was over and we all went back to my friend’s house. All of the children got into a discussion about what the Easter Bunny would bring them the next day. Knowing that my son is the only child on earth who doesn’t like anything sweet (definitely one of his redeeming qualities), he wanted the Easter Bunny to bring him the same toy that the tooth fairy failed to bring him. Damn! Why hadn’t I bought this toy and had it stashed?? Last year my son was obsessed with these toys called GoGo Crazy Bones. They are each small enough to put into a plastic egg, so I filled some eggs with the GoGos and put in other little trinket type items in some of the other eggs. The Easter Bunny ruled last year!! But what was I going to do this year?? I had nothing small enough to put into plastic eggs for my son. Or did I?
I have a basket that we put all of our spare change in. It is overflowing with pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters. I counted out five dollars in coins and dispersed them in some plastic eggs! This way my son could get a head start working to save up for the toy he wanted! How clever I was! I filled and arranged a basket and set it out for him to dig through when he woke up! I even included a seed packet of carrot seeds that we could plant because I remembered my son reminding me that we had to buy vegetable plants at the school plant sale that was coming up! I felt that I had redeemed myself after the Tooth Fairy fiasco.
The next morning I again woke to the sound of sobbing coming from my son’s room. I knew exactly why he was crying and I just couldn’t face my son’s pain so soon after his last dose of reality. I stayed in my bed, tears streaming down my own face as I listened to this heart wrenching pain. I finally dried my face and slowly walked into my son’s room. Coins were strewn everywhere. The basket was overturned and the shredded paper was pulled apart and littered the floor. Plastic eggs were among the shreds. My son sat on his bed, tears streaming down his precious face. Again, I had nothing to say. I walked over, sat next to my son and held him. He mumbled, “The Easter Bunny is a fake also.” I asked why. He replied that the Easter Bunny didn’t bring him the toy he wanted either. I halfheartedly tried to convince my son that the Easter Bunny probably gave him enough coins to come close for my son to buy the toy he wanted. I also offered to collect all of the strewn money and give him dollar bills in return. He just shrugged and continued to quietly cry. This time I not only wanted to kick myself, I wanted to give a swift kick to the fabricated Easter Bunny as well!
It’s impossible to avoid the growing pains our children must endure as they mature. If it’s not the Tooth Fairy now, it will be the rejection of a “crush” later on. And it will continue, right into adulthood when your child goes on a job interview, only to receive a call informing them that another candidate was chosen. Our children will survive each of these reality checks. And they will learn how to better cope each time another one comes along. But for a Mother, each of these will feel to her exactly like the first. And a little part of her heart will feel wounded with each “blow.” Many years from now, she even may find herself lying in bed, with tears gently sliding down her face. Almost like the very first time.