"No obstacles are insurmountable when God commands and we obey"
- - Heber J. Grant
November 26, 2012
The Business of Parental Lying
by Melissa Howell

“Mom, are you the tooth fairy?”

My daughter threw out this question with a gaze that wasn’t quite accusatory, but also didn’t seem to expect the answer to her question to be “yes.”

I have been waiting nine years to be asked such a question.

The tooth that triggered it all had been loose for some time (and it was not her first loose tooth, but number five), and Isabel had really upped her wiggling game. With shaking hands and a somewhat pale face, she triumphantly held up the small, glistening white object after removing it of her own will. Shortly after, she announced that she hoped the tooth fairy would bring a pack of orange Tic Tacs and a gold dollar or two.

I secretly called my husband at work, and relayed the message to pick up the Tic Tacs on his way home, and that a dollar bill would suffice.

Not, it’s not like our tooth fairy takes requests, per se. Our kiddos usually get one dollar and some sort of gum or mints or something of that nature. But it seems that finding a box of orange Tic Tacs under her pillow triggered some suspicion. Thus the question that placed me in direct line of a figurative one-girl firing squad.

As I have struggled with this concept for years, I coyly danced around her question with my own rapid-fire series of rhetorical responses: “Do I look like a fairy?” “Did you hear me leave to go the store?” “How would I be able to sneak into your room so quietly?”

She subtlely acknowledged my responses, my roundabout answers hanging in the air between us, where they have remained. But they seemingly have pacified her — for now.

So many parents appear to relish the role of playing Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy. Me, I have walked the line between enjoying it, and being stressed out by it. Yes, I totally get that they bring a magical touch to childhood. Maybe I’m too much a realist. Or maybe I am scarred for life by the memory of finding out the Big Three don’t exist.

I was about eight years old. I had heard whisperings at school that perhaps such holiday icons were nothing more than mom and dad tiptoeing around after dark. But it wasn’t until my dad spelled it out for me that I caved to the reality of the situation.

He had broken it down one by one. I remember it like it was yesterday.

“So, Melissa,” he had said. “There is no such thing as Santa Claus. It’s just me and mom.” I took in this information, digesting it slowly and not really liking how it tasted.

“Same thing with the Easter Bunny,” he added.

And then — and my memory of taking this one the hardest aligns perfectly with my dad’s recollection of me taking it the hardest — he lifted me up and directed my gaze to a narrow ledge on top of one of the rocks that surrounded our fireplace. There, lined up like tiny white soldiers, were all of the baby teeth I had lost.

It’s possible that this is when I became emotional as what he was trying to tell me began to register.

“No, not the tooth fairy too!” I exclaimed.


And now we find ourselves in the midst of the season where going undercover reigns supreme. With my oldest child now over the nine hump and edging closer to double digits, I am expecting the questions to start coming about Santa. But he still believes. With his whole heart.

Is there a magic age when a child should be told the truth about these secret nocturnal happenings? Or is it a child-by-child basis? I have one friend who has never had the conversation with her ‘tweens and teens. They seem to have reached a mutual understanding without having uttered the discovered and revealed truth. Where is the manual on this parental lying stuff, anyways?

For now, I continue the ruse. A majority of me enjoys it, creating this bit of childhood magic that can never be reclaimed once it slips out of reach, but there is a small part of me that stresses — every time I slip my hand under a pillow to retrieve a tooth and leave behind a small treasure, every time I collect hidden carrots and replace them with pastel, grass-and-goody-filled baskets, every time I set up Christmas magic around the house and leave nothing but crumbs on a plate once filled with cookies — that I will be caught red-handed.

But here’s where I draw the line: have you seen those ideas floating around Pinterest about taking a picture of your child sleeping on tooth-loss night and then photoshopping a fairy into the picture for “proof” that she is real? Or same concept with your living room on Christmas Eve with Santa? No.Can.Do. That’s a little over the top for me.

But what I can do is believe in the magic that I am creating — even if it takes a little white lie, sometimes, to keep the magic alive.

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About Melissa Howell

Melissa Howell was born and raised in the woods of northern Minnesota. She has a degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota.

As a single 20-something, she moved to Colorado seeking an adventure. She found one, first in landing her dream job and then in landing her dream husband; four children followed.

Upon becoming a mother, she left her career in healthcare communications to be a stay-at-home mom, and now every day is an adventure with her husband Brian and children Connor (9), Isabel (6), Lucas (5) and Mason (2).

In addition, she is a freelance writer and communications consultant for a variety of organizations.

Melissa serves as Assistant director of media relations for stake public affairs and Webelos den leader

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