“I know Daddy is my Tooth Fairy,” she told me.


I remember finding out, sitting in the bathroom of our Midwest ranch home, crying brokenheartedly. My mom answered my questions honestly, and like most kids, I found out about all three in one sitting: Santa, The Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy. I was ten years old, in fifth grade.


Parent writers often get asked, “Don’t you feel bad about writing about your children publicly? Shouldn’t you respect their privacy?”

I have had this conversation many times with parenting authors and bloggers. Many of us have the following consensus: We try to share our story, but not our child’s story. As with many things related to motherhood, this is complicated. There is so much entanglement. Where does your story end and theirs begin? In fact, where do you end and they begin?

I have to write about motherhood, and many parent writers feel called to do the same. There’s a force urging us to reach out, to connect, to help parents feel less isolated, helping ourselves avoid isolation at the same time. We want to share the story of what it means to raise our kids. Boundaries get mingled; it isn’t always perfect.

I don’t want to tell my daughter’s story for her, but I have my own to tell, about the day my oldest daughter found out the truth about Santa on the morning of her younger sister’s sixth birthday party.


I was, ironically, in the bathroom, just as I was the day I found out myself. Wearily, I replied to her knock, saying that I would be right out. She quietly asked if I had gotten her note, and I knew.

The evening of my daughter’s sixth birthday, we were out later than usual (okay, fine, it was just past eight, but that’s pretty late for this family). I was fighting a cold, I’d had a drink with dinner and was desperate to make myself a Hot Toddy (they have medicinal benefits, you know) and put on my pajamas.

When I climbed into bed with my mug and a book, I had entirely forgotten the conversation I’d had with my husband just minutes earlier about my daughter’s lost tooth during the school day.

You can see where I’m going with this.

At five a.m., I did the classic “Oh, shit we forgot the Tooth Fairy” bolt upright in bed maneuver. As though executing a soundless fire drill, my husband and I leapt out of bed with shocking grace and precision to attend to our respective duties: he to dump money out of the “Disney Fund” container in the TV room and to sprinkle glitter around my daughter’s bedroom; me, to hand-write the customary Tooth Fairy note, complete with swirly, heart-littered penmanship.

“Do you think she heard us?” I asked, as I listened to her toss and turn in bed. She, too, was fighting a cold. I heard her blow her nose an hour later and wondered if we had been busted.


I’m sorry I found out. I know you’re my tooth fairy. I saw you in the night.

I read her note later, after the conversation was done. After she confessed, and I confessed, and the question of Santa was posed, I called for my husband. I knew I would be the one to field this issue we had been anticipating and dreading for the past year or so, but I wanted him there to witness it.

Of course there were tears, from all of us. I was so grateful I had read a Scary Mommy article a year ago about the Santa conversation. I didn’t use it completely, and I paraphrased, but it helped guide me to finding the right words.

There is nothing more real than the magic and love of Santa.

This magic and love is a gift Mommy and Daddy have given you, and it’s a gift we were given when we were children.

Now you will become a giver and protector of magic.

You’re on the other side now; you get to preserve the magic for your little sister and other children.

Throughout the day, we shared with her some of our favorite memories of past Christmases: the year she turned two and my husband spent hours long into the night sanding the hard edges of the plastic silverware accompanying her toy kitchen. When she was four and pulled treasure after treasure out of her stocking, figurines and candy she had spotted at Walgreens, and exclaimed over and over, “He knows! Santa really, really knows!”

She smiled hearing the behind-the-scenes stories from her childhood memories, and it was healing for us, too. Losing Santa, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy is hard. There is even a little grief. It’s an ending, but also a beginning. Since we knew she was suffering a loss, we wanted her to get something, too. So we gave her the gift of joining our team, of carrying on the magic.

She spent the next part of the morning “in charge of” her younger sister’s birthday party, per her request. She had planned all their games and activities, and controlled the agenda of what would happen when. As I watched her herding six-year-olds from “Pin the Tail on the Horse” to her homemade treasure hunt, I knew she would make a perfect “magic giver.” And let’s face it, the exuberance of an eleven-year-old when it comes to leprechaun traps, surprises from The Tooth Fairy, and that damn Elf on the Shelf is going to far surpass that of a tired thirty-nine-year-old who just wants to sit on the couch and watch TV after putting the kids to bed. Her younger sister couldn’t be in better hands.

Age six: Watching Santa’s email video from the Portable North Pole.

It was a bittersweet rite of passage. As I look back on our Christmases for the past decade, full of magic and innocence and Santa, I know that all of us will feel a little pang moving forward. I think of the cliched supermarket grandmas imploring us to hang onto these days, and I know that they are right. We don’t get those years back. But I believe there is still something sweet and magical that lies ahead for our family, transformed though it may be into its next incarnation of sacred tradition.

Connect with me on Facebook, and sign up below to receive my new blog posts by email:

Click to access the login or register cheese