JJ Barnes

JJ Barnes writes about parenting, feminism, current affairs and writing

By - JJBarnes

The lies I told myself about the lies I’d never tell my children.

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Yesterday my six year old daughter lost her first tooth. This is a significant event in a child’s life and she’d been watching her friends lose teeth over the last year with envy. To finally lose her first tooth was very exciting for her. It would be her first visit from the Tooth Fairy!

“Mummy,” she said to me with sad eyes. “I don’t think the Tooth Fairy is real. I think the parents put the money under the pillow.”

She’d shared her excitement on her first day back at school and had the magic broken.

Fairy stories

I was confronted with a choice. Do I tell her the truth, do I avoid the subject, or do I lie my ass off to preserve the innocent magic of childhood for as long as I can?

Reader. I lied. I lied with all the enthusiasm a creative writer and slightly manic mother confronted with her child growing up too fast can muster.

I told her there was no way I’d be paying her for a tooth. I told her there’s lots of Tooth Fairies and they work shifts to make sure all children get covered which is why some children get different amounts of money, because it depends which tooth fairy is working that shift. I told her rotten teeth are taken by the tooth goblin to feed his hungry children in the tooth swamp, but beautiful healthy teeth are taken by the Tooth Fairy to build castles in Toothland.

Such was my enthusiastic commitment to the story I was weaving on the spot that she decided that maybe the Tooth Fairy was real. When I informed her that if she didn’t put the tooth under her pillow that I’d put it under mine and keep the money for myself she was sold.

Note from the Tooth Fairy

I found her a little gauze bag and she put the tooth and a little hand written note for the tooth fairy inside. When she went to bed and tucked it under her pillow she was giddy with excitement. Magic was real. When she woke up in the night and found a tiny note written in the smallest handwriting she’d ever seen in shimmery pen, along with some money, she was so deliriously excited that it took me a good two hours to get her back to sleep. But it was worth it. My six year old still believes in magic.

Before I had children I swore up and down that I’d never lie to them. If they asked about Father Christmas, the Tooth Fairy, unicorns, etc, that I’d be vague and ask what they think and why, and allow them to make up their own minds. I said if I start my relationship with them lying to them, when they find that out, they’ll have no reason to trust in me when I tell them anything. Before I had children I was such a good mother.

I’m a massive liar. I like to think it’s for them, that I’m preserving that innocence and purity and magic of childhood for as long as I can for their own sake. Because if this world has fairies and elves and true wonder in then it’s not as dark and painful. Because I want my babies to grow up experiencing that chest tightening, hand sweating, delirious excitement of creeping downstairs on Christmas morning to see if there’s toys in their stockings. Because it’s all over so fast, and the world steals the magic of Christmas and fairies as it brings in the pain of puberty and adulthood and everything that comes with it.

Believing in Father Christmas

But it’s not only for them. I lie for me. I lie because seeing that hope and joy in their eyes is the most wonderful feeling I’ve ever felt. My daughter clutching the tiny note in her hands at 2am and telling me all about what she’s found makes the lack of sleep worth it. In that moment she is experiencing the kind of magical joy I will never feel again. The kind of magical joy I haven’t felt in fifteen years. And I did it. I gave her that joy.

Maybe in years to come my children will tell me I was wrong to lie. Maybe they’ll swear up and down that they will never lie to their children. And I will apologise, I will tell them I’m sorry if my choices hurt them or made them feel betrayed. And I will respect their decision to not lie to their own children as I lied to them. But I hope they’re wrong like I was. I hope they get to experience looking into a child’s eyes as they discover fairies exist and that magic was real all along. Because magic being real for my children means magic is real for me all over again.

I’m the tooth fairy. I’m the Easter bunny. I’m Father Christmas, Rudolph and all of his elves. To be the existence of magic in a child’s life is the most pure part of being a parent. So I lie. And I will lie again. And I will keep lying, because for magic to be real I have to. And the world is such a dark place it needs a little magic. My children deserve a little magic. I’m the magic.

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