“How does the Tooth Fairy come into the house?” my five-year-old son Bennett recently asked me. The question initially arose because his cousin had lost a tooth and received a dollar from the Tooth Fairy. During the last several months however, he has peppered me with questions about how the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny, and Santa Claus operate. When I was his age, I don’t recall being quite so concerned with logistical details like how Santa Claus squeezes himself down the chimney, and now I feel a bit ill-prepared to respond to my children’s sophisticated line of questioning. Since I don’t want to straight up lie to them, I find myself employing my mother’s strategy of answering a question with a question, e.g. “what do you think?”
Asking my boys what they think has elicited some entertaining discussions in our home. For example, when I turned around the question about what the Easter Bunny looked like, my three-year-old son, Grant explained that it was a very big rabbit. “No,” Bennett responded, “the Easter Bunny is a person who wears a bunny costume. I’ve seen her hands.” Grant disagreed. “The Easter Bunny is a bunny,” he replied definitively. The boys had a similar conversation about how our Elf on the Shelf – which is the worst holiday decision we ever made – traveled back to the North Pole each night. According to Bennett, the Elf would fly, but his brother scoffed at that notion. “He no fly,” said Grant, “he no have wings!” Bennett countered that the Elf did indeed have wings; they were merely hidden in his shoulders.
Am I doing a disservice to my children if I don’t debunk myths like the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny? While some psychologists argue that I risk having them trust me less, I’m not worried. Bennett has told me he wants to believe – despite one of his classmates telling him that Santa doesn’t exist – and who can blame him? There’s real power in belief. It reinforces the idea that anything is possible. In my opinion, a child’s early years should be a magical time when a box becomes a time machine, fairy ladders can be built out of sticks and twine, and a magician only needs a little abracadabra to pull a rabbit out of a hat.