Her blue eyes grew wide. “What about the Tooth Fairy?” she demanded.
Oops. “I thought you meant Tinker Bell. She’s not real. But the Tooth Fairy is different.” Ugh.
Is it a mistake to let your kids believe in the magic of pixie dust? I don’t want to lie, but I don’t want to ruin the fun of placing a baby tooth under her pillow or the anticipation of waking up to discover a prize, either. Besides, I read that the Tooth Fairy was invented to calm children’s fears about their teeth falling out. So that seems like a good thing.
But where do I draw the line? My daughter, now seven, is fascinated with mermaids. She has a book detailing the folklore in different cultures and in the back of the book, there’s a map. To her, a map of where mermaids live means they’re real. She looks to me for confirmation. I hesitate--having learned my lesson from answering too quickly about fairies. “Well, this map doesn’t tell us any places we could find on a real map. No names of oceans or countries to help us locate it.”
“I’ll get a real map and figure it out.” I smiled at her determination and told her to look in the car.
She came back with a roadmap of Ohio. “There aren’t any oceans in Ohio,” I laughed. Then she opened an atlas. I liked that she was giving herself a mini-geography lesson, but felt guilty that it was mixed with a myth. Would she someday be teased for her faith in mermaids? Would she write her college admissions essay on the magical world beneath the sea? Surely it wouldn’t go that far.
She studied the maps and I savored the moments of quiet. I was looking forward to an afternoon of her carefully examining all fifty states. Wishful thinking! In no time, she determined that a bay in Alaska matched the one in the mermaid book. (Why did Alaska have to start with the letter A?) She showed me the similar oblong shape and opening to the ocean.
“Hmm. Could be,” I said. “What do you think?” (I tell myself this is good parenting--letting her form her own opinion.)
Even though she could tell I was cynical, she thought definitely yes. Mermaids must live in Alaska. At this point, her dad stepped in. He told her it’s awfully cold in the water there. She didn’t care. She held firm in her belief.
In fact, after swim lessons one day, I praised her for swimming like a fish.
She grinned. “No, Mom. Better than a fish. I swim like a mermaid!”
I chuckled. She had a point.
If you enjoyed this post, check out Karen Lenfestey's novels, "A Sister's Promise" and "What Happiness Looks Like." Click below to read excerpts: