The lies of childhood: Santa, Tooth Fairy, Easter Bunny et al

First published in The Portsmouth News, 25/02/14

Lying, cheating and manipulation: a sample of the skills of parenthood.

My eldest daughter lost a tooth recently. Long gone are the days when we eagerly awaited a first tooth, and instead we get fleeced for the loss of each pearly whitethat we once created.

My daughter was thrilled that the tooth fairy would be visiting, which led to me considering the vast array of untruths that we feed our children.

Whilst raising our kids to believe that lying is wrong, we gaily impart the erroneous information that compromises childhood. You may have your own family traditions but, as a starter, I give to you the fat man in the red suit: Santa.

We tell our kids that as they sleep, Santa will creep into their bedrooms, complete with bulging sack, to deposit presents. Sounds wrong, no? Furthermore, winged creatures will swipe their teeth from under their pillows, replacing them with currency, and a giant toothsome rabbit swinging a pastel-shaded basket will bounce across the nation, leaving chocolate.

These lies can even be extended in order to bribe certain behaviours; the ‘dummy fairy’ for instance. And then one day, before you know it, you’ve progressed from Partial Lunacy to Fully Fledged Mentalism: letters from the tooth fairy.

That’s right, no longer is it sufficient to put hard cash under a pillow; my girls expect handwritten fairy notes too. This began because their friends were getting them, and is a vicious circle of parental madness. My husband now finds himself writing letters from fairies, in teensy weensy font on tiddly widdly scraps of paper, whilst calling himself ‘Pearl’.

However, last week Pearl went hardcore, and left a note suggesting that India tidy her bedroom before any cash would be distributed. My friend Emma had suggested this radical idea and we were willing to give it a go. India takes pride in cultivating biohazards in her boudoir and on occasion I have sported a tea towel on my face before entering.

Initially, rather than admit the error of her messy ways, India took umbrage at Pearl the Tightwad. However, the next day she conceded, tidied up, and received £1 forthwith.

What next I ask you, rabies shots for the Easter bunny and a DBS for Santa? If India even attempts to convince us that she should be getting the £5 per tooth that some children do (FIVE POUNDS!) then the only thing Pearl will be in receipt of is a swift wing-ectomy.

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8 thoughts on “The lies of childhood: Santa, Tooth Fairy, Easter Bunny et al

    • Hi, love this Q as I’m an agnostic with a degree in the study of religion and philosophy – and I’m also a teacher who used to be the head of a religious studies, philosophy & ethics department. The answer for me is simple: I’ve never told my kids that god/s exist. I’ve only ever said that it’s something people make up their own minds about. That doesn’t help me re: having fallen into the trap of pretending that tooth paying fairies exist though… Haha! 🙂

      • Thanks for your quick reply. Whenever my son asked about religion, I gave him my standard, “some people think this; some people think that. You can decide when you grow up.” He’s an atheist. 🙂 I just always find it odd that people tell kids that Santa and the Easter Bunny aren’t real, but God is. To me, they are all the same.

      • It fascinates me – I used to explore with students the concept that maybe atheists are more ethical than theists; atheists do charitable deeds with no hope of an after-life as ‘reward’ etc. It nearly always led to discussing if there’s any such thing as an unselfish act – which obviously meant I had to show a clip from the Friends episode. Always a bonus!

      • Ha! I never really watched the show, but now I want to. It does fascinate me. I’m sure people think my belief in aliens is crazy, but we can actually see other galaxies.

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