Friday, September 28, 2012

Innocent Until Proven Worldly

The Easter bunny. Santa. The tooth fairy. They all three still visit my house. And now that the kid has rolled over into the double-digits and is the grand old age of ten, I've been thinking it's time we uninvite them. Like Sookie has done to both Vampire Eric and Vampire Bill on various occasions.

Yesterday provided the perfect opportunity for The Talk. Not the Sex Talk, the "You do realize none of these people are real and that it's your dad and I who have been sneaking around on Christmas Eve and Easter Eve and wandering into your  room at 3am with singles we almost forgot to put under your pillow?" talk. The kid hid in a far corner of my library after school with a Kleenex and some ambition and emerged a few moments later with a freshly-yanked baby tooth and a bloody grin.

I thought that, even though she has not asked, she knows deep down that there is no tooth fairy. She hangs out in a locker room with a bunch of pre-teen girls after swim practice; I know some innocence is being lost on numerous fronts. By her age, the bubble had been burst for me and only babies still believed in Santa and the tooth fairy, which when you think about it, is a pretty big leap of faith, anyway. A real-life tooth collector who sneaks into children's bedrooms at night while they sleep is beyond creepy, and you just can't spin that situation the way you can with a kind, fat man who breaks in but doesn't steal anything and leaves Furbies in his wake.

I took a breath.

" we still believe in the tooth fairy?"

She looked at me like I had just asked if the sky was still blue.

"Yes. She's real. And Santa, too." And with that she finished her homework, no doubt or uncertainty in her mind about whether or not she would get some coin left under her pillow that night.

She could be playing me. Any kid would be smart to hold on to these cards as long as possible. But if you believe that, you don't know her. She's clever and quick and funny, but she's also innocent and emotionally immature. In a good way. The ugliness of the world has not shown itself to her yet, and she still believes in magic and miracles and the inherent goodness of humanity.

God, how I envy her that.

Her times, though, they are a'changing. She's in fifth grade--that horrible time in a kid's life where you leave most of your innocence behind. Girls buy their first training bras, which boys will learn about and start snapping. Boys will start noticing girls and feeling torn between liking the Transformers movie for Optimus Prime and liking the Transformers movie for Megan Fox. Both genders will find themselves divided up and seated at tables of uncomfortable silence in the school library watching a video called "Your Changing Body." Nothing will be the same after that. Few will unwrap toys this year at Christmas; there will be clothes and wallets and cheap jewelry and a strong, lingering odor of adult disappointment. When you don't believe in Santa, and you're no longer really a child, and you know all about menstrual cycles and nocturnal emissions, is this all that's left? Yes, kids-who-aren't-kids. Yes, it is.

As much as I want her to stay my innocent little girl who has never asked me where babies come from despite my long-standing offer to answer any question she ever has about sex honestly and openly and without giggling, the time is coming to break some facts to her. Before she can get teased about it in the swim team locker room or by the boys in her classroom after they can't find a bra strap to snap, I will have to tell her about the whole Santa thing. And possibly about the baby thing. And by way of extension, the Easter-bunny thing and the tooth-fairy thing and the "You-can-be-whatever-you-want-to-be-regardless-of -talent-or-skill" thing. Because when one domino of innocence falls, the whole mechanism tumbles.

I know it's coming, and soon. But it did not happen last night. The tooth fairy came, though not without drama. (Unbeknownst to me, Ainsley came home and put her tooth in a Dixie cup of water on the bathroom counter to rinse the blood off. I thought it was just an errant cup and dumped the water and tooth down the drain. So Ainsley wrote a note to the fairy and still got a few bucks, and I get the joy of knowing there's a lower incisor rattling around the bathroom drain somewhere.) I wanted one more time to creep into her room and make magic happen. And see the joy on her face this morning, and know that this, too, shall pass. And that right soon.

For the first training bra is only months away. Today, though, she's still my innocent little girl.

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