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Lies And Telling The Tooth
by Leon Baxter
TheSyndicatedNews columnist

Before I became a parent, I had lofty visions of my role as a father. I’d sit comfortably in my E-Z chair, puffing upon my tobacco pipe with an aromatic ring of smoke encircling my head like the gray halo of the angelic dad. My parenting would be patterned after the TV fathers of the 1950’s and ‘60’s, polite, caring and honest: “Let’s take a look at that report card of yours, Sport. Looks like your grades are dropping a bit in science. What say we toss the old pigskin around, then hit the books, huh, Beaver?”

Reality can hit like a ton of bricks. See, we can’t actually afford an E-Z chair. I don’t smoke. Plus, my six year old daughter, Madison, doesn’t take kindly to being called a flat-tailed rodent.

The part about being “polite, caring and honest” is what got my Daddy britches all in bunches. Honesty. Being a dad in our society often means lying to your children. I’m talking Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy, and Santa here. Yeah, yeah. I’ve heard it all before. I don’t have to lie to her. I can tell my daughter the truth, having her be the only girl in the county who scoffs at Miracle on 34th Street and refuses to sing “Here Comes Peter Cottontail.”

No, if you want to carry on the tradition, when your first baby emerges from the womb, even before the cord is cut, you automatically join the ranks of the 14 bazillion other parents on earth who vow to teach their children honesty through deception. You become a double agent, smiling and preaching the "Golden Rule" by day, only to stay up until 3:00 am building train sets and leaving cookie crumbs on Christmas Eve so your offspring believe a bearded, fat man has snuck into your house and eaten your snack foods.

I guess it’s just one of those things, a part of parenthood, like changing diapers and giving up the car keys that parents must trudge through. Although, we all do it, it just makes me feel a bit uneasy.

I must have been seven or eight and had lost yet another tooth. I placed the enamel nugget beneath my pillow and dreamed of fairy dust and shiny quarters. When I awoke the next morning... nothing. I searched under the pillow, looked in the pillowcase, checked the sheets and blankets. When I was done, my bed looked like someone ran the linen through a shredder.

“Mom!” I yelled, running into my parents’ room. “The Tooth Fairy forgot to leave me my money.”

“Go check again,” she told me. “I’ll be right in.”

I pulled up the mattress, dismantled the headboard and was about to unstuff my pillow when Mom came in. She walked right to the bed, reached under what was left of my sheets and pulled out a misshaped, aluminum foil-covered packet.

“It was right here, Knucklehead,” she said handing me the treasure and heading back to sleep.

How could I have missed it, I thought. I peeled back the foil and found sixty-three cents in small change, some lint, and a piece of Trident gum, no wrapper. Tooth Fairy must have fallen on hard times.

As I know now... lies. Mom had to deceive me to make up for her slipping memory. She’d forgotten to lie to me, so she had to lie to me to make up for it.

Nearly thirty years later, I find myself in the role of father with a daughter who’s lost her first tooth. Although it’s a rite of passage that’s been passed down through the ages, someone ought to hold a class on how to handle the actual switch. My God, what a terrifying experience it is trying to steal a tooth from right below your child’s head.
My wife sent me in, “Go get that tooth.”

“She may still be awake,” I whined.

“She’s been in bed for over four hours. Get in there so we can get to sleep!”

I crept into my daughter’s room, keeping a close watch on her eyes. I slid my hand below her pillow. I had no idea the racket that one hand could make on 200-stitch, cotton sheets. She stirred. You ever scare a cat and watch it jump straight up? That was me, straight to the ceiling and when my feet hit the floor. I was out of her room in no time.

My wife said, “You get the tooth?”

“Well, my hand was making all sort of noise, see? Then, she stirred, and I did this cat jump. On my way down...”

“Get back in there, soldier.... Move!”

It felt like I was on a recognizance mission. I told myself that I’d return with the tooth or die trying. I silently practiced my “What are you doing, Daddy?” spiel twenty times as I crawled across my daughter’s bedroom floor in the middle of the night: “Oh, hi, Honey. You’re awake, are ya? I was just checking the temperature beneath your pillow. Scientists say maintaining a range between 73 and 76 degrees will ensure adequate brain activity during REM sleep.”

This time I got the tooth and made the switch. The next morning, I’m up for an Academy Award for my supporting role as “Surprised Dad.”

“What? She gave you three silver dollars? Let me take a look at those...” And so on and so forth.

I know the whole magical world thing with talking animals, elves and fairies is a wonderful tradition of deceit passed down through the generations. What about when my daughter learns her father is nothing more that a two-bit liar? What then? Huh?

I still remember when I learned my mom had been yanking my chain all those early years. The memory still pains me. It was Easter morning. I must have been in second or third grade. I’d found my dozen dyed eggs. My basket was filled with chocolate bunnies and jelly beans. Grandma’d sent me my annual brown, terry cloth, Easter Service socks.

I went to the trash to throw them away like I did every year and noticed all the Easter candy wrappers in the garbage. “That’s weird,” I thought. “Why would the Easter Bunny use our trash to throw that stuff away?” I never remembered seeing his trash any other Easters. It had never occurred to me that this holiday rodent was filling the local landfills with his marshmallow chick wrappers.

So, I asked my mom. It was very innocent. “Mom, why are there Easter candy wrappers in our trash can?”

I think I caught Mom on an off day. “Because there’s no Easter Bunny, alright? You figured it out, genius. No Easter Bunny, no Tooth Fairy, no Santa. You happy now?... I need my meds.”

I survived, however. We all do. I came out unscathed, except for that tic and eye twitch thing, which you really can’t even see very well if the room is dark. When I finally tell my daughter the truth, she too will survive. Will she be disappointed? Sure. But the silver lining is that one day when she has children of her own, she’ll carry on the tradition, reassuring them that there are no such things as monsters or giants and that bad guys can’t get into the house. However, fairies and giant rabbits have full access to our home when the lights are off.

Sleep tight.


Leon Scott Baxter is a West Coast writer who lives with his wife and two daughters in California. To see more of his work, go to

Published: Nov 29,2008 17:17
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