It happened differently with Emmett.
Emmett was at a sleepover one night when he was around eleven. At that other house, he lost a tooth. We explained to him that the tooth fairy didn’t make house calls to other people’s houses, and unfortunately (or unconsciously), the next night, when he had returned home, we forgot to put money under his pillow.
That next morning, we explained to him that the tooth fairy must have gotten confused because Emmett had spent the night at his friends house and was now back at home. We assured him that the tooth fairy would have it figured it out by the next morning.
However, Jane and I forgot again.
Emmett came in to tell us about the tooth fairy’s blunder, and I blundered worse, trying to sneak a two-dollar bill under his pillow in the guise of straightening up.
He spent a good part of the morning between my lap and sitting in the living room by himself.
“I’m taking the tooth with me to school,” he said.
“OK. That’s fair,” Jane said.
“It just doesn’t feel right,” he said.
“No. No it doesn’t,” Jane said.
When I was on 33rd Street to pick him up after school, he rushed towards me. His face was filled with light. He was holding something in his hand.
“Look, Dad, I lost another tooth. This isn’t the one I lost the other night. This is a different one. The one that I lost the other night, I lost somewhere at school, but I lost another one. This is a different tooth.”
I restated what I had heard him say to make certain I understood. He lost the tooth he had lost the other night somewhere at school and this was a second lost tooth – one he lost at school that very day.
He held the tooth out to me, looked me and said,
“What do you say we do this honestly, and you just hand me the two dollars right now, and we buy some candy?”
That’s what we did.
Plato described this human experience in his allegory of the caves. (Here’s my telling.)
If you grow up in a cave, the first time you see the sun, you are going to be scared and want to be back in the cave, where things made sense and you were comfortable.
And you’ll want to pretend that you never saw that sun.
It is wise for each of us to ask ourselves if there are realities before us we are willfully ignoring.
Is there some truth, some reality, that you just don’t want to see?
- Do you have a problem with eating, drinking, shopping?
- Does a friend tell you one thing about your relationship but act differently?
- Might you have a loved one who is sick or dying who you don’t want to believe is anything but healthy?
Are you like Joe-Bear believing in the tooth fairy even if the tooth fairy isn’t really real?
Maybe it’s time to take stock and, though painful, grow-up.
You want to know why “they” don’t just give up their ridiculous delusions?
Same reason you don’t want to deal with the truths you don’t want to deal with – no one wants to see the truth that they don’t want to see.
Ernest Hemingway said, “I don’t like writing. I like having written.”
Nobody likes transforming, changing.
My kids had to do with the tooth-fairy.
And, you might have to face the fact that a person you love is horribly disappointing.
No one likes transforming; we like having been transformed.
But, to be transformed we have to go through the discomfort of transformation.
Even if we would rather take a nap.