Killing Fairies

One of the most important responsibilities - nay, obligations - of any parent is, I think, to encourage our children's daily awareness of all that is magical and mysterious in our great, big fantastical world.

And, yes, I am a hippie.

To point our children toward a sly glimpse of the crystalline fairies in a drop of dew....

To wonder in awe at Titan voices booming across the evening sky during a summer thunderstorm....

To marvel at orchestras captured on silver discs, musicians trapped like microscopic genies to be released in song only at the listener's wish and command....

Ah bliss! Ah joy!

To support and stimulate their creative selves and thusly nourish their hearts and souls with the food of poets and saints!

(And I'm not talking cigarettes and day-old baguettes.)

But, as a bittersweet fact of life, every day my children grow a bit older and, so too, a bit too wise for the world's magic.

Mostly, I blame science.

(That honeymoon was over quickly.)

One golden-hued afternoon, my girls are sitting on their bed happily naming the angels they insist they can see dancing on the head of a pin. The following week, they're discussing the atomic force microscope and how the sharp point of the carbon nanotube would determine once and for all whether and how many angels were actually boogying down, even though the super sharp point would probably poke the bejeezus out of most of the angels such that from thence forward, angels would stay the hell off pinheads altogether and begin dancing on clouds, where they belong. Although, then they'd remind me that in their lesson on the weather, they learned that clouds were made mostly of condensed water droplets and could probably support the weight of a few very small celestial beings, but not an entire host of seraphim because, c'mon, six wings each? The whole shebang is becoming suspect.

It doesn't matter when I point out that no one actually knows how heavy a seraphim is: my kids are on a quest to figure it out.

And somewhere, someplace, a fairy sheds a tear.

I could tell them, warn them, implore them - Don't look at the man behind the curtain! Don't figure how Santa gets to every house in the world in one evening, even after adjusting the formula for Jewish kids and cranky anti-consumerists! Don't stay up late and try to catch the "Tooth Fairy" in her bathrobe and Pond's facial cream masque! Don't question the lack of causation and faulty correlation between mommy's big tummy and large white birds with messenger caps! Keep the magic! Vive le mystery!

But the little stinkers are like curious cats batting Tinker Bell's tiny body across the kitchen floor - a soft, sad jingle barely audible as she rolls under the refrigerator and her limp little arms and legs come to rest against a dust bunny and a dry noodle.

The shame of it all is that I was just getting good at being their Field Director of Whimsy. Prima would write a two page letter to the Tooth Fairy asking what she looked like, what she did on her days off, and most importantly, what the heck did she do with all those teeth? And the Tooth Fairy would reply with photos and gilded pages and purple prose printouts explaining in detail all the magical happenings in Fairyland - how Prima's first lost tooth would be used to crown the newest fairy princess baby; how other teeth would be polished and fashioned into lanterns and bells for the autumn harvest festival; and, how in Fairyland, Prima and her sister were known each by their own fanciful fairy names - Juniper Icedancer and Feather Elfdancer.

One night, the Tooth Fairy forgot to make her visit and a tooth was unexpectedly found the next morning still under the pillow. A note later appeared explaining that because the family cat was reclining on Prima's bed, the Tooth Fairy couldn't retrieve the wee lower incisor. And the reason she couldn't go into the room to grab the tooth was because, evidently, when a cat sees a fairy, the cat begins to sing. Loudly. And because waking the entire house with a singing cat just wouldn't do, the Tooth Fairy had to abort attempts to retrieve the package and try again another night.

My daughters believed.

And the next night, the cat was locked in the basement.

And the Tooth Fairy arrived as originally planned and finished the job at hand.

That's not to say that as they wield their microscopes and telescopes and National Geographic Kids and It's So Amazing to debunk their own childhood illusions and denude one apple tree after another, that they aren't at the same time beginning to occasionally take a glance backward with - if not quite regret - then their own bittersweet understanding that they are propelling themselves through realms of reality, barely slamming one door closed as they race through the next. That they can't stop themselves. That they shouldn't stop themselves, but that at the same time, when they do now go searching for fairies and even monsters under the bed, the sightings are becoming a little more infrequent. Not impossible to track and stalk...but...tricky.

I do my best to manufacture a little magic in my own way. Keep them guessing. Keep them on their toes when they get a bit too sure that they know what's around every corner, what's through the next door. Just to keep their poetic toes a dancing. Just to help put a drag on once in a while least they suddenly find themselves too soon too grown-up with a job and a mortgage and not a whole lot of free time left to track fairies.

Sometimes I need to get creative.

"Mommy, how do you spell parallel?"

"P-a-r-a-l-l-e-l. Hey! Did you know that double l's in parallel are parallel. They could go on forever and never touch!"

"Yeah. I knew that."

"Did you know that parallel can refer to two actions happening at the same time?"

"Roll eyes. Yeah. I knew that, too."

"Did you know that the German for parallel is parallel?


"Oh no!"


"Oh no oh no!"

"What? What?"

"I completely forgot."


"Sigh. That part about the German for parallel being parallel...that was the last thing I was supposed to teach you before you turned 18 and were ready to leave for college. Drat."


"Uh-huh. That was the last thing on the list. I guess you'll have to skip middle school and high school and go right to U. Penn next fall."

"Nuh-uh. There's no such thing as a list."

"Oh sure. When you were born in the hospital, they gave me a list of things I was supposed to tell you and that the teachers wouldn't cover in school. I was supposed to refer to list and go in order. They were very specific in telling me I had to go in order. Oh well. You'll figure out canasta and how to separate reds and whites when doing laundry on your own."

"Really? Did they really give you a list?"

"Absolutely. The last thing I checked off was 'Teach your child how to make toast.' Remember? We did that last week."


"Oh. Sure.

"Really, really?"

"Sure. Now just don't tell your sister about parallel. You're going to love college. Eh-hem."

"I'm going to ask Daddy. That doesn't sound right."

And somewhere, someplace, a fairy heaves herself off the floor, brushes the cat slobber off her skirt, and flitters away with a sly smile...and a jingly jangly flip of the bird.


Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

I live in a house of no illusions, just teenagers. This made me weep (and laugh). Perfect post nominee, anyone?

Peggy Sez.. said...

I shall never teach "The Boy" how to make toast!

Anonymous said...

That was a great post! I stopped believing in everything sometime before my teens. It lasted until college, when I discovered theatre. Then, I got to MAKE the magic. That was so much better.

Perpetually Romesick said...

This might be my favorite post of yours....ever. It made me want to cry. It also made me want to ask you to adopt me. ;)

Unknown said...

I have been absolutely dealing with this same exact worry lately. So much so that your inspired and wonderful post has inspired me to blog about it today.

Instead of the The List, we have The Book. Joe always claims "it says so in the Parenting Book." said...

Jenn -Aw shucks. You know, you wrote a post a few days ago that had me in tears laughing. When the ROFL awards are back up and running, you're a shoe in.

And teenagers? C'mon. Aren't hormones magical? Lol.

Peggy -

Lol! Just remember never to discuss geometry.

Noelle -

You know, at the same time I was writing this, I was arguing with myself: the birth of a baby is magical even when you do understand the science behind the wonder; and, even as an adult, I still crawl under the covers during a thunderstorm...with my meteorology textbook for comfort.

I didn't read the Spiderwick books, but at the end of the movie there is this ooey-gooey knock-you-over-the-head line delivered by Arthur Spiderwick - a man who devoted his entire life to cataloging fantastical creatures - when he regrets that he didn't enough attention to his young daughter. Not a direct quote, but he says something like, "Here I was searching for magical creatures when there was one right before my eyes the entire time."

Pretty schmaltzy and sentimental, but I fell for it.

Jill -

I would gladly adopt you! However just one question: did you already have braces on your teeth? Because orthodontist bills: not so magical, I'm finding out. :-) said...

Heidi -

I'm just impressed that you have time to blog with all those Girl Scout cookies to distribute. You rule! :-)

Mrs. G. said...

We all need a little magic in our lives. What a clever mom you are. The note regarding the kitty-o was genius.

Anonymous said...

such a sweet post. i enjoyed the image of a tattered tink being batted under the fridge by a cat, with the limp and near lifeless body coming to rest on a dust bunny. clap your hands if you believe in fairy entrails. ken

Anonymous said...

Each of my three kids came with a manual specific to them. They are pretty well grown now but every now and then when trouble arises they will ask me to refer to their manual. It is pretty sweet.

PypersTune said...

It made me laugh, it made me cry, I want to read it again and again, it was better than "Cats". No seriously, I loved this post. Keep the magic alive! Best part about having kids is that we don't always have to act like adults.

Julie Pippert said...

To my scientifically inclined kids, the science is the magic. :)

I liked that, but after reading this, I LOVE it. LOL

Variations On A Theme said...

I can't believe how funny you are! I love this post! Especially the part about the fairy under the fridge. How do you do it? You're an amazing writer.

Mom101 said...

I absolutely love every word of this. I just may have to steal that tooth fairy mythology - along with the Field Director of whimsy title. Brilliant.

karengreeners said...

Wait -- I'm not supposed to give my kids cigarettes and day-old baguettes?


(oh yeah, and really awesome post, from one hippie to another.)

Carey said...

I loved the toothfairy and the cat! LOL. Very creative!

Casdok said...

A lovely post!

Melissa said...

We're there, too. Somedays I can pull it off, but those days are becoming less frequent. Sigh...

Easter's gonna be rough this year. :( On me, I mean.

Mad said...

This post is scrumptious. I enjoyed every second of reading it and I second Jenn in her perfect post comment.

Anonymous said...

It's unfortunate, but I think some kids are destined to let the magic slip away and some will never let it go. I am of the latter variety, but both of my boys are of the former.

I'm glad to hear you're keeping the magic alive in creative and funny ways!

Alison said...

Awesome post! I still have time to be the Field Director of Whimsy--thanks for reminding me to enjoy it while it lasts. (And I LOVE the idea of telling them you have a list of things to teach them before college. Priceless.)

we_be_toys said...

This was great!
It does become the truly amazing sleight of hand for us moms to keep the mystery and the magic alive.

I love the whole image of Tinkerbell being smacked about and ending up under the fridge - just an incredible image!

love, yer fellow hippie-chick

we_be_toys said...

Oh! I just read your comments - the Spiderwick books are WAY mopre magical than the movie, and they have this whole premise of the book being a real thing the authors were given by the kids in the story. We had this entire conversation (the kids and I) about whether it was real or not, and those books did a great job of perpetuating the magic!

Terri said...

Oooo, I want to be a kid in your house! Although I have to say, my mom did a pretty good job of preserving the magic until I was snooping in her drawer and found the roll of ribbon the "Easter Bunny" used on my basket that year. I didn't tell her I found it, but somewhere a fairy died that day.

Jessica said...

That is an awesome post. I am thankful my children are still small and believers of the magic.

Mrs. F said...

Wow, this post is so creative.

I almost wished I was seven years old again and you were my Mommy, especially with the story about the tooth fairy and the cat. I wish I was more in tune with my creativity to be able to tell my kids sweet stories like that!!!

P.S. Thanks for stopping by and commenting. You gave me things to think about.

mamatulip said...


The's alive. Right here on this blog.

Angela said...

This post was very touching.
You know there is so much magic everywhere it is just not too easyto find.

Thanks for visiting my blog

S said...

I love love love this post.

I love all your posts.

Mad said...

So, uh, I nominated this post for a perfect post. The list is up today. I sent you an email on the weekend with the button but I know that my hotmail account often "junks" messages from unknown senders so I'm afraid you might not've gotten it.

I plan to post later today about the PP thing but I'm up to my neck in work this morning and thought you needed to know what's up.

Janet said...

I found you Under the Mad Hat. I am a firm believer in all things magical. The toothfairy and the cat story was beyond brilliant (and I will have to remember that, because having had babies after age 40, my memory is completely shot). We have fairies (statues and the real ones) in our garden, and we look for fairies when the trees dance. I am not looking forward to the day when the last little Tinkerbell breathes her last on our kitchen floor. But as my kids are 4 and 2, we have a few more years of magic left.

Woman in a Window said...

Magic, the great elixir of the not-so-boring. An important ingrediant in any life! Reminded me that when I tucked my 6 year old son in last night I asked him about all the bottles strewn about his floor. He said nonchalantly, "I was making potions, mom." I quietly turned out his light without even thinking about it. Of course he was making potions! Thanks for a great adventure of words!

Janet said...

Came over from Mad's place...

This was a fabulous post. My eldest is turning 9 and he still believes in TF and the big man in red, even the Easter Bunny earlier this month, which sort of floored me. But with every new gap in his wee mouth I see the inevitable coming.

Anonymous said...

When my Youngest pressed me to tell him the truth about Santa (with whom I am very close) I replied, "I will tell you absolutely everything about my relationship with Santa if you really want me to. But you never want to ask a question if you really don't want to hear the answer. Are you sure you want to ask that question?"

He thought for a beat and then replied, "Uh, forget it."

They hold onto the magic as long as they need and want it.

crazymumma said...

heh heh.

yet the horror the horror.

Magpie said...

I need that list! I'm doing it all wrong!

Unknown said...

"Isn't it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too?"
--Douglas Adams

It may look like a pompous ass posting just this but there is more explanation and a story here: Exploits of Ninja and Child: Part 1 - The Gates of Epiphany

Anonymous said...

lol! I've been telling my daughter for years that there's a Parenting Handbook, which not only has phone numbers and e-mail addresses for Santa and the tooth fairy, but clearly says that it's our job to make lots of onerous rules, embarrass her at every turn and generally make her life difficult. She rolls her eyes, but I just may write that book to pass on to her someday. Lovely post.

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