“Mommy, are Leprechauns real, or do the moms and dads really just do all that stuff?”
Okay, two things.
First of all, when he says ‘all that stuff’, I can only assume he’s referring to the magical things leprechauns do in the homes of his classmates whose lives are always better than his. On a few very magical St. Patrick’s Days, we have been fortunate for leprechauns to pee in our toilet as they were passing through with their shamrock shenanigans, thereby leaving the water a vibrant emerald green.
And I give myself big points for this creativity, even though it has resulted in two green spots of food coloring on the carpet of my bathroom. I actually think Tyler did the food coloring himself last year when he woke up to the woeful disappointment that no leprechauns had come by to wreak havoc in our home. He had to take matters into his own hands, thus planting the seed of doubt that any of this is really true.
Second, thank you for choosing one of the lesser holiday heroes, so I don’t have to break your heart with the truth of Santa in one fell swoop. I appreciate the softball, kiddo.
“Well, do you really want me to tell you?”
I learned this question from my mom, as it was her approach to all of our magic-defying truth-telling questions of childhood. It places the onus of responsibility in the child’s hands, since you can forever say, “I asked you if you really wanted me to tell you. You said you wanted to know.”
Also, it gives them the answer just slightly before you have to say it out loud. If Leprechauns and all their calendar friends were real, then wouldn’t I just say yes? I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have to clarify.
He paused, thinking it over. It’s the moment of truth, and you have to be sure you really want to jump off the cliff of make believe.
“Yes. I want to know.” Pause. “Yes.” Pause. “I think I want to know.” Pause. “Yes. I do.”
“Okay, I’ll tell you. Leprechauns are a made-up story that’s just a lot of fun, but they’re not real. Yes, any evidence of Leprechauns is really the parents being creative and making those things happen.”
I wait while he registers this information. He tosses another one my way. “So, the Easter Bunny…”
“Also not real.”
“And Santa…” Ouch. The big guns.
“Well, the bad news is that Santa isn’t real either. He’s a very fun story to enjoy and pretend. But the good news – and this is really good news – is that all your favorite gifts came from me all along.”
“So the naughty and the nice list?”
“Well, that must work out for all you moms and dads because kids are all busy being good, thinking their names have to go on a list for Christmas to happen at all.”
“Actually, I didn’t think it was all that great because I was shopping and choosing gifts and wrapping them for you and so excited to give them to you, and then you’d give Santa all the thanks.”
He nods and twists his mouth with understanding. He can’t deny that I make a strong point.
He didn’t go anywhere near the Tooth Fairy. I suspect this is because he has a loose tooth and doesn’t want to peek behind that specific curtain while money is potentially his. You know, just in case.
“You know what’s good about this conversation, Tyler? You can know for sure that you can trust your mom, that I will always tell you the truth when you really, truly want to know.”
“I already knew that.”
“And, even though these stories were made up, I want you to know that all the stories you’ve heard about Jesus are true.”
“I knew that too.”
“Okay. Just wanted to clarify.”
Deep sigh from the seven year old. “Well, all of that is pretty disappointing,” he said, which is the most fair and reasonable response ever to the truth of fiction.
“It is, I agree. A lot of things about growing up can be pretty disappointing. The good news is that someday, when you’re a grown-up, you can eat ice cream for every meal and nobody can tell you not to.”
He raises his eyebrows. I can see I’ve handed him a gift in this promise.
“I need to go tell Tucker. I’ll break it to him gently.”