“Mom, I know your secret. You’re the gift giver,” my son said.
And just like that, I lost my last true believer. Thanks to autism’s innocence and credulity, we had a good 12-year run of Christmas magic.
“You figured it out, you’re so smart!” I replied.
Then the dominos of childhood fantasy fell one by one – “and the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy?” he asked.
“Yes,” I admitted.
“Don’t worry, I won’t tell the girls,” he said. His sisters, of course, have not believed for years.
A few days later, my youngest daughter lost a tooth.
“Can I be the tooth fairy?” my son stage-whispered in front of his amused sisters. “Does he know?!” his older sister mouthed silently to me.
My son assumed his tooth fairy duties with exuberance, and the stealth of a cat burglar with wooden boots and a limited theory of mind. Lots of loud whispering and obvious attempts to sneak into her room later, my son had hidden the tooth box under his sister’s pillow and then “snuck” back in later to replace the tooth with money. His sister played along with a mixture of apathy and irritation. “I know what he’s doing,” she muttered at one point.
In the morning, he asked his younger sister whether the tooth fairy had come. She looked at us both and shrugged, “I guess.” Undeterred by her lack of enthusiasm, my son smiled and winked at me. There’s a new tooth fairy in town.
Courtney Bennett is the mom of three kids, two typically developing girls and a boy with special needs. In addition to parenting and blogging, she works in education policy for a university. She has contributed pieces to Sunset magazine, Psychology Today, parenting magazines, public radio and the op-ed pages of The Philadelphia Inquirer. She spent a long time in school avoiding the real world and holds a Ph.D. in communications and an MSc in social psychology.