Monday, May 07, 2001

In My Life

Child's loss of belief makes mom a little sad

By Sheila McLaughlin
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        The neatly printed message on the yellow lined piece of paper was testimony to her innocence. “Dear Tooth Fairy,” it read.

        “I lost my tooth when I was drinking choclet milk and I think I mite of swalowd it. Your friend MacKenzie Storch.

        A pencil-drawn fairy — female, of course - adorned the paper, along with our 8-year-old daughter's artistic rendition of a smiling molar, a quarter and the dollar bill she hoped to find under her pillow the next morning. Even if the tooth was no where to be found.

        I stole that note from under her pillow that night and gently, so not to wake her, I carefully replaced it with the dollar she had come to expect.

        Today, I pulled that paper from my desk drawer where I had hidden it from her six months ago, hoping, that by squirreling it away, out of her sight, I could protect this child's fantasy for just a little while longer.

        The magic is gone.

        Yesterday, she stopped believing. Siblings love to share their knowledge. Her 10-year-old brother, Evan, was the next to know.

        We weren't prepared for this rite of passage. Our lives will never be the same.

  In My Life is about recent significant moments — big and small — in people's lives. Readers are invited to submit columns, which become the property of the Enquirer.
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        It started on a ride home from a soccer game at Cincinnati Sports Mall and a child's questions about whether there was really an Easter Bunny.

        MacKenzie didn't think so. How could a rabbit get into your house and leave baskets of candy, she rationalized. It just didn't make sense. With a nervous giggle, she asked the dreaded question.

        Should I lie? Better not, I surmised. What kind of example would that set?

        I answered her question truthfully. She sat quietly in the seat next to me. I braced for what I knew would come next.

        “Well, there must be a Santa,” MacKenzie said. “You and dad don't have the money for Kit (her latest American Girl doll) and a scooter.”

        I was silent. “Mom?” she said. I tried to ignore her. “Mom?"

        I told her to ask her dad what he thought.

        Last Christmas, when I was bemoaning all the money we spent, I secretly wished that our kids would figure this out. But not today. Not now.

        Yesterday, MacKenzie didn't need to ask her dad. She already knew the answer.

        Later that night, she wept for half an hour, nursing her disappointment, mourning the loss of this childhood illusion.

        Evan held Barry — the now disintegrating stuffed polar bear he had carried around since birth — up to his nose, smelling it to find his comfort zone. Glassy-eyed, he was on the verge of tears.

        My heart is still bleeding.

        Sheila McLaughlin, 42, is an Enquirer reporter covering the Warren County criminal justice system. She and her husband, Ted Storch, and their children, Evan and MacKenzie, live in Symmes Township.

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