It’s happening. My baby is growing up. Juniper Junior has not long been five, and now has a wobbly tooth. A very wobbly tooth, as it happens. And there comes an issue: the Tooth Fairy. Some may remember from last Hogswatch, that I wrote about our experience as a Humanist family. But now we have a new experience: the aforementioned Tooth Fairy.
Once upon a time – all right, last week – Juniper Junior came through to the kitchen where Mr. Juniper and I were talking. The talk turned to his wobbly tooth, and without much forethought, we mentioned the Tooth Fairy. With an immediacy with which Acme anvils are well accustomed, I thought: what am I saying?
In similar ways to the Hogfather, the Tooth Fairy is just “there.” An idea that has, in various incarnations, been a part of our culture for a long time. And it can feel a little daunting to go against something that has become a tradition.
A part of being a Humanist is to reject the supernatural, and I suspect that any self-respecting Tooth Fairy would consider themselves to be a supernatural being. To me this means finding the line between encouraging belief and enjoying the story. At Hogswatch, we enjoyed the story of the Hogfather but we did our best not to encourage the belief of the Hogfather. An encouragement that a concept which has relied largely on an oral history is of little difference to a story book. Indeed, Juniper Junior has two books of Bible stories because we feel that the stories can still be of importance; it’s whether we treat them as fact or fiction that matters.
I appreciate that there are people who say the Tooth Fairy does no harm, and will consider me to be a freak because I’m “over-thinking” this, or will see me as denying my son a critical part of childhood if we deny the Tooth Fairy. To be fair, a lot of people say the same things about Humanism. That by being a Humanist family, we’re denying our son something critical. I am at the point where those beliefs are something to ignore. Though it can be very hard. I try to bear in mind that those people are at liberty to raise their children as they see fit, so long as they do no harm, just as we are at liberty to raise our son as we see fit, so long as we do no harm. There are those who consider a rejection of deities within a child’s life to be abuse, but for the moment, the United Kingdom’s government disagrees with them. Long may they do so.
As always, a simpler approach has a tendency to be the better approach. But over the past few days, I have still been left with the “how” of this approach. What is the simple approach to enjoying the story of the Tooth Fairy? Part of me would like to get Juniper Junior to read The Hogfather. It is a fantastic look at belief and stories, which also happens to be written by one of my heroes (and fellow Humanist) Terry Pratchett. But I fear The Hogfather is a little beyond Juniper Junior’s current reading ability. I don’t wish to have a need for a spoiler warning, so I shall simply say that the way in which The Hogfather includes the Tooth Fairy truly is amazing.
So the simple approach has something of a plan emerging around it. The plan being alongside reminders that the Tooth Fairy is something that some people choose to believe in, that it is a part of a long history of mythical creatures and beings. But that we can also enjoy that story. That if we’re talking about the story that is the Tooth Fairy, why don’t we get out some of the books we have on folklore and check out the kelpie and selkie stories, too?
There is then, the matter of payment. The Tooth Fairy, or at least, the tooth fairies that act on behalf of the Tooth Fairy, are generally expected to offer a reward for the tooth in question. Juniper Junior doesn’t get pocket money, so I wonder how much a financial reward will mean to him. He enjoys playing with pennies, but he is quite as entertained by a two-pence piece, as he is by a pound. But perhaps in turn, this is an opportunity to teach him something about money. He does, after all, have a piggy bank. How much though? Twenty pence? Fifty pence? A pound? If he’s to save his pennies, then a small amount seems reasonable. If he’s to spend them? There has to be enough to buy something, even a small something. Save or spend? Perhaps this is the moment to grab, and encourage the idea of saving.
With events like Hogswatch, we have come to have our own traditions and little quirks. And so, we hope to do the same with the Tooth Fairy. The tradition in mind, is for books. To be fair, I will wrangle an excuse out of anything to acquire more books. So in preparation for the tooth coming out, I have done a little shopping on Amazon on behalf of the Tooth Fairy. And along with the pennies that Juniper Junior finds by his pillow, he’s going to find a book, too. So now we just have to wait for the tooth to come out – hopefully on a weekday – I’ve heard the rates go up at weekends.