Tuesday, September 06, 2011

First Tastes

The Boy is starting fifth grade, as hard as it is for me to process that. In our district, fifth grade means moving to a new school building, far from the cozy confines of the much smaller elementary school. He’s ridiculously smart, but still sweetly sensitive, which means that he could be easy prey for the Lord of the Flies types he’ll run across over the next few years.

On Saturday he lost a tooth, and the tooth fairy forgot to come. She forgot again on Sunday.

TW and I discussed it. It was time.

The changes are coming in rapid succession. He mentioned wanting to try coffee sometime to see what it tasted like.

Queasy readers might want to skip the rest of this post...

I took him to a local donut shop, and got us two coffees (one sweetened, one black) and two donuts. We sat down, and I mentioned how proud I was of how fast and how well he was growing up. He was turning into a man, and it was time to celebrate that. I offered him a sip of the black coffee, and he took it.

(Picture the face Renee Zellweger would make upon tasting a lemon.)

So I let him try the sweetened one, which he found a little more tolerable, but still bitter. He didn’t finish either, but devoured the donut and seemed proud to have tried coffee. I congratulated him on a milestone.

Then I dropped the bomb.

I told him that growing up means having to learn some things you’d rather not know. But that kids at school would know, and I didn’t want to send him in there unprepared. It was time to learn that the Tooth Fairy, and Santa, were really Mom and Dad.

It was an awful moment. His face reddened, and he teared up. But he held it together.

I told him that TW and I had grown up with the Tooth Fairy and Santa, and that we wanted him and TG to have that experience, too. They’re wonderful traditions, and they make childhood more special. But there comes a time when you have to know the truth. I didn’t want him to hear it at school, or to be caught short when someone teased him about it.

I asked him if he had figured it out yet. He said that he kind of suspected, but didn’t really want to know. That seemed about right.

Then I enlisted his help. The Girl is three years younger. We don’t think she’s quite ready for this nugget of truth yet, so we’ll need TB’s help in maintaining the Tooth Fairy and Santa for her for a little longer. He agreed. And I promised he’d still get money for teeth and presents for Christmas, so this wasn’t about us cheaping out on him.

He pulled himself together, and the conversation shifted to other things. When we got home he was unusually interested in father-son time, so we shot some hoops and played catch and even worked on his pitching. (Devastating fastball, but the change-up is a work in progress.) He never said a word to his sister.

He’s a great kid, on his way to becoming a wonderful man. Someday he’ll have a conversation like this with his own children, and realize just how hard the other side of it is. He’ll feel his own heart break as he watches their faces tear up. Then we’ll have some coffee and talk about it.