It all started innocently enough. We were snuggling at bedtime and she asked me the question that will ring in my mind forever. “Are the Muppets real?”
I hesitated. So many things went through my head. If she’s asking, does she suspect? Is she old enough to know? What if I tell her they are and she already knows? Finally, and much to my shame in hindsight, I went with the truth.
Tears built up in her eyes. “Then how do they move?” I told her. “Are the people real?”
“Yes, they are.”
“What about the princesses? Are they real?”
I couldn’t turn back. “They’re just characters.” She started to cry.
What had I done? I tried to make it better. “They are characters, Honey, but you know what’s the great thing about that? People made them up and they were so real you thought they were alive. You have that power and you can do the same thing. You can make up your own characters and make them so real people will believe in them too.”
Her face lit up. “Oooo, I’ll make him half snowman and half person and call him Mister Weirdface.”
“Now you’re talking!” She started a steady stream of details about Mister Weirdface and I listened and praised her. Problem solved. Salvaged anyway. Or so I thought.
Before I left my daughter that night, I told her not to tell her three-year-old brother, because this is something only big kids know. She said okay.
When I told my husband what I had done, he very supportively said “Why did you do THAT? I would have said they’re real.” Thank you, supportive husband.
But that wasn’t the worst part. Last night my husband said, “I heard her talking to her brother the other day. She was showing him characters and saying ‘They’re not real.’”
I said, “Why did you tell me that? That makes me feel even more like shit. I told her not to say anything.”
He said, “When does she ever do what she’s told?” Good point.
I said, “Dammit,” at which point he turned his attention back to the TV.
So now I’m sitting here, feeling like a failure. It should have been an easy question. It should have been an easy answer. How hard is it to say “yes?” But I didn’t. And now I have to live with it. My daughter’s still a firm believer in the Tooth Fairy, Santa and the Easter Bunny, but with this revelation, how long will that last? It’s a slippery slope and I’ve started the push. I know they can’t believe forever, but this mistake cost me and most importantly, it cost my daughter one of the pleasures of childhood. All I’ve got to say is take this as a warning and please don’t make the same mistake.