Jane the Virgin just featured a subplot about the Tooth Fairy. And I could not be more thrilled.
There’s a unique feeling that comes with seeing a TV character go through something you’ve also experienced. It’s a reminder that people really aren’t so different — and even specific things about the human experience are more common than you think. That might sound like a lot to pin on the Tooth Fairy, but hear me out.
Like Jane Villanueva, Gina Rodriguez’s character, I’m a twentysomething writer (albeit not one with a graduate degree or a published novel like Jane’s). And also like Jane, I’m a liberal-leaning Christian, specifically Catholic. My parents and grandparents on both sides are Catholic, too. And like Jane’s mom and grandma, my family members don’t shy away from controversial conversations — like whether or not kids should believe in figures like Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy.
Outside of religious conversations, the topic might not seem controversial at all. Of course people raise their children to believe in Santa. And the Easter Bunny. It’s just… what you do. But if you’re also planning to raise your children in your religion, things get a lot trickier. And Jane the Virgin perfectly captured the exact debate I’ve had with my parents countless times over the years.
I’m not pregnant, and I don’t plan to have children in the near future. But I am married, and that’s prompted my mom — on more than one occasion — to ask if I’ve changed my mind about whether I’ll raise my kids to believe in Santa. She wants my children to partake in the tradition, but I want no part of it. And my reason why came straight out of Jane’s five-year-old son’s mouth.
In last Friday’s Jane episode, Jane found herself disagreeing with Petra about whether their kids should believe in the Tooth Fairy and, by extension, Santa Claus. Petra said that she practices “radical honesty” with her daughters, while Jane said that not allowing kids to believe in Santa would “ruin” the holiday. (Apparently, Rafael doesn’t have a say in the matter, even though he’s the father of all three children in question here.) Petra’s daughters told Mateo the Tooth Fairy isn’t real, which led Jane to have a sit-down discussion with her son about it.
The Jane-Mateo scene showed how difficult raising a child can be — sometimes, there’s just not a good answer to your kids’ questions. When Jane told Mateo that there would always be doubters and that he should have faith in the Tooth Fairy, he replied, “So it’s like having faith in God?” A stuttering Jane said it was “related but not that similar at all,” and Mateo (understandably) said that he was confused.
Mateo’s simple question captures the exact feeling that has gnawed at me for years. I’ve worried that telling kids to believe in these fictional figures, only to reveal the truth several years later, would plant seeds of doubt about religion, too. After you break the news about Santa, and the Tooth Fairy, and the Easter Bunny, how long will it be until you tell them the hard-to-understand details about your faith aren’t real, either?
If that sounds like a stretch, it’s not. Asking someone to have blind faith in a divine figure is huge. And telling kids that God is real, but that you were just kidding about the whole Santa thing, is confusing. Seeing that played out on TV is nothing short of remarkable. (In recent memory, the only other show I can think of that touched on the whole raising-kids-in-religion topic was How I Met Your Mother’s ham-fisted episode about whether Lily and Marshall would raise their kids to believe in Bigfoot.)
The episode ended with Petra dressing up as the Tooth Fairy for Mateo. That doesn’t mean Jane’s decision was the right (or wrong) one, though, and Mateo is bound to have plenty more questions about religion as he gets older. Still, the fact that Jane and Petra are able to get along and move past the issue is a testament to both of their skills as moms. Parenting comes with plenty of questions that don’t have easy answers. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be having those conversations, and Jane addressed the topic in a genuine way that didn’t feel forced.
(photo via Tyler Golden/The CW)