The other day we were driving home from somewhere and Riley was rooting around in the cupholder attached to his booster seat, grousing because he couldn’t find a Lego he’d dropped in there. For no particular reason I said well, maybe the tiny alligator that lives in the cupholders accidentally ate it.

No way, Mom, he said. Alligators are too big to live in cupholders.

Not this one, I told him. This alligator is super tiny, because it lives on the crumbs that fall in there.

It’s too tiny to bite people? he asked.

Oh yeah, I said. Besides, this alligator’s really nice. It doesn’t want to bite people. It just wants to eat the crumbs from your crackers and cookies and things.

Well why don’t I ever see it? he asked.

Because it’s scared of people. I mean, to the alligator you’re like a huge giant. The alligator doesn’t know you’re actually a friendly boy.

Riley asked all sorts of questions about the alligator, and later he wanted to make a little bed for the alligator so it wouldn’t get too cold at night. He made a pillow out of an old sock, tucked in a washcloth for the blanket, and dropped a piece of waffle on top. There, he said with satisfaction.

The next day when we got back in the car, he shouted with surprise at the note waiting for him in his cupholder.

This is from the ALLIGATOR, he breathed. Its name is Al . . Allie.

He went on: I can’t believe it! I can’t believe the alligator left me a note! I’m so happy the alligator likes me, Mom.

allie

So, you tell me: was that wrong?

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Susie
Susie
11 years ago

No. That’s adorable.

Noemi
11 years ago

No way. That’s too sweet for words.

Nann
11 years ago

No. That was wonderful and someone draws awesome alligators.

Meagan
11 years ago

I think it’s adorable. I would say less harmful than the Santa Clause lie, which is probably not harmful at all. It’s a pretend game, and I think it’s good to give children practice at believing impossible things. If they’re lucky, they’ll retain just a little bit of that ability when they’re old enough to know better.

Katie
11 years ago

Not. At. All. That is all kinds of awesome. And one day he’ll realize there was no alligator and he will not be scarred – he will say, “Man, my mom is fucking cool.”

Meagan
11 years ago

Also… Are you telling us Riley is READING now?

Jas
Jas
11 years ago

I don’t think it’s any more wrong than telling kids about Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, or the Tooth Fairy. My dad told me all kinds of made up stuff when I was a kid. It wasn’t the pretend stuff that scarred me. Only reality could do that.

Claudia
11 years ago

No worse than Santa Claus, Tooth Fairy, Easter Bunny. If the magic is believed, it’s real. They’ll have the rest of their lives to deal with “real”.

crisi-tunity
11 years ago

No. He will love memories like this when he gets older. (After the eye-rolling stage of “Come ON, Mom, that’s not TRUE.”)

Operation Pink Herring
11 years ago

When I was about Riley’s age, I used to have a recurring nightmare about an alligator that lived in our attic and came downstairs at night to terrorize me. After waking up many mornings to find me sleeping on her bedroom floor because I was too scared to stay in my own bed, my mom invented a story out of desperation. “I went up in the attic and talked with the alligator’s mother,” she told me. “She said she’s very sorry he’s been scaring you; he only wanted to play. She’ll make sure that he doesn’t come downstairs anymore.”

I never had another nightmare about the alligators in the attic. If that kind of “lying” is wrong, I don’t want to know what’s right.

Also — goddamn, you are a good alligator portraitist!

Heather
11 years ago

Noooo sooo awesome! I sent my daughter a teeny tiny message from the tooth fairy. She is convinced she is real now. I even sprinkled it with pixie dust. And she’s 8. I’m drawing out this childhood of faith in the fantastical for as long as possible!!!

Also…that drawing rocks.

Kate
Kate
11 years ago

Who cares, it’s about the damned cutest things ever, and it’s not going to be too much longer that you’ll be able to pull it off. Enjoy it now – soon you’ll be putting notes in big boy lunches for 2nd grade (like I did last week) that he’ll LOVE (but also hide from his friends.)

Brenda
11 years ago

nope. My daughter loved fairies a few years ago. I invented a fairy for her to write to. Her name is Carrissa and she is a rainbow fairy. So now every time my almost 10 year old daughter sees a rainbow she says “oh, Carrissa was here!” She used to write long notes to her fairy and the fairy would write notes back and leave little trinkets. I think it helps children to have an imagination about things they can’t see.

Heather
11 years ago

Hell to the no! Stories like this are what make childhood glorious…for him and for you!

Mrs. Bachelor Girl
11 years ago

Oh my God, are you KIDDING?! NO! That’s AWESOME and surely a memory he will keep for the rest of his life.

P.S. You’re aces at drawing alligators.

Amanda
11 years ago

Absolutely not! I wish I was that creative. That’s awesome!! :0) And he loves it and that’s all that matters lol!

Tiffany
11 years ago

No, that is AWESOME is what that is. Think of the memories he’ll have when he’s older – “Hey Mom, remember when you told me there was a tiny alligator living in the cup holder? Now my kids think we have one…” You’ve started a tradition!

Angela
Angela
11 years ago

There was a great This American Life episode about something similar (in this case, the daughter read the Borrowers books and started leaving notes for the Borrowers, to which her dad eventually started responding).

http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/106/fathers-day-98 [it’s Act 4].

But I think there’s nothing bad about it at all. I am all for childhood wonder and amazement.

just a faithful lurker
11 years ago

Oh no Linda, it was adorable!!! You are the best mom.

nonsoccermom
11 years ago

I think it is fantastic! I wish I could come up with stuff like that on the fly. That’s my husband’s job…he gets to be the Fun Parent.

Trina
Trina
11 years ago

Not at all!! That is so awesome.

Marie Green
11 years ago

Children WANT to believe in magical things, and I really think we should let them. My daughters whole-heartedly believe in fairies and spend so much time (WHEN IT’S WARMER) making fairy houses and telling themselves stories about the fairies that visit them. Whenever little pieces of evidence presents itself that fairies might not exist, they quickly make up a REASON for that evidence, always supporting their belief in fairies.

Soon enough, their brains will mature to the point where they will realize that Santa can’t really make it around the world in one night and that the WIND not the fairies moved the leaves in their fairy houses. Until then, I’m leaving them to their magical world. And I’ll be sad when they leave it behind.

Marie Green
11 years ago

(Also, a psychologist friend pointed out that children’s brains are not adversely affected by belief in magic. She said that there’s been no respectable studies that show that kids have trust or any other issues from being told about Santa etc. And when children find out the truth- especially if they come to the realization themselves at their own time- they are not angry or distrusting of adults, even in the short-term.)

Jenny
Jenny
11 years ago

There is such a small time that kids can believe in that stuff, I embrace it.

My mom had a fun little tradition that she started for my younger sisters. The leprechauns came to our house every St. Patrick Day. They left gold chocolate coins and gold Hershey’s kisses and they cleaned up their room (she got the idea from someone where the leprechauns messed up the room, but she didn’t want to mess it up when it really needed cleaning). They loved that and it was really more magic then Santa for them.

Emily
11 years ago

That was the cutest thing EVER! You’ve made my day, no kidding.

Allison
11 years ago

I don’t know about wrong, but it is damn adorable! I tell my kids little harmless lies like that all the time. It’s half the fun of parenting, shoot, Nolan thinks I can remove my thumb from my hand and that I have eyes in the back of my head. (well hidden under my hair.)

Jenipurr
11 years ago

Heck no. The very best families have all kinds of invisible friends. My family, for example has (among many other ‘magical’ critters that have inhabited our home over the decades) a very shy troll that lives in the back of the coat closet (we can’t close the door all the way, because he’s afraid of the dark). Make believe and magic are awesome for both kids AND adults (all of us ‘kids’ are now in our 40’s and we still happily adhere to the story of the shy closet troll).

AmyBeth
AmyBeth
11 years ago

When I was about 5 my dad went to a craft store and bought a large assortment of pearl beads, gold coins, and jewels. He then took a chocolate box, that was made of aluminum and looked like a chest, filled it, and buried it in the property behind our church.

He wrote a map, burned the edges, and hid it in our attic. Then he helped me to “discover” the map and find the buried treasure. A little part of me knew it was fake, since I had owned the chocolate box before hand. But another part of me thought it had really been buried by pirates. It’s still the most creative thing, and most amazing memory :D

deanna
11 years ago

absolutely NOT wrong. soon enough he’ll be too old to “believe” in that stuff anymore. childhood magical thinking at this age is just that…magical! go with it. i think its AWESOME!

Emily
11 years ago

No way! That is such an awesome/sweet/adorable thing to do. You’re making him happier now, and engaging his imagination for the long run.

wealhtheow
11 years ago

That’s not lying, that’s story-telling. And it is wonderful. You’ve just made a memory that will stay with Riley his whole life.

Julia
Julia
11 years ago

it’s not wrong, it’s being a GREAT mother!

Kristen
Kristen
11 years ago

Oh god, that’s not wrong. That makes me cry, it’s so adorable.

Junni
Junni
11 years ago

This is what fosters creativity for life!

SJ
SJ
11 years ago

Kids have awesome imaginations and I think by doing what you did just helped Riley’s creativity. Such a cute idea, and now I bet car rides are going to provide wonderful conversation.

Gigi
11 years ago

No – that was not wrong! That was creating a memory for your son. He will remember Allie forever!

Angelique
Angelique
11 years ago

The chipmunk in our yard sends my 3 year old notes all summer long, and he “writes” back.

Liz Brooks
11 years ago

Very cute… and children’s book idea? :)

Ann
Ann
11 years ago

The tooth fairy started receiving so many letters from our kids, wondering A)why s/he had not visited the night before, B)what happens when the parent loses the tooth c)what do you look like, etc. Soon their father was writing and drawing pics for them. I still have these in my jewelry box, 20 years later.

As for my story to our 3-year old son that he should not get out of bed at night because his bed was surrounded by crocs…
years later he used that story in a high school talent show. And I had forgotten all about it.

Kirsten
11 years ago

Coolest fucking mom EVER!

Kate
11 years ago

That note is the cutest thing EVER. I love it.

jen
jen
11 years ago

heck no! that was GREAT. when i was little, the house we lived in had a laundry chute, and my mom told me “Mr. Nobody” lived there. i bought it hook, line, and sinker, and used to draw him pictures to hang in his “house,” you name it. he would write me thank you notes on a chalkboard we had in our kitchen. i’m now 30 and a couple of decades removed from the “Mr. Nobody” days, but it’s become a sweet family story. i’d do the same for my kids.

Caitlin
11 years ago

The first thing I thought of reading this is what an awesome memory this will be for him. I was thinking of you guys all laughing in 20 or 30 years, sitting around a dinner table telling the story of Allie the Alligator.

I think it’s awesome.

Caitlin
11 years ago

Uh, and if it helps, when I was a kid in the 80s at about Riley’s age, Halley’s Comet was coming back around (I guess?). We’d be eating dinner (INSIDE of our HOUSE, not, you know, outside or in the space shuttle) and my Dad would yell “Cait, look! It’s Haley’s Comet!”. While pointing at, you know, the wall, or something. I looked every damn time, he’d steal something off my plate, and everyone would have a big ole laugh at my expense.

Now it’s a funny memory, and totally has my Dad written all over it.

Victoria
11 years ago

Hells no. My niece still talks to me about Mr Moth, the talking moth (who talked in my voice) we found one day. She’s nearly 8. :)

Courtney
Courtney
11 years ago

You are teaching him how to use an imagination, bravo!

Kim
Kim
11 years ago

I loved this post. The “Switch Witch” comes to our house Halloween night. The more candy my daughter leaves out (and totally her choice) the better the toy the Switch Witch will leave. Her kindergarten friends, of course, have never heard of this special buddy of ours, so I told my daughter that the Switch Witch only comes to houses of children who believe in her. She loves this tradition!

Ashleas
Ashleas
11 years ago

I worked at Walt Disney World’s Hollywood Studios for 6 months. I spent nearly every day at the parks, either working or just being a guest. One of our five cardinal rules is “Protect and Preserve the Magic.” Even when I was outside of costume and just a guest, I’d greet every Prince and Princess with a bow or a curtsy and a “Hello, Your Highness!”

I was 23 years old.
I don’t see anything wrong with it.

Of course, when I’m here in Ohio I’ll tell people about the time I saw all the princesses smoking in the backstage area bitching about their husbands..

Lesley
Lesley
11 years ago

Yes, Virginia. There IS A…n alligator.

This is perfect and completely right. Riley deserves to be loved by the little alligator (that isn’t but is). His compassion is utterly lovely.

Danell
Danell
11 years ago

So so awesome.

Coincidentally, our pediatrician actually encouraged this sort of thing at our last visit. So, doctor approved “lying”!

Also, I MUST remember the Switch Witch this Halloween! So Cool!