My 8 year old has figured out the truth of the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, and Santa Claus. We knew this moment was coming and although we are proud of her for reaching an age of using critical thinking skills to investigate, it's still a bit sad knowing that she's growing older and there's nothing we can do to stop it.
How did this all come about? We hid eggs on Easter and afterwards my daughter spoke to my wife telling her she thinks a bunny doesn't come in to our house and hide eggs. She said she thinks Mommy and Daddy hide the eggs. I spoke with her too and asked her why she thought this and she said that we put all of the plastic eggs in a bag so she thinks parents put in the candy to reuse the eggs every year. My wife and I are not going to lie to our daughter, so we confirmed what she thought.
This led to a further discussion on the tooth fairy at which point my daughter says: "I don't think the tooth fairy is real. Fairies on TV and in books are very small. The tooth would be the same size as the fairy and a fairy can't carry something that large. Plus the coins and dollar bills would be larger than the fairy and a fairy just can't carry that much." Can't argue with that reasoning!
The next logical step in the discussion was Santa Claus. She freely admitted that Santa doesn't come into houses at night and doesn't have time to visit all kids in just one day. She said she didn't think Santa was real and thought presents were from Mommy and Daddy. We asked her why and she gave various good reasons and then asked us if we brought the presents. At that point we told her the truth. The only question she had was who dressed up as Santa at Christmas, so we told her. Her next statement was that she knew Mommy and Daddy hid the Elf on a Shelf.
After this I explained to her that we still do these things (present, eggs, elf on a shelf) because they are fun to do. Knowing the truth doesn't change the fun we have with it and that's the important thing.
So there you go. My 8 year old figured this all out on her own. At no point did we directly tell her UNTIL she asked. As a scientist I want my daughters to learn to think on their own and that's exactly what my 8 year old did. For parents who hide eggs, place presents, pick up teeth, etc., I wouldn't directly tell your child the truth until he/she figured it out on their own. Watching the gears turn in my daughter's head as she told us her reasons was a very proud moment for us, her parents. Once she directly asked for the truth, there's no way I wasn't giving it to her. To tell her anything but the truth when she asked would be a straight out lie and I'll never do that to my daughters.
After all of this, we made it clear to our 8 year old to not tell our 4 year old until she figures it out on her own too. Was my 8 year old upset at figuring out the truth? Not at all. In fact, she seemed satisfied and proud of herself for figuring it out. As I said before, seeing her walk herself through this is a very proud moment for her parents. On the other hand, it's another step in her maturity, confirming what we already knew, that she's never going to be that little toddler with pudgy cheeks again. That makes this a bit sad, but knowing she's growing into a wonderful young lady makes up for it.