The tooth fairy years are important ones in a child's life, but there's a right way and a wrong way to do this thing.
We played the game so wrong. We were young (in spirit and experience) and unaware of the consequences. And we will pay the price for years to come.
See, cute little blonde Bunny – our first-born…our only little girl - lost her first tooth soon after starting Kindergarten. OH! Her smile was SO cute with that little head-hole and she was SO excited that the tooth fairy would visit….
There is a park district building down the street and if you buy something from the vending machine with a 5-spot, it will give you gold dollar coins for change. Bunny’s dad happened to have a couple of those in his pocket and he had the brilliant idea of slipping them under her pillow - because they are gold and shiny and special and because we love her SO much and because this is a big, momentous occasion. It made so much sense!
Ahhhhhh….the road to hell is paved by ideas such as this.
I added my own hell-brick by excitedly mentioning that I happened to have some gold chocolate coins stashed away so the tooth fairy could bring her two gold dollar coins and one gold dollar candy (and hope she put the right one in her mouth.) Oh – we were so sweet and naïve, scheming away on that September evening…..
And Bunny was as thrilled as we thought she’d be. Sure, there were the inevitable questions: “How come the tooth fairy gives Sophie five dollars every time she loses a tooth?”
“Well, because the tooth fairy prefers the children who live in mansions. She’s fickle like that.”
I didn’t say that. I just thought it and shrugged and poured myself another coffee.
But Bunny was appeased by the fact that her tooth fairy brings her money and candy that is gold and shiny. She went to school and told all her friends that the tooth fairy would ALWAYS bring her gold, shiny gifts.
Here’s the folly, if you haven’t already guessed: teeth are pretty unpredictable. Sometimes their loss is a slow, drawn-out process that involves much outward suffering and prompts parents to say “Let me just pull that damn thing.” But sometimes one will just suddenly fall out in a piece of apple pie one night when you have absolutely no idea it’s about to happen and have neither gold coins nor candy of any kind. And the bank is closed. And the park district building is closed. And you couldn’t really get to those places anyway cause you’re alone with the kids.
But it’s OK. You’ll just improvise. You scrape together a couple wrinkled dollar bills and find an old tootsie roll at the bottom of a goody bag from a birthday party that happened six months ago. You make the exchange and congratulate yourself on your resourcefulness and smile with the knowledge that from now on you’ll be sure to be prepared because once the weekend is over, you’re gonna go stock up on tooth fairy supplies. And then, the following day, before you stock anything, another one is knocked out in an unfortunate scootering accident and you don’t even have wrinkled dollar bills anymore….
But it’s really not a problem, because instead of trying to scrape together some kind of prize worthy of losing a front tooth in such a violent and bloody manner, you totally space it and forget to put anything under that pillow at all and the next morning the little Bunny excitedly reaches under her Tinkerbell pillow case and pulls out a DNA-caked tooth. And there are tears...
So then what must the tooth fairy do? Well, then the tooth fairy has to write a note. But the tooth fairy is tiny and her handwriting can’t resemble mommy’s so you carefully write out an apology in the tiniest script font you can find on the computer and print and cut and add an extra piece of candy into the deal as a peace offering and the Bunny, the next morning, is pleased and appeased.
Only now she knows the tooth fairy is willing to communicate with her and she has questions. She has lots and lots of questions. Lots.
The next tooth is lost while staying at her dad’s house and, apparently, not only the tooth went under the pillow but also a lengthy list of questions. So he needed to be able to supply cash and candy (but not candy she had seen recently cause she’d recognize it) and he also had to answer a boatload of questions.
Her father rose to the occasion and answered those questions in VERSE. Oh! Way to up the ante, there, Dad. But still…it was so sweet and it came at a really good time because when relationships head south, you sometimes forget why you were in them in the first place and you start wondering if you might have been a moron for marrying this guy. But her note included lines like this:
“How many fairies are there?”
With so much work to do, sweetest girl, there are millions.
Children lose their teeth every day by the billions.
“How old are you?”
Older than the wind, the rain, the sky, and the snow,
But quite young I still look…I am magic, you know.
Oh, yes! That’s why I married that guy….
Anyway – it was not in tiny script, it was in the scrawl of a large man. But Bunny justified this by explaining to me that daddy lives in a different tooth fairy’s district and that one must be bigger. I said I thought that was probably true because our tooth fairy doesn’t write poetry....EVER. Whew! Nipped that one in the bud.
Bunny lost another tooth last week. I had the coins – chocolate and currency. I was ready. And then I found her in the kitchen with a dish of chopped grapes and she said “I know I’m not supposed to use the sharp knife but I was very careful and I had to cut the grapes small because our tooth fairy is tiny and I think she’s hungry.” And there was a note with questions.
“I would like to know what Mrs. G meant when she said that if her present was too big to fit under the pillow, it lay next to her pillow.”
And I had to dig around to provide ribbon and a wash cloth so that it could be wrapped beautifully and sanitarily and then it all got packed up in a gold lame' change purse along with the tooth and placed carefully under her pillow.
And I spent the evening, since I can’t get my printer to work, practicing writing in teeny tiny cursive handwriting the answer to her question:
Long, long ago there were fewer people in the world and the tooth fairies would travel in groups of four and leave gifts instead of money and candy. Now there are so many people we have to work alone. Even the money is really heavy for me.
And then figuring out how to silently and deftly make the exchange as she slept in her new and very very tall loft bed.
You know, I’m pretty sure that when I lost a tooth, my dad tossed my mom a quarter from his pocket and she did a quick exchange during the commercial break of Barney Miller.
This has become MUCH more complicated than it ever needed to be. And Pip, who has watched and learned from the entire process, is due to begin losing teeth any time and this battle – this oneupsmanship between me and…well….me - will undoubtedly only continue to grow.
Young people! Learn from my mistakes. Just stick an old quarter under the kid’s pillow, grab a beer, and stream The West Wing on Amazon Prime.
If you need to thank me for this advice, I’m always in the market for gold coins and leftover Hannukah gelt.
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