I have to say, one of the hardest things about parenting is being the doggone tooth fairy!
I know, I know, some of you manage this beautifully and your beautiful children have beautiful charm bracelets representing each of their lost teeth so they can cherish these childhood milestones. (Cough, Kelly, cough, you’re making the rest of us look bad.) And some of you have probably never totally forgotten just because, gosh darn it, you’re tired after the kids go to bed, and how are you supposed to remember the shard of bone under someone’s pillow in a whole other room. And then you same people have not covered your butts by writing the person with the shard under their pillow a note saying that you were unable to get into their bedroom because it was just too messy. (I know, I know, I’m a scoundrel!)
Personally, I have a hard time with the whole process. As previously mentioned, I’m tired at night! I’m not my best! This is why children need more sleep and go to bed earlier than their parents. It’s so that the parents can have a couple of hours with nobody asking them to do things until they lose their minds! It’s science!
My family has never really achieved Pinterest standards, and we started to mess things up back when my oldest was losing her first teeth and it was still super new and exciting. Selah lost her first tooth at a parents’ night out, and my friend Rachel took her picture since I missed it and then carefully had her put it into a bag to bring home. I was so excited to get a text with this photo!
First Tooth Lost!
I was on the phone when her dad picked her up, so, waiting, she opened the bag to play with the tooth, and proceeded to literally lose the tooth in the cream-colored carpet. We never saw it again, and I imagine that it someday bit the next renter in the foot, but nobody knows for sure. I was crushed. But I wrote her a note from the tooth fairy saying that things were OK. Then, Selah lost her second tooth on a field trip to California Pizza Kitchen, and it’s unclear if she ate it or if it fell onto the floor of CPK, causing them to fail their next health inspection. I never saw those first two teeth. So while I’m certainly not winning Tooth Fairy of the Year, my kids also barely keep up their end of the bargain.
Also, I never have cash, and I mean never. I hate cash. Who are you people who always have some dollars at the ready? Kids don’t have Venmo, and I don’t have cash, but then I’m expected to pony up money on the spot when they lose a tooth. And I hear it’s not ideal to leave your sleeping children who are young enough to lose teeth and drive on down to the convenience store with an ATM.
He Lost Two Teeth in One Day!
Furthermore, being tooth fairy is a logistical challenge when you are not in fact magical. Last night, I crept into Asher’s room probably too soon after he fell asleep so that I wouldn’t forget when I was tired later. There I was, my blood pressure rising as I fished around under his pillow while trying not to awaken him and prove him right since he says I’m the tooth fairy. I did get smart enough early on to have them put the teeth in a bag so that they are somewhat easier to find, but still, it’s inevitably right under their face or drifting off down the side of the bed or something, and it just looks bad if the fairy leaves cash but does not take the tooth!
And I know, I know: you good parents have special pillows with special pockets for the teeth so they can easily be found, but I don’t have one, and I’m a poor seamstress at best, and honestly, I’m just not that together.
I have spent years fabricating reasons why things didn’t go down right. See the story above, where I told Selah her room was too messy, and the other story, where she kept losing lost teeth. But see, I didn’t want to spoil the whole thing by just having it be clear that I messed up–and why can’t the tooth fairy teach a moral lesson or two? And when Asher pointed out to Noah that the fairy only comes if he tells me about the tooth, I had to be quick on my feet and say, “Well, who do you think notifies the fairy? She can’t keep track of all of those teeth around the world!” as if I had had to submit a report to the tooth department on his behalf.
When he was in kindergarten, Noah had to have two teeth extracted, and needless to say we were both traumatized by the procedure and all of the screaming. These molars, since they didn’t come out on their own, were real doozies. Slightly gory, they had these giant, long roots spreading out in four directions, and the whole family kind of gaped at them when they came home in a little yellow plastic tooth-shaped container.
When it came time to put them under his pillow, Noah didn’t want to. They were his badge of honor and his bragging rights and the only good thing that had happened that day. I agreed that the tooth fairy probably didn’t need to take teeth that had been extracted (more tall tales), and I gave him a bunch of extra money that night out of pity and guilt. The thing is though, they’re still kicking around our house. The yellow container is not high quality and it springs open, and sometimes when I clean his room, I’ll find some dagger-rooted molar on the floor. I am always tempted to toss it, but at the same time, these teeth…well, they’re interesting and terrifying and apparently the kid still likes them. Marie Kondo would be hard pressed to convince him that they don’t spark joy.
Spot the Tooth in the Mess!
Finally, when Selah was super old and hadn’t believed in years, she came and confronted me with a tooth in her hand. Perhaps 1 percent sorry and 99 percent relieved that the jig was up, I said, “You don’t believe in the tooth fairy?” She said, “No,” and laughed. So I shrugged and took the tooth and threw it in the trash and in the same motion crammed some bills into her hand. She looked…surprised. Then she laughed and I laughed and she left with her wad of cash. Apparently she was a little shocked to find out that I toss the teeth, but I pointed out that I really don’t know what I would do with a total of 60 baby teeth. (Well, 58–Selah’s are off ruining other people’s lives, as per the story above. Or maybe 57, since I’ve only seen one of Noah’s two gory molars lately. Now that I think of it, Asher lost one of his first two lost teeth too, though he angled for some extra money because he lost both at once.)
The truth is, Asher is already at that same point of disbelief. But when he lost a tooth two days ago, I didn’t pull the same stunt as I did with Selah. Because he hasn’t believed in ages, and he’s so gosh-darned smug about knowing he’s right that I just can’t do it. At this rate, I’ll be driving to his house when he’s old and I’m even older and he has to get dentures. There I’ll be, fishing around under his pillow while leaning on my cane, trying my darnest not to wake my geriatric son.
I think there’s some kind of metaphor in here for being a mother, because I never even specifically told them that the tooth fairy exists, just as I never told them Santa exists. (I try to have a strict honesty-only policy with my children.) They talked themselves into this, and now I have spent…let’s see…8ish years of my life blundering around under a pillow, realizing at 10 p.m. that I have nary a dollar in the house, and periodically explaining why the system once again melted down, but–OK, OK–enjoying it all along.
Noah’s My Third Child, so We Don’t Have Lost-Tooth Photos But He Was a Really Cute Baby