My sons came to me one day, giggling conspiratorially.
“Mommy,” the younger one said with a knowing gleam in his eye, “We think we figured out something. You’re the tooth fairy, right?”
“You got me, boys” I confessed with a sigh, pretending I was crestfallen to have been discovered, “But let’s not ruin it for your sister by telling her.”
Inside I was saying to myself, “Think you’re so smart, boys? You just shut down an easy revenue stream for yourself!”
I’m not kidding about the easy revenue stream. One night I entrusted Colin with performing the tooth fairy’s sacred duty. The next morning my oldest son came gleefully skipping down the stairs, clutching a twenty dollar bill.
“Look what the tooth fairy left me!” he gloated.
I shot Colin a dirty look and said, “That’s funny. Usually, the tooth fairy leaves one dollar.”
“Hmph,” Colin said, “A twenty must have been the only cash the tooth fairy had in her billfold last night.”
Nowadays, there’s no more anticipation, no more thrill of discovering a dollar (or twenty) under the pillow, no more fairy dust…no more magic at all. These days, even my daughter has to shake down the tooth fairy to get her due.
Last week I yanked a tooth out of my younger boy’s head at his behest. Relieved to finally have the bothersome tooth out of his mouth, he took off with a broad, bloody, gap-toothed smile. I was left standing in the bathroom, gazing at the little baby molar in my hand. I took considerable care to rinse off the blood clinging to the uneven root, while I considered what to do with the tooth. It was, after all, a little piece of my son. It had been a part of the sweet, shy little smile I had known and loved for a decade. It contained his DNA.
I held it nestled in the palm of my hand for a little while and then…I threw it away.
The next day he showed me a second wiggly tooth. It prompted him to ask me what happened to the tooth he had just lost the day before.
“Oh! Uh, the tooth?” I asked guiltily, “Well…I, ummm. I threw it away.”
He shot me a look of mingled shock, accusation, and disappointment.
“I could fish it out, though!” I said, “Shall I get it out of the trash? I could easily do that!”
“Nah,” he said, and then after a short pause and a meaningful sideways look in my direction he added, “But I’m going to keep this tooth.”
I trace my cavalier attitude to my own upbringing. After going through the whole tooth fairy charade with my two older sisters, the tooth fairy of my childhood, a.k.a. my dad, was pretty much over it by the time I came along. The morning after losing a tooth and tucking it under my pillow, I would awake with joyful anticipation. I’d lift the pillow to discover…nothing.
“Dad?” I’d say glumly, “The tooth fairy didn’t come.”
“Hunh,” he’d say with a studied nonchalance, “Well, check again in another couple of hours, I bet she’ll have come by then.” I repeatedly find myself using this very same line on Tatiana these days.
By the time my little brother lost his first tooth, the tooth fairy was truly sick and tired of coming to our house. When my brother would sadly inform my dad that the tooth fairy had forgotten to come, he would say as he fished around in his pocket for loose change, “Turn around and put your hands behind your back. I’ll call the tooth fairy for you.”
My poor brother. My poor son. I’m going to blame it on the genes.