My 5-year-old lost her first tooth yesterday. After weeks of wiggling, tongue-pushing, and finally aggressive twisting, it finally succumbed during math lessons. I got the news as soon as I got home from work – right there on the doormat was a piece of notebook paper, declaring in rainbow letters that ‘Eleanor lost a tooth today.’ An accompanying picture of a giant tooth made sure I got the point.
I’d actually been looking forward to this. I bought a cute little ‘Tooth Fairy Please Look Here’ pillow to hang on the bed post, and had been happily complicit during all the tooth fairy anticipation that finally led her to yank out that tooth. It should have been fun… sneaking into her room, nabbing a tooth and dropping some coins into a pillow. I was so wrong.
First of all, how much does a tooth fairy leave, anyway? I had never considered this. I think it was 25 cents when I was six. How does one calculate inflation for mythical tooth-hoarders? I finally settled on $1.25… I still have no idea if this is anywhere close to the going rate.
The inner haggling turned out to be the easy part. Would I have to get up in the middle of the night to do the deed? If not, when would it be safe to go in? By 10:30, I was really, truly sure she was deeply asleep. At any rate, I was really, truly tired and ready to get this over with.
I actually had an adrenaline rush before sneaking into her room. What if I got caught? What if she realized that I was masquerading as the tooth fairy… that I was a LIAR, no less? And could *this* possibly be the event that sparks a chain reaction leading to years of therapy?
But all of my misgivings paled against the prospect of her disappointment if the tooth fairy was a no-show. So I grabbed some laundry (which I would be pretending to put away if she woke up), tiptoed to her bedroom door, turned the knob and — SQUEEEEEEK! I jumped back like the door had sprouted spikes. But she stayed still, so I pressed on, laundry/alibi clutched firmly against my side.
I reached the bedpost and quickly upended the pillow to palm the tooth. It hit my palm. And then it hit the floor, skittering toward the toy box. Who knew teeth bounced? Then our kitten decided to get in on the action, bounding into the room and clawing her way onto the bed. Certain that I was about to be detected, I flattened myself to the floor and slithered (sort of) to the foot of the bed. I counted to ten, heart racing. She moaned a few times, rolled on her side. I spotted the tooth a couple feet away and pocketed it, and then crawled marine-style (sort of) to the pillow. I shoved the money into the pocket, grabbed the traitorous cat and got out of the room as silently as I could, feeling like a criminal. A clumsy criminal.
As a kid, I totally bought into the tooth fairy and the rest of the nocturnal gift givers. Once I knew the truth, I still got a kick out of it. And as an adult, I reasoned that excitement and tradition outweighed deception and the ridiculous (and kind of gross) idea that one should receive money for teeth. Now I’m not so sure. The only argument I can muster is to not ruin it for other kids… but would that be so bad?
This morning, despite my valiant efforts (or because of my colossal bungling), it was clear that she didn’t buy it. She was excited about the money, but not in a ‘fairy-was-in-my-bedroom’ kind of way. I feigned excitement with her, utterly relieved. If I know Eleanor, she’ll happily play along until the very last of her baby teeth have been bought in the night. But as for believing the tooth fairy actually exists? Well, I guess we’ll keep that our little secret…