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Friday, February 11, 2011

Tales of the Tooth Fairy

(this article orginally appeared in the 2/8/11 edition of The Review Atlas as a part of my weekly parenting opinion column)

The tooth fairy must be getting old. It appears she has developed a severe case of short term memory loss. It's really been quite devastating.
 
The Tooth Fairy is one of America's few original fables. A quick internet search reveals that ceremony has always existed around the loss of baby or "milk" teeth (as some countries call it). The Vikings bought children's teeth in order to bring good luck, the Irish bury them to assure new teeth will grow and the English would burn the lost teeth saving them from a wicked witch's spell.
 
Leave it to the American's to turn a sweet bedtime story into a filthy rich, pretty in pink princess! Originally the Tooth Fairy left a coin or a treat. A; as in a singular, single object. However, it appears cost of living increases have affected us all, mythical or otherwise. Have you heard what the current exchange rate is for a new tooth? My oldest kid took a quarter to show and tell the day after the Tooth Fairy visited only to have a classmate scoff. Apparently their tooth scored ten bucks. Highway robbery I tell ya! I got five kids. Do the math. If each kid loses the typical amount of twenty teeth each at a mere five dollars a tooth that's $500.00! Suddenly a harmless little fairy tale has the potential to break this mother's bank!
 
Well, that is if the Tooth Fairy can remember to make an appearance.  And she didn't forget just once. The Tooth Fairy has pretty consistently forgotten to make the drop.  Old age is unfortunate.
 
It was early in the morning, when I cuddled my teary eyed, toothless wonder of a child; my heart broke into a million pieces.
"Why?" my sleepy angel asked, "did the Tooth Fairy forget me?"
I wiped her sweet tears, kissed her head and cursed the fable that brought me this fate. The magnitude of shame that weighed on my soul was too much too handle. Especially without my morning cup of coffee.
 I couldn't fess up and admit to the farce. Instead I did what every guilt laden mother of a toothless child has done. I lied. I perpetuated the lie with another lie. And then I checked my nose in the mirror to see if it had grown.
I gently explained that I forgot to mention that the Tooth Fairy needed a note, not unlike Santa on Christmas Eve. Immediately we penned,

"Dear Tooth Fairy,
Here is my first tooth. I brushed it everyday. Thank you.
Sincerely, a little Sikorski"
(Otherwise known as a helpless victim to my mother's guilty conscious).

It worked. Quite well. The Tooth Fairy left a wad of cash and a pile of coins! In hindsight I see how I shouldn't have let my emotions get the better of me. Of course, I inadvertently created a standard by which all future donated teeth would be judged. Yet, still to this day, all of our children have left a handwritten note with each lost tooth. And that would be a nice ending to our story except that the Tooth Fairy forgot. . . again.
 
What could I say? I told my child if he lost a tooth and if he put it under his pillow and if it was accompanied by a note it would get the Tooth Fairy's attention. Of course he believed me. So now, collapsed in tears and feeling quite ripped off, my child was left wallowing in the rejection of an imaginary fairy. Clearly I'm not doing something right as a mother.
 
At this point, and much to my own dismay, I recognized I was too far in to dig my way out. Instead of reaching for my wallet and coming clean I choose to tell a story, a great work of fictitious art. I explained that I once heard of a child whose teeth were too small for the Tooth Fairy to find in the dark. It was confusing because she found the child's note but never found a tooth under the pillow.
 
"What did the little girl do?" my child asked in sweet wonderment.
"The next night," I continued, "she put her tooth in a baggie."
"Did the Tooth Fairy come back?" he asked with his hands clasped nervously.
"Yes! The Tooth Fairy felt so bad that she returned. She found the tooth and everyone lived happily ever after!"
 
And you guessed it. The next evening we placed the tooth in a baggie, with a note, under a pillow, raking in some serious cash.
 
Listen, I'm not happy to admit any of this. I am deeply disturbed by the lengths I have gone through to perpetuate this simple folklore. But the truth of the matter is the Tooth Fairy is getting old. And she's quite exhausted at night. And she collapses in bed thinking more about what she has to do tomorrow than the task at hand. She needs some slack. Since February is Dental Awareness month wouldn't now be a good time to develop a tooth recouperating system like the cable company? You know, the Tooth Fairy will be here sometime next Tuesday between 8 p.m. and 10 a.m.? I think that's a much better idea! Why? Because I'm the mother and I said so! That's why!


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