My daughter lost her first tooth playing outside on a late summer evening. Minutes later, I lost my parental halo after throwing the tooth fairy under the bus.
We had anticipated this milestone for weeks. We did daily tests and teased about how best to speed up the process. “Shall I get some pliers?” I would say, followed with a cartoonishly evil laugh.
And then, playing the good cop, we’d talk about the magical, wonderful tooth fairy who would fly into her room at night, like Tinkerbell, and gently whisk away the tooth, exchanging it for a gift. My daughter, Julia, knew what to expect from the tooth fairy, of course. Based on peer experience, she expected coins under her pillow in the morning.
So when Julia came running into the kitchen with the freshly plucked tooth in her hand, we were ready and excited – our first born’s first lost tooth and my first time in the role of the Tooth Fairy.
After giggling at her new toothless smile in the mirror and marveling at the tiny white tooth in her hand, Julia placed the tooth on the kitchen counter for me to keep safe and went back outside to play. I continued my frenzied post-dinner tidying up – washing dishes and wiping the counters clean.
It wasn’t until Julia came back inside and asked to see her tooth that I realized I had no idea WHERE IT WAS. In my mad rush to clean up, I had forgotten my job as keeper of the tooth and that my daughter’s key to the magical realm of the Tooth Fairy was now most likely in the compost or garbage bin.
I panicked. How to keep this fantasy alive? I feigned surprise and said that the tooth fairy must have taken it when I wasn’t looking. I reasoned that because she was so busy doing the job of gathering up other children’s teeth, the Tooth Fairy was probably already likely in the neighborhood and took Julia’s tooth now instead of coming back at night.
I’m not sure this reason seemed as clever to Julia as it did to someone who places a high value and necessity on multi-tasking, such as myself. However, I explained the tooth fairy would likely circle back in the night and leave some something extra special under her pillow.
I watched the expressions on my daughter’s face while she reconciled what we had told her the tooth fairy would do, and what she was now actually doing. I realized Julia was reaching the only logical explanation: the tooth fairy was unreliable.
Later, as my husband and I scoured the house for toonies or loonies to place under our daughter’s pillow, I regretted how I had handled the lost tooth, not to mention that I had lost it in the first place. If I had told Julia the truth, she would know that the tooth fairy wasn’t real. But my lie had characterized the tooth fairy as flighty and impulsive.
The truth was, I wanted to protect my daughter from the fact that I was sometimes unreliable, impulsive and flighty. I had thrown the tooth fairy under the bus to save myself.
So that night, out of guilt, the tooth fairy left five bucks under Julia’s pillow and vowed to be a more responsible tooth fairy in the future. Full disclosure here: the cash came from Julia’s own piggy bank that I had to busted into. (Who carries cash anymore?)
Several months later, when the next tooth became wiggly, I was ecstatic. Here was my chance to do it right. The tooth fairy would be redeemed. The bonus was that it was my daughters “pirate tooth,” as it was affectionately referred to. Her front left tooth had slowly turned dark after dying from a bonk three years prior. I was not sad to see it go. It came out in the morning before school and I carefully tucked it away for bedtime.
That evening, as my husband and I collapsed onto the couch, I reminded him to remind me to remember that the tooth fairy had to come that evening. This is the identical conversation we have every night mid-December until Christmas Day about the Elf on the Shelf.
I awoke the next morning with my daughter beside my bed. “Mom,” she said, “the tooth fairy didn’t come and take my tooth.” My heart sank. To mess up the Tooth Fairy once – understandable. Twice? I need a new cover story!
“Do you think it’s because it was my pirate tooth and she doesn’t take teeth that aren’t white?” she asked. No, I told her. It’s probably because the tooth fairy was so overloaded with teeth jobs the night before that she wasn’t able to get to all of the houses and that tonight she was sure to come. Julia said, “ I know what happened. The tooth fairy works at a busy office with lots of computers and they got so many messages that she didn’t get mine so she will come tonight.”
The earnestness in her little voice warmed my heart. I vowed that tonight I would remember. My husband put a reminder in his phone. I asked my sister to text me. This trifecta of reminders was my only hope and redemption.
That night, the tooth fairy did come and she left a little note thanking Julia for her patience and understanding during a very busy time. I told myself it was an opportunity to discuss patience, compassion and other values with my daughter that wouldn’t have happened if I had been perfect.
The truth is, I am a flawed parent. It’s something the Tooth Fairy understands.
Sarah Seitz is a former Comox Valley resident and now the mother of two children. She lives in Victoria. This essay first appeared in Island Parent Magazine. (Full disclosure, Seitz is the daughter of Decafnation publisher, George Le Masurier.)
THE TOOTH FAIRY TURNED INTO A BAD MOVIE
20th Century Fox presents this family comedy following a star hockey player’s (Dwayne Johnson, The Rock) temporary transformation into a full-fledged tooth fairy as penalty for discouraging a young fan. Rotten Tomatoes gave it a 18 percent ratiing.
— Rotten Tomatoes
THE TOOTH FAIRY IS YOUNGER THAN YOU MIGHT EXPECT
Compared to the two other main figures in modern American mythology, the Tooth Fairy is the new kid on the block. Santa Claus can be traced back to Saint Nicholas, born around 280 CE, and the Easter Bunny arrived in the United States with German immigrants during the 1700s, but the very earliest reference to the Tooth Fairy appears in a Chicago Daily Tribune “Household Hints” column from September 1908.
Tribune reader Lillian Brown wrote in to suggest that “Many a refractory child will allow a loose tooth to be removed if he knows about the tooth fairy. If he takes his little tooth and puts it under the pillow when he goes to bed the tooth fairy will come in the night and take it away, and in its place will leave some little gift.” The story was further popularized by Esther Watkins Arnold’s 1927 play for children, The Tooth Fairy.
NO ONE’S QUITE SURE WHAT THE TOOTH FAIRY LOOKS LIKE …
Unlike Santa, there isn’t a widely-held consensus on the Fairy’s appearance. Most cartoons and books depict a winged female sprite or pixie, much like Tinkerbell, bearing a wand and trailing sparkles in her wake. But a 1984 survey found that while 74 percent viewed the Tooth Fairy as female, another 12 percent envisioned the Fairy as neither male nor female. Other responders gave less traditional answers: Some imagined the Tooth Fairy as a bear, a bat, a dragon, or even “a potbellied, cigar smoking, jeans clad tiny flying male.”
— Mental Floss
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