(Disclaimer: This is for adults and children who have lost all of their baby teeth)
Recently before school, my 8-year old daughter stopped me in the middle of our morning ritual. Our ritual typically consists of several of us running around in various states of undress while I yell out what time it is. Aside from my very chipper husband who rises before morning radio hosts are out of bed, The Arndts don't enjoy mornings.
On this particular morning, my daughter wore a very serious expression that meant business.
"Mommy, I think I'm old enough to ask you this question."
"Okay," I said, mentally scouring the house for the human sexuality textbooks my academic yet hilarious sister in-law had gifted my teenage stepchildren. "What's up?"
"Is the tooth fairy real?"
I won't lie; I completely froze. Lucky for me my more levelheaded husband was within earshot, whipping up breakfast.
"Let's go ask Daddy!" I said, panicked.
"Daddy, is the tooth fairy real?" my daughter asked. I stood behind her, pretending to be calm while making crazy worried faces at my cool and collected husband.
"Why do you ask?" he asked, casually tossing mini pancakes on a plate.
I'm married to a man who's a master at answering a question with a question. (It works great for unexpected kid queries; not so much for spouse-to-spouse verbal combat).
"Well, someone at school told me that it's your parents, not a tooth fairy," my daughter said. "Plus, they also said it on a movie and it's on commercials."
I immediately wanted to thump the kid on the head who outed the Tooth Fairy to my daughter. And of course the kid who spills the beans is the same kid who will likely share all of the Big Secrets of Life before I get a chance to do it. And while I'm living in my head-thumping imagination, I'd like to thump that kid's parents for not warning their kid that not everyone needs to learn the Big Secrets of Life at the same time.
Yet I can't blame the beanspilling kid, and I can't blame the kid's parents, either. Movies and commercials have been outing the Tooth Fairy for years. If you've ever tried it, it's exhausting to run interference on those commercials and movies. I have pretended to be on fire, intentionally spilled things, started talking loud enough to drown out the tv -- anything to distract my daughter from being exposed to this beloved yet oddly creepy tradition:
I am a fairy. I will come to your house while you're sleeping, enter unannounced, sneak into your bedroom and take your teeth. I won't take the ones that are attached to your gums, but I will take the teeth that have fallen out of your head. In exchange, I will leave money for you. Nobody else in the world will offer you money for your useless baby teeth, but because I'm a mystical fairy, I will do it.
The Tooth Fairy
Now despite the fact that this is one weird-ass tradition, our Tooth Fairy is special. My daughter was taught years ago that there are many tooth fairies, because there are just a million bajillion teeth out there to gather. And it's a good thing we had that conversation, because a few years ago I heard a rumor that a certain multiple-Tour de France-winning cyclist who happens to live in my city has kids that have a tooth fairy that delivers $100. Another head I'd like to thump is the overindulgent tooth fairy who gives kids $100 for useless baby teeth.
Several years ago, our daughter decided it was a good idea to start writing notes to her Tooth Fairy. She would carefully write the notes on a a wipe-off board and the Tooth Fairy would do her best to comprehend it, typically after consuming a glass or two of wine. The first note read,
"What is your name?"
The next morning, our daughter learned her Tooth Fairy's name was Samantha. Samantha was pretty fantastic, I must say. She delivered gold dollars and left fairy dust behind. While my stepchildren, who are now 16 and 18, had no idea of it at the time, Samantha was their tooth fairy as well. She was also occasionally forgetful, and was forced on more than one occasion to appear magically after breakfast, after our kids realized the tooth fairy got very busy and was running a tad late. She had amazing cursive handwriting that is the complete opposite of our daughter's parent's sloppy penmanship.
So when my daughter gathered the courage to ask me if the Tooth Fairy was real, I wasn't prepared to answer the question because I wasn't ready to say goodbye to Samantha. So while I fought back the tears that revealed I wasn't ready for my youngest child to grow up, my husband saved the day.
"So, what would happen if the tooth fairy was real?" he asked, continuing his typical question with a question routine.
"Well, things would be the same..." my daughter said.
"Yes! Yes! The same! The same is fine with me!" screamed my inner thoughts while I stood quietly, impressed by my husband's ability to nail this unexpected Q&Q session.
"So, what would happen if the tooth fairy was NOT real?" my husband asked.
Without skipping a beat my financially savvy daughter answered,
"Then I guess I'd just come to you guys and ask for my money."
Now we know what will happen if my daughter ever wins the lottery. She's all about the lump sum option, even with her tooth fairy.
After we quit laughing hysterically, my husband and I left my daughter in the living room to watch the morning news while we went into the bedroom and searched frantically for Samantha's special bag. The bag is full of gold dollars and fairy dust. While my husband poured all of the remaining coins into his palm and began sprinkling Samantha dust on the coins, I cried big fat bittersweet tears.
"It's all going by too fast!" I wailed. "Are we ready for this?"
My husband gave me a glittery hug and we met our daughter in the living room, where we opened our palms and presented her with handfuls of gold glittery coins.
"This is for every tooth you will ever lose," my husband said. "But you have to keep this a secret, because some of your friends don't know about this yet, and every kid gets to learn this in their own time."
My daughter was pleased. And while she quickly shoved the wad of gold coins into her handmade tooth box, I kept the bag of fairy dust and put it back in its special hiding place. After all, there are more teeth left to lose, and just because my daughter just learned one of The Secrets of Life doesn't mean Samantha can't be there to enjoy the journey.