Confessions of a Tooth Fairy Failure

October 18th, 2015

Toothless GrinParenting confession time: I do not excel in the “rituals of tooth loss” department. That’s right – I’m a lousy tooth fairy.

Let’s start with the fact that teeth are kind of gross when they’re no longer in your mouth. I understand that it’s an exciting rite of passage for my six-year-old, but her wiggly teeth skeeve me out. I have a recurring nightmare where my teeth suddenly and inexplicably crumble and fall out, so I have a hard time summoning the proper parental enthusiasm for loose teeth.

And then there’s the whole tooth fairy thing. My husband and I decided early on as parents that Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny didn’t fit with our family priorities so we’ve never involved them in our holidays. But, if the man in red and the big bunny aren’t real, then you can’t very well say that the tooth fairy is, right?

“Well, honey, mommy and daddy fill your stocking and hide your Easter basket because Santa and the Easter Bunny are just pretend, but guess what?! There really IS a magical flying pixie who swoops through the house at night, collecting your teeth and leaving you presents! Surprise!”

I can’t see that conversation going well.

Okay, so the tooth fairy isn’t real. But in a moment of questionable parental wisdom, I suggested to my firstborn that we could pretend that the tooth fairy was real. We could “play tooth fairy.” I thought it might be fun – give my daughter a chance to experience some of the magic of the tooth fairy without me having to lie to her about.

This turned out to be a mistake, and here’s why. When you present magical creatures as real, you control the narrative and the expectations. You set the stage for how those creatures will behave. Santa comes down the chimney, but only after you’re asleep! The Easter Bunny leaves a jelly bean trail, starting at your bedroom door. You the parent are the expert in the field of magical creatures, and while your kiddo might have questions from time to time, you’re starting from a shared mythology.

I failed to establish that starting point. In approaching the tooth fairy as a free-flowing game of make-believe, I inadvertently left the door wide open for misaligned expectations. And we all know how well children deal with situations that do not meet their expectations.

Thus, I am zero for three on successful tooth-loss celebrations. When my daughter lost her first tooth in the spring, we left the tooth in a glass of water in the bathroom. I replaced the tooth with a couple of quarters and left a note (with purple sparkly letters!) on the counter. She emerged from her room in tears the next morning because there was no note under her pillow. Oops.

Okay, no problem. Tooth #2 followed about a month later. This time, we put the tooth under her pillow and I dutifully replaced it with some quarters. Success!? Nope. I didn’t write a note that time.

Then this week she lost her first top incisor. Go time. Money under pillow? Check. Happy cheerful note with butterfly stickers? Check. Happy child? Uh oh.

Since it was all a game to me, I got a little cheeky in the note I left her. I signed it “your friend, the tooth fairy” but to be funny (I thought), I crossed out “fairy” and wrote “mommy.”  The Tooth Mommy!  Get it? ‘Cause the tooth fairy isn’t real, but we’re pretending she is, but really the note is from me, and we both know that, and….oh dear, please stop crying.

Sigh. The good news is, her second incisor is also loose so I should have a chance to redeem myself someday soon. Wish me luck!

This post originally appeared on October 18th in our SmallTownUSA newspaper.

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