Our Tooth Fairy has always been flaky. She was unreliable when she first started calling at our house, and she’s unreliable still.
Poor Big Man had to have a tooth extracted. He took the news better than his big brothers would have. He didn’t cry or have to be dragged kicking and screaming. He was stoic about the entire procedure.
At five years old, I’d have faced such a procedure as impending doom. When I was eight, it took six medical professionals to hold me down to take blood, and that didn’t leave a hole, so at five I would have fought gum and nail over my bad tooth.
Big Man’s courage amazed me. He faced the dentist with aplomb. He even asked to take the extracted tooth home.
He wanted to examine his tooth as soon as he got home. It was saved in a tiny treasure chest, and he revered it like a treasure. Seeing my child’s tooth, complete with roots, not at all resembling the nub that would eventually have fallen out on its own, made me feel guilty for the operation he had endured.
Big Man showed no regrets. He was fascinated by his tooth. He turned it over in his fingers, pointing out interesting features to me. It was all very clinical.
Except it wasn’t, really.
Big Man gets attached to odd things for brief periods. He instantly became attached to his separated tooth. He carried the little chest around the house with him for days. He fretted over losing it. He even wanted to take it to his soccer game.
We talked about selling the tooth to the Tooth Fairy, but he wanted to keep it for a while. He wasn’t ready to give up such an interesting specimen.
Until he was, suddenly and without notice.
Four days after the extraction, when I woke him for school, he reached under his pillow and pulled out his treasure chest. “The Tooth Fairy didn’t give me money,” he announced with disappointment. He was more upset about this than having the tooth pulled in the first place. “I want my money!”
The attachment was over, but our Tooth Fairy didn’t get the memo. “You have to tell your parents when you put your tooth under your pillow,” I told him, “so the Tooth Fairy knows it’s okay to take it. That’s the rule.”
“No it’s not.”
“How do you know? Did you even go to the library and ask for the book of Tooth Fairy rules?”
“No. But that’s not a rule.”
“Let’s test it. Put it under your pillow tonight and the Tooth Fairy will know it’s okay to take it.”
This was far from satisfactory, but it was better than sleeping with a tooth he no longer cherished night after night. He waited another day for our unreliable fairy.
It was a special tooth from a brave boy, so the next night the Tooth Fairy made amends by leaving a little extra.