A little over a month ago, Ava’s lower tooth came loose. A classic loose tooth story, she was simply eating an apple.
She shed some tears and was a little scared.
I sat down next to her and explained losing a tooth is part of growing up.
“Everybody loses their baby teeth, honey… mommy, daddy, Mia, grandma, grandpa… all your friends”
“Everybody?” Eyes filled with disbelief.
“Would you like me to have your dentist call you and tell you everything is okay?”
“Do you know the Tooth Fairy will come visit once your tooth falls out? She’ll fly here, take your tooth, and leave you money.”
“Really?” her little voice finally sounded reassured. Promises of magic fairies and some money are an unbeatable combination.
The tide changed. She was thrilled. Proud she had a loose tooth. “Momma, I’m growing up!”
Now, I’m scared.
This moment got me pondering the Tooth Fairy and her history. Where did she come from? How did this tradition come to be?
Ages ago, it was a common practice to bury a child’s tooth in the grounds surrounding the family home. This group was a superstitious bunch and believed if a witch took possession of the tooth, a curse would be placed on the child. If done properly, the ritual ensured a new tooth would grow in its’ place and the child would remain curse free.
As time passed by, folks migrated to cities. This made unused land harder to come by, so families began burying teeth in flower pots, houseplants, and such. Everyone eventually gave up and began placing lost teeth under pillows. And the tradition of parents swapping the tooth for a special gift or money was born.
Unlike the iconic image of Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy has shown up in history in many forms; ranging from “a child with wings, a pixie, a dragon, a blue mother-figure, a flying ballerina, two little old men, a dental hygienist, a potbellied flying man smoking a cigar, a bat, a bear and others.”
And according to Rosemary Wells, the author of “The Making of an Icon: The Tooth Fairy in North American Folklore and Popular Culture”, when children learn the Tooth Fairy is only imaginary, “75% of children reported liking the custom; 20% were neutral and 3% were not in favor and said they did not intend to continue the practice when they became parents.”
What child is not in favor of getting money when he or she loses a tooth? Who are these children? And, who were the uncredited 2% – what happened to them? They must have had crabby Tooth Fairies.
According to the website, the Original Tooth Fairy Poll, the going rate for a lost tooth is $2.49. Here busy parents have been able to locate the “Global Tooth Rates” for their country since 1998.
But let me get back to my story…
It took about a month of regular tooth wiggling for Ava’s tooth to finally pop out.
It was February 28th when I arrived at Ava’s school to pick her up for the day.
I walked into her classroom to grab her coat and lunchbox. I then briefly stopped by her art box before going out to the playground.
Sitting in the tray was a small ziploc bag with one teeny tiny tooth. “Ava’s Tooth” was scrawled on the bag in ever so neat teacher penmanship.
Happy, but also a little sad. She had just taken another step out of babyhood towards growing up.
On the other hand, she is over the moon when I retrieve her from the playground. Her teacher told me the tooth came out at nap time and that Ava gave it to her right away for safe keeping. Her first words to me were, “We need to leave the Tooth Fairy some lunch. I want to make her spicy chicken.” Spicy chicken? I’m not even sure what that means. I also didn’t realize there were snack requirements for a Tooth Fairy visit.—-
We celebrated with dinner out at her favorite restaurant. She announced she wanted to go to bed when we got home. It’s 6:30.
Later that evening, we carefully placed her tooth in her tooth pillow, which Ava gently slid under her own pillow.
I gathered my Tooth Fairy supplies and waited; knowing the Sandman would have to do his work before I could attempt the switch.
I’ll share the rest of the adventure via a movie. NOTE: Do not let children (or adults for that matter) who believe in the Tooth Fairy watch this video. It is a behind the scenes look at a real live Tooth Fairy in action.
Later that same night, Ava woke me up at 1am; thrilled in her discovery that the Tooth Fairy had already visited. She called for me and as I stumbled into her bedroom, rubbing my eyes, I found one wide awake little girl grinning and giggling in her bed. She proudly showed me the empty tooth pillow and two $1 coins.
I gave her a hug and tucked her back into bed. Clutching her tooth pillow, she closed her eyes and fell back to sleep.
I smiled. Operation Tooth Fairy.