Last week a major developmental milestone occurred – Dylan lost his first baby tooth. Yes, a tiny (and I am talking cucumber seed infinitesimal) tooth became very wriggly and finally came out at the end of school lunchtime on an otherwise quiet Wednesday.
On pick up, Dylan bounded up, keen to show me the rather large space left behind. Its almost a week later and I still get a little shock each time he greets me with his gappy smile. The tiny tooth was carefully wrapped in tissue and secured in his lunch box.
This is where the interesting part begins…
Dylan had informed me when his tooth started getting wriggly that he “didn’t believe in the toothfairy”. This took me by surprise, as he is still a firm defender of the jolly man in red at Christmas time. I tried to pry out of him why he thought the toothfairy wasn’t real but it wasn’t clear whether an older kid at school had spilled the beans or if he had decided on his own that believing in fairies – any kind of fairies – was a bit silly.
I took this information on board, and instead of trying to convince Dylan of the merits of believing in the toothfairy, it dawned on me that this was my opportunity to rethink the entire notion of the toothfairy.
Not a Toothfairy Fan
After all, there are many things I am not a fan of with the whole toothfairy concept.
Firstly, it encourages parents to lie to kids even more than we already do. I had reservations about perpetuating the myth of the jolly fellow in red, but had succumbed to the path of least resistance when Dylan was a baby. But doing it for one thing doesn’t mean I have to keep doing it.
Secondly, I was uneasy about exchanging teeth for money. What did it really teach a six-year-old? And what were we to do with this money? It was likely he would lose it, or keep it forever in his piggy bank, or – and this is the worst idea but highly probable – spend it on sweets. Oh the irony – getting money for losing teeth and then spending it on sugary snacks. No thanks.
Finally, even though the concept of a toothfairy secretly coming when the child was sleeping, taking a tooth and leaving money was a central tenet, there were many inconsistencies beyond that between families. Surveying friends showed a vast range in money left behind for a single tooth – anywhere between 20 cents and 20 dollars (!). The toothfairy could leave a note or sprinkle glitter around or not perform any added extras. And sometimes coins were found under pillows and sometimes next to the bed. There didn’t seem to be a stable societal norm I had to adhere to anyway, so why not throw away the whole concept and start over?
So after a few mature discussions with Dylan, here is where we have got to. The toothfairy may or may not exist (there seems to be some wavering on earlier conviction) but she doesn’t come to our home. Instead Mama or Daddy take Dylan’s tooth and exchange it for one Lego figure (I bought a bundle second hand, equivalent of about $2 each). This is still done when Dylan is asleep and the Lego figure is placed near his bed, not under his pillow.
Not quite a complete do-over but something a little different.
I understand that this is not for everyone and it may take some of the ‘magic’ out of it. And yes, there are still some tricky hurdles to overcome – I have already been asked whether I have kept the tooth and where it is. But Dylan is delighted with yet another Lego figure and I am happy to not perpetuate a lie and hand out money for doing nothing.
In fact, the freedom of not blindly following cultural norms is quite liberating. I am already starting to look at other areas where we can ditch convention and instead create new and more meaningful family traditions. You never know – the Lego figure idea may be something that is continued into future generations.
I would love to hear your good, bad and ugly toothfairy stories. Comment below.