Ah, The Tooth Fairy. The sadistic cousin to the Easter Bunny, Elf on the Shelf, and Elsa of Arrendelle. I hadn’t given much thought to this quirky creature until my son lost his first tooth. I understand the appeal – his tears at the sight of blood in his mouth were stopped in their tracks at the idea of receiving a prize under his pillow from a magical fairy. We excitedly put the tooth in an envelope, wrote the Tooth Fairy’s name on the parcel, and placed it under his favorite monkey pillow.
Cut to 10 p.m. after he’d been asleep for an hour, and I peek into his room to find his head firmly on the pillow, his hand dangling down the side of his loft bed. “No problem,” I thought to myself, “In an hour, he’ll be on the other end of the bed like always.”
Cut to midnight. He hasn’t moved. I tiptoe into the room to get a closer peek and step on a creaky floorboard (why are the floorboards only creaky when I am hiding Easter baskets, shelf elves, and toothy blood money?) and he stirs. I duck and cover until he settles and leave the room again, deciding to wait outside until I hear him shift to a different position.
Cut to 1:30 a.m., and I am DONE waiting. I decide to army crawl past the line of little green army men on the floor and approach the pillow from below. I grab the tooth envelope, replace it with the letter/money from the friggin’ fairy, and ninja walk out of there.
Why do we do this to ourselves? Who is the malicious jerk who invented this winged collector of baby teeth?
I did a little research. The Tooth Fairy was first referenced by a reader named Lillian Brown in 1908 in the Chicago Daily Tribune, who wrote that “Many a refractory child will allow a loose tooth to be removed if he knows about the Tooth Fairy. If he takes his little tooth and puts it under the pillow when he goes to bed, the Tooth Fairy will come in the night and take it away and in its place, will leave a little gift.” Ok. What? How do you even come up with that? Is this the same monster who came up with the idea of birthday party favors?
From there, Esther Watkins Arnold wrote a short play about the character in 1927. Then, with the popularity of Disney’s Blue Fairy and Tinkerbell, she is further specified to be an inch-tall sprite with sparkly wings and a magic wand.
We’re not the only country to have weird traditions with baby teeth. Some cultures bury the baby teeth to promote the “growth” of the new set. In the Middle East, children throw their teeth into the air toward the sun. Viking warriors are said to have worn their children’s teeth as protective necklaces.
Now, as much as I love a statement necklace, I, like any non-dentist, think teeth are gross. So I was ok with adding the role of Tooth Fairy to my parental resume. After all, my son NEVER sleeps on his pillow and gets excited when someone gives him a quarter to add to his piggy bank. How hard and expensive could it be?
In researching the current going rate for baby teeth, I found that the insurance group Delta Dental released a study that the nationwide average is $3.19 per tooth, and the average cost per tooth corresponds to that year’s stock market. On average, the Tooth Fairy gives out 256 million dollars a year! Who knew that curating teeth was such a lucrative career path?
So, what have I learned from my first go at being a magical fairy? Well, if you take anything from this, heed this advice:
- Have small bills in the house for last-minute lost teeth when you don’t have time to break a 20 at Rite Aid.
- Make sure you stretch before attempting an army crawl.
- For the love of fairy wings, have a separate place for teeth that isn’t your child’s actual pillow. You will thank me later.
Oh, and don’t write in cursive. Kids can’t read that.