A Tooth Fairy's work is never done

A Tooth Fairy's work is never done

My daughter is suddenly best friends with the Tooth Fairy. In fact, they’re pen pals.

She writes to the Tooth Fairy almost every night. Just for fun.

And she’s full of questions.

What kind of food do fairies eat? What games do you play? How many kinds of fairies are there?

Now the Tooth Fairy was a little taken aback by all this. Her job description usually involves collecting teeth, leaving a few coins under the pillow and arguing with Mr. Tooth Fairy (aka Mr. Moneybags) about how much one really deserves for a tooth.

But the job has gotten a bit complicated. The Tooth Fairy now has nightly homework.

It began innocently enough when my daughter’s first-grade teacher suggested the class write letters to the Tooth Fairy as a writing assignment. The kids took to it with gusto, grilling her for information: What does the Tooth Fairy do with all those teeth? How does she carry them? How does she afford this habit?

“Dear Tooth Fairy,” one boy wrote. “Do you live in a mansion? Where do you get all that money?”

My daughter wanted to know what Fairyland was like, and informed the Tooth Fairy that her top two teeth were loose. And she had a special request: “Can you bring me more money than you’ve ever given anyone before?” (I never said she wasn’t greedy.)

The Tooth Fairy wrote back, leaving a token contribution and promising to bring more when her tooth came out.

My daughter didn’t wait. Her next letter asked for the Tooth Fairy’s name and more details about Fairyland.

She also passed along this helpful tidbit from one of her friends: if you put a bowl of water next to your bed, the Tooth Fairy will swim in it and turn it the same color as her wings (green, in that case).

It was here that the Tooth Fairy started to question the wisdom of her own existence, and to wish that certain 6-year-olds (and her friends) weren’t quite so creative.

But she dutifully hauled the magic food coloring out of her cabinets and employed her fairy friend Google to find just the right name. After all, the Tooth Fairy goes by many incarnations around the world, as you can imagine.

In some cultures she is not a fairy at all, but (of course) a mouse. The book “Throw Your Tooth on the Roof” details tooth traditions all over the world, including “La Petite Souris,” a French mouse who takes the tooth from under the pillow and leaves a gift. Rodent tooth fairies are common in Latin America (El Raton Miguelito), Spain (Ratoncito Perez) and South Africa.

Personally, I find that frightening.

In other countries in Africa and the Middle East, the tradition is to throw your tooth over the roof, or up in the sky, and ask the sun (or whoever) to bring you a new one.

Some writers think the Tooth Fairy had its roots in English or Irish folklore, and it was popularized in the United States in the 20th century.

So our Tooth Fairy is named Tara -- short, sweet, alliterative and authentically Gaelic.

My daughter woke up to find a bowl of green water by her bed, a letter from the Tooth Fairy saying she enjoyed her swim, and a princess baseball the Tooth Fairy had been saving for her birthday.

After that it was off to the races. Writing became a nightly activity, with my daughter asking probing questions and ending each letter with “please right back.”

Some highlights (original spelling included):

Letter 3: “What is your werst name? Please tell me your friends names ... Tell Tinker Bell to come bye and please let me see you. Bi.”
Letter 5: “Dear Tara, My frent tooth is really close to comeing out. just wait! can you do a favor for me? grant a wish that my brother will do good on his project. thanks. now, is there a pixi dust tree in fairy land?”
Letter 6: “Dear Tara do you no eney fairy games? if you do put them under my pilo. what kind of magic do you have? what kind of fairy are you? whos the queen of fairy land? please tell me her name. what color are your wings?”

Meanwhile, Tooth Fairy mania spread through the first-grade class. Moms reported children coming home asking why the Tooth Fairy wasn’t visiting their house.

So the Tooth Fairy started dropping hints in her letters, like “I’ll see you again when you lose your tooth,” but my daughter was undaunted.

Things finally came to a head over Memorial Day weekend, when one of her bottom teeth came out. At the Gap.

That night, the Tooth Fairy brought her two golden dollars and a fairy game. My daughter was enchanted.

She wrote a thank-you note, full of exclamation points and more questions: “Thank you for the fairy game! I! !love! !it!.... Do you have fairy stors in fairy land? whos your best frind? ... p.s. your! the! best!”

After another exchange of letters, Tara wrote that she’d be quite busy for the next few weeks at other houses. So the letters have subsided for now.

I worry a bit about this friendship and how my daughter might feel once she discovers the truth about Tooth Fairyland. It’s the old Santa debate: Are we really doing it for them or to preserve some sense of magic in our own lives? Are we destroying their trust in us and dishonoring the truth?

I don’t have the answer. All I know is that it’s a magical time in her life, and it’ll end all too soon.

Meanwhile, her two top teeth are still VERY loose. I guess the Tooth Fairy will have a busy summer ... .

At least she’s not a mouse.

News-Gazette staff writer Julie Wurth can be reached at 351-5226, jwurthnews-gazette.com, or on Twitter.com/jawurth. Her column appears every other Tuesday in the News-Gazette.

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robink wrote on June 08, 2010 at 7:06 pm

You've described a parenting classic!
We went so far as to take our kids to the same Santa every year, so they'd believe in him as long as possible. By the time we had to come clean with them, it was...awkward. I felt like a big fibber, but I can't say that I wouldn't do the same thing again. They had a lot of fun looking forward to Santa's visits. Ditto for the Easter Bunny, and -- of course -- the Tooth Fairy.

Julie Wurth wrote on July 23, 2010 at 3:07 pm
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Thanks! I know, I'm dreading the "come clean" moment, but I have a feeling the realization may come gradually. At least I hope so. They already know that some kids don't believe, etc. I guess we'll find out!