I’m sneaking into my daughter’s bedroom after she’s fallen asleep, with a dollar bill in a ziplock baggie, trying to remain silent lest I rouse her from her slumber with the sound of a bump in the night, squinting in the darkness to avoid stepping on a stray toy.
That’s right, I’m the tooth fairy.
She’s been flicking her tooth all week with her fingers and tongue, trying to show me how much it wiggles, which just makes me feel icky. I’m not the most teeth-oriented guy; I squeeze my eyes shut at the dentist because of the bright light shining in my face, and wear earbuds to avoid the nails-on-a-chalkboard scraping sounds. Somehow, however, I have been designated as the parent who does dentist appointments, which is ironic because I had a traumatic incident as a child where the dentist would hold my nose to keep me from crying. (It’s cool, he did it to everyone.)
I’m also a questionable choice for this task because, when my daughter had just turned one, she fell and hit her top teeth on our hallway bench while I was watching her, and started gushing blood from her mouth. I was pretty sure I was about to be fired as a dad, but I took her to the dentist and he said she would probably be fine, and she was, so now I’m officially in charge of teeth. We keep the tooth fairy stuff pretty basic in our household because of an incident that I was involved in a while back, which is probably what most qualifies me to be the dental parent.
I was chaperoning a middle school camp retreat weekend in the fall of 2017, and a fifth-grade girl reported having a loose tooth. I emailed her parents, and I received a series of text messages from her mom, explaining that they had created an elaborate tooth fairy ritual involving glitter, calligraphy letters, dollar coins, and a mermaid fairy collecting teeth to replenish the coral reefs. Her advice: keep it simple.
The morning after my most recent nighttime tooth exchange, my daughter walks into the kitchen and speaks words that shake me to my very core. “I wonder where the tooth fairy gets the ziplock bags.”
Trying to keep my voice from shaking, and being careful not to make eye contact, I calmly say, “I think that was the same ziplock your tooth was in?” Knowing that it was not, and that I had indeed made a fatal flaw. My daughter is no dummy. The notion that she believes any of this is questionable.
“No,” she says, “they were two different sizes.” She opens the drawer where we keep both sizes of ziplock bags, holds one of each up as exhibit A in her takedown of the tooth fairy, and says, “The tooth was in a bigger bag and the dollar was in a smaller bag.”
Then she says words I will never forget. “I think I saw the tooth fairy last night.” I freeze, knowing that the jig is up.
“I think I saw pink wings,” she says, and walks away, and that’s when it hit me: kids will say they believe anything for a dollar.