Tales of the Tooth Fairy

tooth-fairyIf you want to maintain your child’s innocence, don’t buy him a loft bed. Because at a certain point, your child will start to question the actuality of certain folkloric characters, such as the tooth fairy, and you will be hard pressed to convince him that she does in fact exist.

In my case, my almost 10 year old son, Eli, revealed to me tonight with a sense of great disappointment that he no longer believed in the tooth fairy. “Why would you say that?” I asked, unsure of whether he was sincerely distressed or merely playing with me. “Because I’ve had my tooth waiting for her for two days and she hasn’t come to take it or leave me any money.”

“Well,” I answered without missing a beat, “You didn’t tell daddy or me that you lost a tooth. Parents have to call the tooth fairy and let her know that they need her to come. She’s not psychic. She just flies around and sprinkles fairy dust and turns kid’s teeth into dollar bills. Every super hero has her limitations.”

I’m fairly certain he’s known for years that the tooth fairy is fictitious. But I insist on perpetuating the myth just in the off chance that he might actually want to still believe in something magical and mystical and innocent.

“Besides,” I added, “She’s been extremely busy these days. She may just be running behind schedule.” He agreed to leave his incisor on his shelf inside the goofy little plastic tooth fairy tooth we’ve had since his older brother was three for one more night. “But if she doesn’t come tonight, I’ll know for sure that she’s a phony.” Then he smiled with just enough mischief to make me unsure of how much he knows and how much he doesn’t want to know.

When I climbed the ladder to his loft bed that night to tuck him in I looked around and couldn’t see the tooth holder anywhere? “Eli,” I asked, “Where’s your tooth?” “Oh the tooth fairy will have to find it,” he insisted, “That is if she’s real.” This is actually a test, I determined. He wants me to make this happen. “But the tooth fairy doesn’t have x-ray vision you know. Maybe she’s been coming and leaving because she doesn’t see your tooth anywhere.”

He then slid a few books over and pulled out the plastic container from beneath his Nook. I encouraged him to leave it in plain site, reminding him again that even his favorite comic book idols have weaknesses. “You can’t expect everyone in your life to have unlimited super-natural powers, Eli,” I told him, “Otherwise you’re just setting yourself up for grave disappointment.” Then we said his prayers, I kissed him on the forehead and gingerly climbed down the loft ladder.

I walked around for the next hour and a half with two dollar bills in my hand so I wouldn’t forget to carry out my tooth fairy responsibilities. Finally, once I felt he had fallen into a deep enough sleep, I quietly snuck into his room and began my ascent up the rickety steps to his bed. I was sure that he’d awake with every squeak and creak I made. When I finally got to the top I had to reach over him carefully and try to grasp the plastic tooth that, although it was now visible, was still tucked deeply into a crevice that remained just out of my reach. I put one knee on his bed and leaned over precariously. He turned over. I held my breath and prayed, “Don’t wake up. Please don’t wake up right now.” He rolled over and stayed asleep as I lurched forward, grabbed the holder, and pulled myself back to the ladder. I opened the box silently and removed my son’s still tiny ivory tooth and inserted the two dollar bills I’d been gripping for hours. Then I repeated the ridiculous lurch and grab dance to replace the plastic tooth for morning discovery.

“That bed is a pain in the ass,” I told my husband later that night. “Why didn’t we think of this when we agreed to it?” “Because we figured he’d outgrow the tooth fairy by now,” he said, “and making parenting decisions based on fictitious characters hasn’t really been our M.O. in the past.”

I couldn’t really argue with that. I carefully put the tooth with all of his others in a small envelope I keep in a drawer. I have absolutely no idea what I will do with my children’s teeth nor any thoughts to justify why I am saving them. My 13 year old son, Levi, once found my envelope and was horrified. “Mom,” he gasped, “That’s just…creepy.” And I have to agree. It kind of is. But it feels so important to hold onto them. Like they’re the only proof I have of my kids youthful spirit and innocent hearts. One day I may need those teeth to remind me who my children really are. Maybe only mothers can understand that. Or maybe I’m as crazy as a loon and would benefit from attending a “Hoarders Anonymous” meeting.

Either way, I’m holding onto the teeth like I’m holding onto the idea that Eli wants to continue to believe in fairytales. And why shouldn’t he? Life is what you believe it to be. Holding fast to the notion that magic still happens is a lesson I hope my kids will carry with them forever. So I’ll keep climbing ladders, sprinkling fairy dust and leaving a few dollars on their shelves, at least for as long as they’ll let me.

Finding my way

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“I seem to get lost everywhere, even when I know where I’m going.” I said to my friend yesterday while hopelessly searching for 3rd avenue and Alamedia in downtown Phoenix. As the words spilled out of my mouth, I realized the depth and significance of that statement. I’m not necessarily one of those people who find meaning in every traffic light, rainstorm and fender bender. I used to be. I used to believe that the “universe” stopped me at a red light to make me 5 minutes late for an important appointment in order to protect me from some impending car crash that awaited me just a few feet beyond the intersection. I never balked at flight cancellations. Surely it was the “supreme being’s” way of saving me and a host of other passengers from an in-flight disaster. When I did back up into a parking lot pole, the message was clear; I needed to move forward in my life while always keeping my eye on the past so as not to encounter some unseen impediment from bygone years.

This philosophy managed to keep me from lamenting my tardiness. It bolstered me when disaster struck. It even made me almost laid back, which I assure you is no easy task. Believing that everything happens for a reason creates an inner, contemplative life in which self-reflection rules above all else. When one can find meaning in every popped button and split seam, no event, no matter how outwardly insignificant, occurs without at least a limited amount of thoughtfulness and attention.

But we mature. We “grow up.” We have children. And we run out of time; time for inner contemplation, time for “what ifs,” time for attention to the little things in life. We deem introspection to be self indulgent. We run through the weeks not knowing how Monday morning morphed into Friday afternoon in what seemed like a nano-second. We stop wasting time looking for life’s deeper meanings and neglect to excavate the profound beneath the trivial that inhabits our lives. And that’s a shame.

I do get lost a lot. As my son likes to say, “I couldn’t navigate myself out of a paper bag.” And I think that’s significant. My lack of directional sense frustrates me. But perhaps it’s there for a reason, and until I acknowledge and pay attention to it, I am destined to continue my cycle of navigational chaos.

A lot of times I get lost because I don’t trust myself. I question my ability to find my way when, in reality, I know where I’m headed. Back in January, my son was in a play out in Chandler and I had to drive him to rehearsals several times a week. I mindlessly followed my GPS time and time again. There was no mindfulness in my driving. I was too busy multi-tasking to pay attention to where we were going. One night, my son, who was tired of listening to the same robotic voice commands over and over, challenged me to turn off the GPS and try to get to rehearsal myself. “I bet you can’t do it,” he snipped. I was irritated by his tone and blatant disdain. “Oh yeah?” I said. “Well, here goes.” We got there without incident. There were several occasions when I scanned the horizon and recognized nothing. But I kept my doubts to myself and continued driving.

I think it all boils down to what you believe. Like they teach in my youngest’s Karate class; “Whether you think you can or you can’t, you’re right.” So maybe I get lost because I stop believing I know where I am. Hmmm…now there’s something to ponder.