Adventures in Teeth

No teeth were harmed in the taking of this picture....

No teeth were harmed in the taking of this picture….

[WARNING: Tooth fairy spoiler below!]

One of the fun things about having a six-year-old and a six-month-old in the house is the synchronicity around teeth; during a one-week period this January, Fiona lost her two bottom front teeth just as Abigail’s two bottom front teeth came in.

So now Abigail has two tiny teeth, which is awfully cute but not that interesting. I’ve seen this happen three times before. And I don’t know about you, but I find it difficult to get excited about new baby teeth, since they typically get the blame for all the baby’s fussiness. (To be honest, I could never verify that teeth were to blame with any of our babies; it wasn’t clear to me whether they were fussing from dental distress, or simply because they were babies, and babies fuss. Nevertheless, starting at 2 months of age, whenever one of our babies would holler, some wise-looking person would nod and say, “Ah, teething!” And I’d nod wisely right back, because, hey, I know what I’m doing.)

Fiona losing her teeth, though — that was exciting! This was the first time any of our girls had lost a tooth. Her teeth had been loose for over a month when they finally detached. We got the news first thing in the morning: Erick and I were still in bed when I heard the girls’ bedroom door slam open and footsteps pounding down the hall.

“MOMMY!” Fiona shouted, throwing open our bedroom door, “My tooth fell out and I can’t find it!!!”

I confirmed that her tooth was, in fact, no longer in her mouth. She didn’t know what had happened; she’d just woken up and realized her tooth was gone. I assumed that she’d swallowed it in her sleep, but I dutifully followed her back down the hall to do a sweep of her bed. This was extra challenging because Fiona had recently decided she was too afraid to sleep in her own bed, and had moved herself into Georgia’s bed. So I was searching for a baby tooth in the pre-dawn light, in and around a bed that contained two girls’ worth of stuffed animals, books, blankets — and a still-sleeping Georgia.

Just as I was about to give up hope and put a positive spin on the missing tooth (drawing heavily from Sal’s lost tooth in the classic children’s book One Morning in Maine) — I found it!

There was much rejoicing. The next task was figuring out how to deliver the tooth to the tooth fairy. Thankfully, because I was an only child and my parents never discarded any of my childhood possessions, I had my old “tooth pillow” ready for just this purpose. The tooth pillow has a little pocket for the tooth; in the morning, the tooth has been replaced by a coin.

The best thing about the tooth pillow is that it provides an alternative to the traditional tooth-under-the-pillow scenario. What with three girls sharing a room, and — as aforementioned — Fiona sharing a bed with Georgia, I was a little nervous about performing my tooth fairy duties in secrecy. “Here’s your tooth pillow,” I said to Fiona, “Put it at the foot of your bed.”

She didn’t buy it. Who started this tooth-under-the-pillow business, anyway? According to Fiona, failure to place her tooth under her pillow would confuse the tooth fairy and negate the tooth-coin switcheroo. So we reached a compromise: The tooth would go into the tooth pillow, and the entire tooth pillow would go under Fiona’s pillow. It would be bulky, but easier to locate than a lone tooth.

One more thing: Fiona wrote a note to the tooth fairy, requesting that her tooth be returned to her (via the tooth pillow) the next night. So now my tooth fairy duties included two nights of pillow-groping deception.

I tucked Fiona and her tooth pillow into bed that night, and all was well.

Five minutes later, I heard the girls’ bedroom door bang open and the sound of footsteps thundering down the hall. This is not unusual, and typically involves requests for water/potty/bandaids/ice packs/conflict resolution. That night, though, Fiona stood at the top of the stairs shouting, “MOMMMY! My OTHER tooth just fell out!!!”

Turns out that Fiona had allowed Georgia to wiggle her other loose tooth — the one next to the tooth that she’d lost that morning. And Georgia, always energetic, had wiggled the tooth right out of Fiona’s mouth.

So, that night, the tooth fairy successfully replaced two teeth with two quarters. And the next night, the tooth fairy returned both teeth to their original owner.

A few days later, we went to church and saw Fiona’s best friend, who had just lost her first tooth, too. Much excitement! “Congratulations!” I exclaimed, “Did the tooth fairy visit you?”

“Yes!” Fiona’s friend replied, “And she gave me one five dollar!”

“One five dollar”?!? In case you missed it, OUR tooth fairy gave Fiona two quarters — one for each tooth. But apparently, just across town, the tooth fairy was shelling out five bucks for a single tooth.

I cast a panicked look in Fiona’s direction, but she didn’t seem to notice that anything was amiss. I don’t know how long that’ll last, though. WHY has nobody yet thought to standardize tooth fairy exchange rates? My only hope is that all of her teeth will fall out before she learns the value of money. Because our tooth fairy is going to stay cheap; after all, unless our other daughters are as efficient at losing teeth as Fiona, the tooth fairy still has to make 78 trips to our house.

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