My oldest daughter recently found out the truth about Santa Claus. The truth also came out on the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy. My daughter had approached my wife and me, mustering up the courage to hear what she undoubtedly knew already. Except for a brief moment of sadness, she took the news about it well. She seemed happy to be a part of the inner circle she believes her mom and I are in and not worried much about the slice of childhood magic now in her past. Content, though slightly disappointed, this chapter of my daughter’s childhood was being closed; I took a little solace knowing we were still a few years away from her dating. But this was not just Hannah finding out about Santa Claus; it was just another step towards her closing the book on her childhood. In a very short time, Hannah has gone from a ‘big girl’ to a ‘young lady’. This new role I am so privileged to watch yet, admittedly, quietly struggling with is the same role my daughter seems so easily slipping in to.
Then, the other night, she lost a tooth.
I was in the kitchen with my oldest and my youngest. I was sitting at the island in our kitchen when Hannah walked up to me with her palm opened and stretched out to showing me a tooth that was, up until 2 minutes prior, in her mouth.
I whispered to her (because the little one was within earshot), “Hannah…you want the money now or later?” Part of the unwritten contract I signed when my children were born was the section about making good on payments for any and all lost teeth (did you know there is a clause in there about teeth that may have been swallowed accidentally?). Since Hannah was well aware the Tooth Fairy was me, I figured I could skip the formalities of sneaking in to her room, trying not to wake her up when I put my hand under her pillow, freezing like a statue when she inevitably stirred when I put my hand under her pillow, find the tooth, put the money in, and sneak back out of the room. There was no fawning. No gushing. No meticulous examining of the hole now occupying her mouth. All of the pomp and circumstance now seemed unnecessary and better saved for the 6 year old.
Hannah didn’t say anything to me. She did quietly take the tooth, wrapped it carefully in a tissue and put it under her pillow to wait for the Tooth Fairy to come.
The next morning, she woke up with tears. The carefully wrapped tooth was still in the same place under her pillow. There was no money. The Tooth Fairy had not come back (full disclosure…I totally forgot).
For the girl who is sprinting away from the trappings of early childhood, it seems as though, she slowed up for a moment. Maybe Hannah wasn’t quite ready to give up on every piece of her youth? Maybe she wanted to live some of the magic that just a few months ago the last tooth, she had (which is the only reason I can think of why guys in their 30’s still watch professional wrestling)? Maybe I should have seen or thought this might happen? For the guy who is so mindful of watching his babies grow, I never gave it a second thought. Maybe I was swept up with Hannah’s initial attitude of acceptance that the Tooth Fairy wouldn’t be coming back again?
Whatever the reasons, my next move was clear.
That night, I told her, “Don’t forget to put your tooth under your pillow so the Tooth Fairy can come.”
She nodded, smiled, and excitedly put her tooth back under her pillow.
I thought I had concluded my late night vigils in to one of my kids’ rooms, armed with a dollar and with the grace and slyness of Bigfoot in a room with wall to wall bubble wrap. But as my oldest daughter had shown, that wasn’t the case. Which is why that night I snuck in to my 9 year old’s room, gave her $2 (the extra dollar for forgetting in the first place), and snuck back out as quietly and as cunningly as I ever had in my time as the Tooth Fairy.
I think one of the things I need to remember and what my daughter reminded me of is, even though you know how the trick is done; it doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the magic. So that night, after an absence from the night before, I made sure for my daughter (and a little bit for me) that the Tooth Fairy came back.