I arrived home last night after the kids had gone to bed. Shortly after I got there, my wife told me about how Josh had lost a tooth. The little voice inside my head said, 'deal with the Tooth Fairy right now,' but we didn't. I ate a late dinner, we watched some TV, and we went to bed. I didn't think about the Tooth Fairy until 5 in the morning.
First Matthew appeared at 4:15 to say he was scared. So in he climbed. Half an hour later, I heard Josh enter the room. "What's wrong?" I asked. He started talking loudly about a door making noises, but I cut him off and led him back down the hall to his room. "I'll sleep in here in Matthew's bed," I told him, "so you won't have anything to worry about."
As Josh was settling back into bed, he pulled the plastic tooth case from under his pillow, shook it and said, "The Tooth Fairy hasn't come yet."
I stayed awake for a while, considering my options. I could wait for him to fall asleep and then attempt a Tooth Fairy visit. We could wait for the morning, assume his tooth got onto the Tooth Fairy's list too late and hope she could get there the next night. I could wait until he got up, then try a quick Tooth Fairy swap while he wasn't watching – a highly risky move if he was just a few feet away.
The pressure was incredible, and I tossed and turned while wrestling with the stress. After an hour, when I could hear Josh breathing heavily, I snuck downstairs, got a dollar and stuffed it into another tooth case in case there was an opportunity for a quick swap. The problem is that Josh was sleeping directly on the pillow above the tooth. The swap was still a high-risk option. I decided to wait.
When the sun broke the horizon and Josh woke up, he pulled out the tooth case immediately, shook it again, heard the rattle of a tiny tooth and said, "The Tooth Fairy didn't come."
"Well, maybe you got on the list too late," I said.
"I guess we'll have to wait until tonight," Josh said.
I got out of bed and took a shower while Josh went downstairs to get his breakfast. When the shower was over, I tiptoed down the hall, made the swap and went back to the morning routine. I knew Josh would discover it while making his bed and believe the Tooth Fairy arrived during breakfast. I thought everything was fine as Josh, Matthew and I ate breakfast, but Matthew vanished for a few minutes and then came back downstairs. I asked him where he had been.
"I went to go see Josh's dollar," he said.
"What do you mean?" I asked the meddling kid.
"I looked under his pillow but I didn't see anything," he said.
"What do you mean? There was nothing there?"
"Nope," he said. "It wasn't there."
"I know," said Josh, "the Tooth Fairy didn't come."
"Well the tooth must still be there," I said to Matthew.
"Nope," he said. "It's not there."
Now I was totally confused. No tooth, and no dollar? What was Matthew trying to pull here? Did he steal the dollar? Josh was getting distraught.
"So now my tooth is lost and I don't get a dollar?" he whined. I had no idea what was going on but we waited until breakfast was over to investigate.
When it was time to make beds, Josh threw aside the pillow and found the case with the dollar. While he was getting excited about all the spending possibilities, Matthew was confused. "It wasn't there before," Matthew said. "Are you sure," I asked. He nodded his head and said he was positive. I don't know how Matthew missed it, but I promise it was there. Then suddenly Dad had an idea.
"Wait a minute," I said. "Matthew, what if you came in here while the Tooth Fairy was in the room? Maybe she had taken the tooth already but hadn't left the dollar, when you surprised her."
Matthew stared at me, then slowly broke into an astonished smile. "I wonder if she hid while you were in here," I said. He looked down at the bed and grabbed some stuffed animals.
"Maybe she's still here!" he said. He yanked aside a bear and said, "Maybe she's under here!"
Josh wasn't too concerned about the Tooth Fairy travel schedule; he cared more about the dollar. But Matthew was mystified by his close encounter with the Tooth Fairy. I'm guessing I bought a few more years of faith in the Tooth Fairy through a couple of sly moves and some quick thinking.
You see, these are the maneuvers they don't write about in parenting books or talk about in counseling sessions. These are the moments when parents are pushed to their limits, faced with no-win situations and forced to act, swiftly and decisively. These are the moments when parents earn their stripes.
I'm proud to have earned my Tooth Fairy stripe last night.