The following is a piece I wrote for a book called "Pandora's Box", a collaborative project by artists and writers in Southeast Wisconsin, published by Southport Press. My Husband John did two wonderful illustrations for it that can only be seen if you buy the book.
We begin when our children are small.
(Too small to have any idea what we're talking about, really. How absurd to say to a six month old infant "Look what Santa Claus brought you!".)
And, though we know there can only be one ending to this little house of cards we are building, one of disappointment and disillusionment, we proceed with abandon.
I’m not sure who it started with - I think it must have been Santa Claus because all our children were born after Easter. We stuck pretty much with the big three: Santa, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy, and handled it in the usual way, with lots of subterfuge to maintain the illusion.
We’d send the kids out to wait in the car as we headed to Grandma's. Then there would be a few trips back into the house "for things we forgot", so that we could add the presents that “Santa” would bring.
There were the years of trying desperately to stay awake on Christmas Eve until the children were safely asleep so that stockings could be filled. And hours spent removing price tags from the presents from “The North Pole” because Elves don’t use pricing guns. Not to mention the cookie and milk consuming martyrdom that led to our thickening waistlines.
And we did it well.
Until it all began to unravel.
And who unraveled it?
The Tooth Fairy.
Yes, the Tooth Fairy.
She was our undoing. And I suspect she is the undoing of parents everywhere because she is the weak link in the chain.
First of all, there are the inconsistencies of pay scale. It is all very well and good to put a dollar under your child's pillow if he or she has no friends with which to compare notes. But, add even one other child into the mix, and a discussion of the pay rates will begin.
Worse yet, is the tooth that is lost in the midst of a sleepover. Now you are smack up against it. Do you suddenly put two dollars under the pillow because the visiting child always gets two dollars?
You see, if we really want to make this work, we as parents should be a lot more organized. We should unionize the Tooth Fairy and firmly establish the rates. Is a molar worth more than a bicuspid? Is a broken tooth worth less than a whole one?
But I suspect the biggest downfall for parents is the sheer randomness of the losing of teeth. We all know when Santa and the Easter Bunny come. We are prepared. We have a plan. But the Tooth Fairy has to be there, at the ready, at all sorts of unexpected times.
And, because we have not planned for this, we are not capable of holding on to the knowledge that we need to stay up late tonight and take care of it. This was our undoing with all three of our children. By the time we were ready for bed we had completely forgotten that we had a job to do.
So we went to sleep. And, in the morning, we remembered...
And we tried to, very carefully and quietly, slip the money under the pillow without wakening the child.
Or, we waited until the child got up and went to the bathroom. At which time we flew into their bedroom like lightening to do the deed.
Only to find out later that said child had checked under the pillow before leaving the room.
Before the bathroom - tooth, no money.
After the bathroom - money, no tooth.
It doesn't take a future rocket scientist to figure that one out.
So then the suspicion begins to grow. And, with raised eyebrow and a manner the chief of police would admire, they grill us about all the other little fantasies we may have spun for them over the years.
And soon it is all over. And we have little grown ups living in our house where once there were innocent children.
And we plead with them not to give away the secret to their younger sister.
!@#% Tooth Fairy.