It was not my finest parenting moment. In the barely breaking dawn on day three of school this year, my 7-year-old son walked into my room and said the words every mother dreads: "The tooth fairy didn't come."
"Wha?" I managed to squeak out, as my pulse began to ramp up rapidly. "Uh, no... that can't be right," I stammered, trying to pry my sleepy eyes open and take it all in. Memories of the night before came flooding back. Did I really forget to take the tooth and leave the money?
"Can I get in bed with you? Maybe she'll come while I'm here," Luke said in a voice that would be puppy dog eyes, if a voice had eyes.
"Of course, sweetie," I said, fumbling now, tucking the warm sheets around him, wondering how to fix my latest parental misstep. As I rubbed his back, praying he would go back to sleep and not hear my hammering heart, a plan began to hatch in my half-asleep brain. At 6:11 a.m., this is the best I could come up with.
"Hon, I'm just going to feed the cats -- they seem hungry," I whispered as I slowly began to extract my left arm out from under the full weight of my child. Any hope I had of him falling back asleep after the post traumatic stress of tooth fairy abandonment was dashed when Luke bolted upright and said, "Why do you think she didn't come?"
I began to realize that the price I would pay for one night of going to bed early and shirking my 10-page to-do list would be months of guilt. Would there be permanent damage? With this running through my head, I decided to take action. Leaving my distraught 7-year-old in bed, I tiptoed into the hallway. "Just feeding the cats, go back to sleep," I nonchalantly muttered again. Then, as if planned for months, I beelined into Luke's darkened doorway, popping my head back out into the hall once or twice to make sure he hadn't followed me. When I was sure the coast was clear, I crossed that line most parents would never dream of -- I opened my son's top drawer, and pilfered a fiver right out of his NY Yankees velcro wallet, as swiftly and deftly as if I was taking cash out of an ATM.
Now, I am attuned to the fact that $5 is a ridiculous fee for a lost tooth, but don't judge... it was crunch time, folks -- now 6:14 a.m.! The poor kid had lost a top-fronter and been forgotten by the person second only to Santa Claus in kid hero-dom. Also, the sheer worth of the bill assuaged my guilt, for a moment, that I was basically stealing from my youngest child.
After checking the hallway again for signs of a sleepy blond bobbing head, I slipped the booty where? Not under his pillow -- no, fair reader, think not that this tooth fairy is that dull-witted -- I went for some Ocean's 11 stealth-action and slipped the money, adroitly, and might I say brilliantly, right into the inside edge of his pillowcase. Just enough, so that the pillow would hold in the looted funds and prevent them from fluttering to the floor.
A few fluffs of his pillow and one giant exhale later, I bounded back towards my room, assumed a slower tiptoe pace upon entering, and crawled back in bed with my little man. Would he notice I was sweating profusely? Was the scarlet letter T for "thief" emblazoned across my forehead? Was he wondering what took so long to feed two ravenous cats? All these questions I pondered at 6:19 a.m., having experienced quite a lot of stress in the eight minutes I'd been awake.
To reflect for a moment, am I proud of my moral transgression? No. Did I blame my roguish tooth fairy tendencies on some deep-seeded childhood problem? Not at all. Was this guise necessary so as not to break Luke's fragile heart and keep him from being in tooth fairy therapy forever? I believed so.
Alas, the morning continued to unfold until the late old hour of 6:45, when I normally wake all my kids. Luke and I finally got out of bed, woke up my two girls, and went back into his room. I turned on the lights, opened the curtains, laid out his clothes and innocently went over to his bed, feigning the beginnings of making it. "So, did you really look everywhere for the tooth fairy money, bud?" I asked casually, slowly pulling up the sheet for major effect. "Yes," he said, lifting up the pillow and tossing it back down. There's nothing." Queue lower lip quiver.
"Hmm," I said, "Are you suuuurrrre?" as I turned the pillow opening towards us. "Wait! What's this?" I yelped, and let him pull out the stolen funds. "Wow! She did come after all -- Yay!" His bright non-toothy smile and sweet innocent happiness filled me with a warmth and satisfaction I didn't know was possible after the down and dirty morning I'd had.
All was bliss for about a minute as the two of us looked admiringly at the wrinkled bill, until I glanced down on the bed and -- as if in slow motion -- I saw at the same time what Luke saw, and a stream of chills inched up my spine. There under the pillow was the tooth, still wadded up in the Kleenex, alone, rejected, unwanted. Scrunching up his face and narrowing his eyes at me, Luke said, almost knowingly, "Wait, why would the tooth fairy leave money and not take the tooth?" And that explanation, my friends, is the subject of another blog.
Anyone else have a similar tooth fairy trauma?