Well, not that I had an actual mask, but my identity as the tooth fairy was recently revealed.
Our tooth fairy routine
has been to put a small toy under the pillow in exchange for a tooth.
(Tip for those with kids who still just have teeth coming in and not
going out yet: putting the lost tooth in a sandwich baggie under the
pillow makes for much simpler retrieval in the dark.) I always got a
quarter from the tooth fairy as a kid, and that was fun too, but in our
house I thought little toys would be nice. I keep a little stash of
things in a box in my room just for tooth fairy prizes, usually Littlest
Petshop toys or small stuffed animals.
This went fine for a long time, and I liked hearing the shriek of
excitement down the hall in the mornings when the prize was discovered.
But the last three tooth fairy prizes have left Aden disappointed, and
there has been only sad silence to hear on those mornings from my bed.
Mona is still happy with everything, but Aden’s gotten pickier about
certain toys, and I just guessed wrong each time I chose something for
I suggested maybe she should leave the tooth fairy a note with a list
about what kinds of things she would like from now on. I also told her
it was fine to tell the tooth fairy to leave her money like most of her
friends get for their teeth. She just said no, she just wanted the
right toys, but it was hard to figure out what she thought those might
Saturday when I got home from work I started chopping vegetables in
the kitchen and Aden came in to work on peeling a pomegranate nearby.
While we worked she told me that she’d lost a tooth a few days back when
she was at a friend’s house. She’d put it under her pillow the night
before without telling us about it and it was still there in the
morning. I told her maybe the tooth fairy just didn’t know what to get
her anymore and was still thinking about it.
She came around to my side of the counter, sidled up against me,
looked up into my face and said quietly (so her brother and sister in
the next room wouldn’t hear), “I think mama is the tooth fairy.” I
try not to lie to my kids, and I certainly do my best to answer
truthfully when asked anything directly, so I touched her on the nose
and said she was right. She looked both pleased and let down at the
I took the opportunity to explain my thinking about the last few
prizes that she didn’t like. For instance, there was a fake jewel about
the size of a half dollar that I picked up at an estate sale because I
thought she would think it was as beautiful as I did, and it was
interesting because it was old. She said knowing more about it made it
more special, and was sorry she hadn’t reacted positively to it at the
We worked at the counter quietly for a while, then Aden asked if my
mom and dad were the tooth fairy to me when I was a kid. I told her
yes. Being the tooth fairy was one of the fun parts of being a parent.
Aden walked with me to Target after dinner. We admired the spooky
decorations some of the neighbors have out, enjoyed the warmth of the
evening, and oohed and ahhed at the changing leaves and the brightness
of the moon. For the parts of the walk where she didn’t need her hands
to gesture as she talked, Aden held my hand.
It’s interesting how much growing up happens sometimes in conflicting
little levels and not all at once. There are so many ways in which
Aden is still a little girl. She’s not in a hurry to get older. She
doesn’t ask me for makeup or pierced ears. She has no plans to move on
from her stuffed animals or more childish toys. And yet she’s getting
more responsible and knows how to bake and can run errands to Target
alone. She can seem so adult to me one minute, and still my baby the
next. Both things make me want to laugh and cry at the same time.
At Target I had Aden simply point out to me which things (in a
reasonable price range) she would be happy about finding under her
pillow in the morning. I had her pick out things Mona might like, too.
Then I had Aden turn her back so she couldn’t see specifically which
things I was going to buy, and I made her walk ahead when I got to the
checkout so she still couldn’t see. She looked giddy on the walk home,
because there is still some element of surprise to this new version of
the tooth fairy game, but now she’s confident she will like what she
I’m a little sad. Quinn still has all his teeth, so I know I sill
have years left of tooth fairy fun ahead, but Aden’s on the cusp of a
much more grown up existence than she was just days ago and it’s hard
not to see her progress as just a step toward moving away. To have the
tooth fairy illusion broken opens the door to a different understanding
of the world. I’m sure the end of Santa is next, but she will be ten
this Christmas, and that seems about time, but it changes my life as
My job as her mom now will be to encourage her to see the magic where
it really was all along. The reality and wonder of the universe is
better than fairies who take old teeth, and love of family is better
than an imaginary man with a sleigh. There is still an endless amount
of magic to appreciate in the world, it’s just now that she’s older Aden
will have to learn to discover much of it for herself rather than have
it handed to her.
But I liked being Aden’s secret tooth fairy. It was fun while it lasted.