You can imagine my initial panic when Mr Justice lost his first tooth and promptly swallowed it along with a mouthful of dinner. I had this sudden vision of the kind of retrieval process I’d have to undertake to get the tooth back and thus was extremely quick to persuade him that the gap in his mouth was all the supporting evidence the Tooth Fairy needed for his compensation claim.
That night, my three children banded together to submit that claim to the Tooth Fairy – in the form of a elaborate offering including food, drink and a hand-woven blanket made of grass. Mr Justice even carefully wrote a letter using the Official Fairy Alphabet, as laid out in “The Big Book About Fairies”, which made me secretly smile because it made the word “this” looked like “pis”. Gotta love the Official Fairy Alphabet.
Anyway, this was a Big Moment in my seven year-old’s life – especially since it had already been many months since he had been proclaimed the only kid in his class yet to lose a tooth.
“I am so very proud of myself,” Mr Justice said to me, all happy-gappy grins, as I tucked him in that night. He then added: “This is better than wonderful!” And then: “I can’t wait to get that twenty bucks.”
Twenty bucks? It was my second flash of panic that evening. Was that really the going rate for babyteeth these days? Why, that’s 20 teeth x $20 x 3 kids… a whopping $1200 in Tooth Fairy fees and, indeed, the kind of pricing structure that my oral surgeon would be proud to call his own. Zoinks!
I quickly jumped onto twitter, where I was relieved to find out that most people were paying out a more modest $2 per tooth. But how to get Mr Justice to readjust his rather unrealistic expectations?
It turns out that his expectations weren’t exactly that unrealistic: one of his best friends had recently received $20 for a single tooth. Which happened to be the same friend who got a Nintendo Wii from Santa the Christmas Mr Justice got a Matchbox car and an orange. Which also happens to be the very reason why I think there should be some kind of Parenting Charter that sets things like maximum spending amounts for Gifts From Santa and caps tooth fairy rates so that you’re never put in a position where you have to explain to your son why it seems The Tooth Fairy likes Johnny Down The Road more than him.
Anyway, the fact of the matter was that Mr Justice was quietly confident the morning would see him $20 richer. Luckily for me and my bank account, however, I remembered that he was still of an age where a handful of coins looks like much more money than a single plastic note. And so, when he woke the next day to find all the Fairy food and drink all gone and his once-empty glass overflowing with five cent pieces, he was satisfied.
“I hid under my sheet and stayed awake until 2 o’clock in the morning!” he told me, his eyes shining brightly, not knowing I’d found him propped up with three pillows and snoring at 10pm. “I even heard the Tooth Fairy drinking the water! She made a lot of noise and drank for a very very long time.” Which was probably just his father “making space” in the fridge.
And that morning, a wave of fairy-fever washed over all three of my children, who busied themselves making a little house for the fairies who lived in the garden and searched the house for further evidence of fairy visitations in the night. When an empty Milo tin moved across the (wet) kitchen table, pushed by forces unseen, Mr Justice was beside himself with excitement.
“I can’t wait to tell the lads at school!” he exclaimed. And I thought to myself how I hoped the light in his eyes never went out.
And then I thought: how precious and fleeting these Tooth Fairy and Santa years are.
And then I thought: I should definitely draw up that Parenting Charter before a) the next tooth falls and b) Mr Justice begins to comprehend the buying power of the Australian dollar compared to that of the Australian five cent coin. Yes, definitely.