Note to Tooth Fairy: Chill

So my eleven-year-old lost a tooth last week, and when he woke up there were streamers and balloons and a nice crisp $20 bill under his pillow.


There was nothing. He threw away the tooth (pretty gross) and the tooth fairy must have been dreadfully busy and forgot to place a $1 bill under his pillow.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not anti-tooth fairy. When my daughter lost her first tooth–literally lost it, somewhere in my sister-in-law’s Brooklyn row house–we wrote a very long explanation note (with a few teary smears for good measure) and left it under her pillow. She delivered. And then a week later, the Brooklyn-based fairy actually found the tooth and mailed it, an extra dollar, and an equally long explanation note to our home in Maryland. Those New York fairies are tenacious.

How Much is That Smile Worth?
How Much is That Smile Worth?

A visit from the fairy is great–it’s the excess that gets me. So a few years ago, in a letter published in The Washington Post, I wrote the tooth fairy a list of my complaints. Here’s my question today: did she read it? Has anything changed or is the tooth fairy still over the top? Posted the letter below–your tooth fairy experiences welcome!

Dear Tooth Fairy:

I have a bone (or to be anatomically correct, a tooth) to pick with you. You’ve become too erratic and too generous in your tooth-for-treasure exchanges. You’ve got to make some changes.

Things have certainly changed since my childhood. I’d lose a tooth, put it under my pillow and awake to a shiny new quarter, undoubtedly left by some great aunt of yours. Here’s the important part, the part you must take note: That Tooth Fairy left everyone a quarter. We all got the same present in exchange for a tooth. Consistency was the name of the game in the 1970s.

Whereas you, my dear winged sneaky sprite, are not at all consistent. And believe me, your customers talk.

Have you spent any time with a 6- or 7-year-old lately? I don’t mean that quick dash into their bedrooms in the middle of the night, when they’re breathing softly and have never looked so peaceful and adorable.

No, I’m talking about three of them in the minivan on the way to soccer practice. Or eight of them at the bus stop, or — deep breath — 12 of them at a birthday party. These children talk, and nonstop. And their conversations definitely include you. Here’s what I hear from my No. 1 source: that although she has lost seven teeth and received a nice, crisp dollar for each one, she has friends who have done far, far better. She is concerned you might like them better. Or they write better notes. Or something. According to the very reliable 7-year-old rumor mill, here’s the word on what you’re bringing kids these days:

Candy. Boxes, big bars, bags. Have you not considered the irony? You’re the Tooth Fairy. Get it? The word is that you love teeth, gratefully making off with your catch of the evening to build fabulous teeth palaces. As far as building materials, do you want shiny white teeth or brownish decaying teeth? For the love of Pete, please leave the rotting-teeth duties to Santa and the Easter Bunny.

Second: You’re leaving some serious cash, from what I hear. $2 a tooth, $3 a tooth, even $5 a tooth?! It’s not like they lose one tooth, fairy. Supposedly, they lose all 20. Twenty times $5 a tooth is $100! (You are welcome to donate that amount to the upcoming bills for orthodontics. Just put it under my pillow.) I just don’t want you to break the bank, dear Tooth Fairy. Think national debt. I’m sure the Tooth Fairy community does not want to go there.

Okay, here’s my third complaint, and it’s a doozy: presents! The word on the playground is that in exchange for a tooth, someone at school got one of those stuffed animals with a virtual life. Street value $15, actual value — well, let’s not go there. Anyway, that’s serious stuff. Remember my daughter’s note? Asking for a picture of your house and an animal in exchange for her tooth?

Truly, the stuffed animals with virtual lives are a bad idea. Because you bring the kids one, and next thing they’re expecting one for each tooth, and then they’re obsessed with the virtual lives of 20 animals named Hoppy, and, well, it’s a slippery slope, dear Tooth Fairy.

So, my darling creature, Muse of Molars, Tinkerbelle of Teeth, let’s have a mantra. Repeat after me: “A dollar a tooth. A dollar a tooth.” Remember, consistency is the buzzword here. Then my child won’t think you’re playing favorites, you’ll all have more cash on hand and everybody wins. There were some good things about the ’70s, believe me.

Best wishes,

Kristin O’Keefe, Kensington

12 thoughts on “Note to Tooth Fairy: Chill

  1. Melanie Caudron says:

    Loved your original Wagington Post piece and appreciate the update! I’m with you all the way on the tooth fairy!

  2. Candy says:

    Ha! Completely agree. I *think* the Tooth Fairy gave my first born a fiver for her first tooth, but it’s been an assortment of quarters since. Then there was the time she had outpatient surgery on her eye and the breathing tube knocked out her already loose front tooth… The Tooth Fairy apparently enlisted the help of the entire staff and she walked away with envelope full of bills and coins…

    1. Kristin O'Keefe says:

      Candy, IMHO, a hospital surgery is a definite path to a “get out of tooth fairy judgement jail” free card. Surgery is stressful, that’s really sweet.

  3. Rima says:

    I am so ashamed. Don’t ever ask me what we shelled out! Ever!

  4. Patty Steele says:

    just glad I don’t live in the only house where the tooth fairy may forget to show.

  5. Terry Bierbaum says:

    Loved this story!!! I do remember when Anna lost her tooth in New York! It’s a great memory.Great blog Kristin. Hugs

    1. Kristin O'Keefe says:

      Yep, although she’s got some crazy bangs in this picture–it actually appeared as though she cut them off all the way to her scalp..!


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