Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Assisting the Tooth Fairy: 101

girl missing toothMarking a Special Event with Free Letters, Certificates, and Lessons

My six-year-old lost her first baby tooth last month, and I decided then and there to not only go along with the time-honored tradition of leaving cash in trade, but to make this a learning experience with some simple messages and some keepsake crafts. It's not everyday a tooth comes loose, and I wanted her to have as magical a time as she could imagine - as long as I could could do it for free.

Tooth Fairy Tradition
 
The tooth fairy wasn't always a fairy. In fact, in western European lore, the little sprite was once believed to be a mouse. In the 18th-century French fairy tale "La Bonne Petite Souris," a mouse turned into a fairy to help a good queen defeat an evil king by hiding under his pillow and knocking out all of his teeth during the night. I like to think the mouse went on to become the tooth fairy we all know today, helping good children all over the world learn the value of brushing and flossing their teeth. At least, that is what I told my daughter when she asked why I drew a mouse on her tooth-box lid. She smiled politely and said, "Silly Daddy." She then asked how much money she could expect in the morning. As with anything, there's an App for that.

keepsake tooth pillows
The Pillow, A Box, and a Little Dab of Glue
 
I could have hand-sewn a pillow from scratch with patterns easily found on the internet, but I decided I simply didn't have the time nor the skill to pull it off successfully. I instead went with my strengths - re-purposing materials found around the home. Our cat Lucy enjoys a snort of catnip on occasion, so I found one of her old sachets and went to work. I used craft glue and felt cut-outs to place a small 'tooth pocket' on the front, then decided it need something more. We ended up decorating a cardboard box on which the pillow rested during the night with doodles, construction paper, and more glitter. The principle is the same as with 'The Princess and the Pea.' I didn't want my princess to be uncomfortable with a box under her pillow, and also, it allowed for easy access by the Tooth Fairy for the swap. That's called a win-win.

The Tooth Fairy's Note
 
Along with the single dollar bill I left under her pillow, I also wrote a note to my daughter from the Tooth Fairy. There are a few places online, such as toothfairyletter.net where you can download templates to print off as well as some official-looking certificates of achievement and receipts, but I found a simple note written on a small card with purple glitter sprinkled inside really let my daughter know the Tooth Fairy cared. I simply over-flourished my handwriting to disguise it and spritzed on some Joan Collins perfume I found in the back of the medicine cabinet. "Your first tooth is out," the Tooth Fairy wrote. "I'm so proud of you! Don't forget to brush and floss and eat your vegetables. You wouldn't want to get scurvy and ruin your lovely teeth now, would you?" I am big into finding lessons in everyday life, but I may have gone too far this time. "Daddy, what does that mean?" "Well, imagine a pirate's mouth filled with rotten teeth," I said. "A lack of vitamin C will do that." "Gross!"

viking ship woodblock
The Tooth Fairy Will Return
 
For me, the dollar in exchange for the tooth was a one-time special deal, and you can bet that greenback went straight into her piggy bank. Going forward, I plan on trading a quarter per tooth. After all, she's six-years-old. How much cash does a kid need to be happy these days? My youngest hasn't started dropping teeth yet, but my oldest already has three more loose teeth. I look at it this way - the buying of a tooth is a tradition, and not an income source for children. It's a symbol of growing up. It is said that Vikings once paid their children for their teeth, to string about their necks as talismans to protect them in battle. I won't go that far, and besides, I'm not Scandinavian. I will, however, keep these toothy treasures safe in a box for years to come as reminders that my little girls will always be precious in my memory, even when they hit puberty.