Tooth Fairy Vision
When the Tooth Fairly resorts to robbery you know the economy has truly gone south.
Of course it’s my fault. After work my wife came upstairs and noticed it; the little wooden box. It’s the official pickup box the Tooth Fairly sent to our family. About half the size of a normal salt shaker, it has a wooden screw top and contained his second lost tooth. I had forgotten to remind my son to put it under his pillow before we both conked out. So, after closing for the night and returning to our apartment, my wife had Tooth Fairy duty. But nothing is simple in the wee hours of the morning when all you want to do is hit your bed. But I’ll get to that in a second.
Sneakiness is an oft-used weapon in the ongoing battle of parent vs. children. Bet you forgot you were born with it. Nature provides all of us with high-level sneakiness at the beginning of our self-absorbed worlds. But somewhere along the way things change. Your sneakiness now is nowhere near its former level. I think parents-to-be should consider a refresher course. You will hone this ability with your small children but why wait? Not sneaky-mean mind you, but the little-white-lie-play-nice-with-others-I-am-smarter-than-my-young-child, type of sneaky. Simply fighting fire with fire.
My daughter at the tender age of eight has a very sharp sneaky. We caught her not brushing her teeth while she brushed her teeth. Into the bathroom she went; the faucet turned on and her electric toothbrush ran. These are normal sounds parents hear when their normal children brush their teeth. But it was too normal this time. My wife’s radar tingled (mine was removed in the military, standard protocol) advising her to peek around the corner into the bathroom. Our daughter danced four feet from the sink making faces in the mirror. Waving her toothbrush like a baton. Silently, mind you. She certainly was not brushing her teeth. We should have suspected something. In the last two years she has had two root canals, five cavities, and three teeth pulled. These are not normal eight year-old teeth.
We lack certain skills. Forensics training comes to mind. I think I’d be good since I’m always able to guess the bad guys in CSI episodes. I already approach situations with my kids like those crime programs on television.
You say you didn’t ACTUALLY eat the chocolate? Well then, you are quite the artist. You decorated your nose and upper lip with chocolate like someone who has eaten it. Wonder what I would see in your tummy if I dissected it?
So — you allege you did IN FACT wash your hands? And you used soap? How come your hands don’t smell like soap and they are still purple?
You are positive you changed your underwear? That’s odd because I don’t see a dirty pair in the hamper. And you certainly wouldn’t have taken the dirty ones and turned them inside out, right?
So, for the record, you are stating you have not now, nor have you ever, eaten cookies in bed at night? That’s weird. Did you know your pillow it makes a crinkly sound like cookie wrappers are hidden in it? Coincidently, did you notice the small pile of cookie crumbs someone planted underneath your stuffed bear?
You are SURE you took a shower? You will swear to this? Well, that’s funny because I see you are in your bathrobe, but it is odd your hair is not wet. At all. And you still have supper on your upper lip.
You are adamant you have not been playing with nor have you touched any of my permanent markers? You have no idea who did? You are absolutely positive about this? Well this is truly strange. I think you would have noticed the person who used them to draw on your face.
I have yet to figure out how to get them to admit guilt like the bad guys on TV though. Lawyer training would help. Faced with the most iron-clad irrefutable evidence, backed by the laws of physics and upper level calculus which leave not a molecule of leeway to dodge some incontrovertible truth, they still use I don’t know. Too smart to say Wasn’t me. Bil Keane was on to something I believe. I don’t know is ambiguous, hard to disprove. Wasn’t me is a little more specific. Easier to disprove. You may have noticed I repeat back to them, in the form of a question, what my kids have said. Like Jeopardy but with a prosecutor’s mentality. Some call it leading the accused. Or corralling. I say you can’t give them any escape routes.
Being bilingual (English and Italian) my kids are quite good at interpreting to their advantage. Makes for interesting conversations. The other day my wife told me I have to quit breaking glasses at the bar.
I responded “I’m a mechanic not a bartender. You don’t like my work you can let me go.”
She told me I knew when that would happen.
I answered, “Yeah. I imagine I’ll get fired when I die.”
My son, sitting at the bar listening to us speak in English, turned to his mother and said in Italian, “So Dad wants to be cremated?”
It is hard work making sure my kids and I are on the same page, but it is in their best interests. Justice is blind, you know. Giggle-snort. Ha! It is also deafer than a post which makes it fairly easy to ignore the 5th, 6th, and 14th amendments in our house. My kids are always guilty until proven innocent. I have a pretty high conviction rate. I figure if I get them on something they didn’t do it’ll make up for what I missed. And I miss quite a lot — I can see it in their eyes. Guilt sticks to them like peanut butter to the palate, the little manipulators. To them any “fact” is fuzzy logic. My kids saying the sky is blue does not in any way imply this is a continuous belief threaded through every moment of their lives. At some point in time they may have believed it, but certainly not the one in question. Particularly if it implies guilt. It’s a state of mind. Probably came from the X chromosome.
But ha-ha Mother Nature has such a sense of humor! The same kid who can’t remember to use toilet paper will be supernaturally focused in situations requiring parental charlatanry. This instantaneous change is impressive. Impressive too how quickly your blood pressure spikes at the same time. Suddenly these little souls have the ability to become waist-high crime scene detectives, developing visual and auditory acuity which borders precognition. My blood pressure stayed quite low, this time. I was sleeping.
So my wife removed the tooth from the box and grabbed some change. With the box in one hand and the money in the other, into the kid’s room she went. Ever so carefully she gently slid the box under the pillow of his angelic, sleeping face. With money in the other hand she started to follow suit. She was intensely quiet with ninja-like concentration. As best as she could do, anyway.
With ninja-like alertness my son opened his eyes and asked, “Where is my tooth?”
I would have paid a great deal of money to see my wife’s face at that moment. Imagine having to fire ninety nine percent of the synapses in your head from a dead stop. That’s like a defibrillator to the head. This is a power rivaling, I don’t know . . . the space shuttle at take-off? Imagine how you’d explain the Tooth Fairy’s property in your hand at a moment’s notice. Difficult to pull off during the day. Extra challenging at half past midnight when you are half awake.
She sputtered “Uuumm . . . , here it is honey I was . . . just, ah . . . checking, on it for you. Yeah. That’s all I was doing.”
She slid into her calming mommy voice, often used with these miniature two-legged sacks of unpredictability. Making sure she did not shake it, she carefully showed him the empty box, keeping it out of his reach. The devil is in the details and kids have devil senses. Better than any CSI actor. That’s impressive if you think about it. Actors have scripts — they know the future. I mean, duh. Kids do it on the fly, in real time and they do it with an ease which seems down-right-practiced. They’re good. Good enough to make you lose several layers of enamel as you grind your teeth.
My wife went back into our room and sat on the couch, figuring he’d fall back asleep. Ten minutes later, as she stood up, he shifted in bed. She heard the little box as it bounced off the floor. I know my son so I can say with absolute certainty he had been soundly sleeping. Never seen anyone fall asleep as fast or sleep so soundly as he does. I could carry him around upside down by his ankles dragging his knuckles on the floor and my kid would still snore. But, somehow he went from deep REM stage 4 sleep to full consciousness in a millisecond. Physically, I cannot do that. My cerebellum would burst. I bet if you had been standing in his room you’d have heard a low popping sound as billions of brain cells in his head lit up. I’m sure his eyeballs shed light. He realized the sound the box made as it hit the floor was missing something. He got out of bed to investigate, that pint-sized Sherlock. He opened the box and the tooth was gone. He checked under his pillow and found no money. What else could he have deduced?
“Mommy! The Tooth Fairy stole my tooth!”
Oromandibular dystonia. Sounds exotic, doesn’t it? Involuntary clenching of the jaws for us non-medical types. I believe this is what affected my wife. By the way, you will not find this situation covered in Parenting for Dummies. Not the 1995 edition anyway. Oromandibular dystonia is not anywhere in the book. Sure, they cover first aid and the odd medical symptoms for kids, but phhhht. I thought this book was for dummies. That’s how my wife felt, her jaw all clench-y and whatnot. But overall she’s lucky. There’s such little space between my dummy moments that from certain angles it appears one continuous length of time. I am not dumb about this; kids have zero tolerance for unscrupulous fairies.
“Well, um . . . , you probably woke up and scared her away honey. Yeah. Yeah that’s probably what happened. You know she is shy and doesn’t like people to see her so probably, just as she got your tooth you woke up, scaring her. She didn’t want you to see her and didn’t have time to put the money under your pillow and only got half the job done. She will come back, but you have to go to sleep, pumpkin.”
Smooooth. I admit my wife is pretty good. But kids can detect that low-key whine in an adult’s voice. You know, that whine of trying to believe what they are saying and hoping the pint-sized listener will buy it too. I also did not know the Tooth Fairy was female. Who am I to argue? Some parents handle these sparring matches with their kids like the best of prize fighters; dodge and weave, dodge and weave. I’m a speed bag: the hits aren’t hard but they keep coming and coming. Hard to figure out what your next move should be when you can’t even move out of the way.
He wasn’t buying it. She broke out her half-octave-higher calm and soothing mommy voice; the one with subtle undertones of possible violence in his future. He reluctantly went to bed; she returned to the couch to wait. She didn’t wait long. You might think kids, being unencumbered with many of the stresses of adult life or because of their supposed “innocence” generally sleep soundly. Or, due to short attention spans, forget everything after a second and fall asleep. Evidently not. Moral dilemmas create inner turmoil at any age.
She heard him tossing and turning. Mumbling to himself in bed. I’m no psychologist but talking to yourself at age six can’t be a good sign. Maybe he thought this was a big misunderstanding. Maybe he tried to convince himself he did nothing wrong. I can’t say. Lunatic minds and small children are not models of rational thought. He certainly couldn’t stay in bed. He got up to get a drink. Then to use the bathroom. Another to discuss the situation with his mother. My wife had the coins under a pillow right next to her. Ready and waiting. This is where he tried to sit every time he came in. Finally my son had to unburden himself. Coincidently this was when my wife’s patience ran out.
He went directly to his mother and stood, hands on his hips and seriousness in his eyes. He asked “Mommy, does the Tooth Fairy really know everything?”
This seems innocent enough, doesn’t it? The wonder a small child has about a beloved childhood figure who, for one reason or another, has been caught in an embarrassing and awkward situation. In writing this phrase though, we can’t hear the tone of his voice or even the inflection he used. We cannot witness gestures or any facial expressions he may have employed. These subtle visual and auditory clues add significance and substance to the intended meaning of verbal statements. They greatly change what is inferred. We missed a lot.
My wife heard “Mommy, does the Tooth Fairy have her head up her ass?”
I can’t say I blame the poor fellow, but I’m a jaded adult. Not only were the Tooth Fairy’s ethics being questioned but also her intelligence. Character assassination of imaginary folk from a six year old at one in the morning must be a bitter pill to swallow. I think she took it personally.
“GO TO BED OR THE TOOTH FAIRY WILL NOT COME BACK!”
She had more patience than I. On a completely related note, this is how therapists make their money. At such a tender age, these episodes will be later cashed in for several hundred-dollar therapist sessions. Poor little neurotic. Maybe my son will need therapy too.
The reputation of the Tooth Fairy was restored, eventually. Be nice to write that all it took was bit of magic, sprinkled with love and tenderness. Yeah right. Good-old fashioned intimidation and slight-of-hand work faster. Threatening my son to bed she hid the money in her left hand. Stroking his hair with her right hand she slipped the coins under his pillow with her left. His sleepy self was none the wiser. The ol’ bait and switch — pretty sneaky for my normally conscientious wife. Oh, the depths to which one will lower themselves in the face of adversity.
I blame the Tooth Fairy.