Are tooth fairy rates rising or not? Depends on what's in your wallet

how much to pay from tooth fairyI have, as a parent and tooth fairy, been a victim of late bedtimes. By the time I've gotten my now-seven-year-old and his little brothers to sleep on the nights he's lost a tooth, then had time to decompress and think about it, it's been far too late to go out and get change.

While some other parents I know pull out their tooth fairy rule book (look under "e" for "excuses") and find that obscure caveat about the fairy's schedule -- any teeth discovered to have been lost after 5 p.m. will have to wait for payment until the following evening -- I simply rifle through my wallet and the bottoms of my bags and pockets until I assemble a serviceable assortment of coins and dollars.

I get why some parents believe there has been all boom, no bust in the tooth fairy market. There was that time, of course, when I was forced to slip a $5 bill under the pillow, as that was all I had and no way was I going to walk to the nearest 24-hour grocery store at 10:30 p.m. to get something smaller. The tooth fairy, I told Everett, sometimes gave special bonuses for extremely difficult tooth-losing circumstances. (It's nice to know I'm not the only one who occasionally needs change or offers bonuses.) The next time around, the tooth fairy gave a $2 bill. After that? A wrinkled up dollar and two quarters, but not until the second day; I was completely broke and, it seemed, the tooth fairy hadn't realized the tooth had been lost, placed as it was under the "incorrect" pillow of the two pillows on the bed that night.

Storms over Greenland and other excuses
It's a good thing I'm a writer and am good at thinking things up. But I'm not alone. Tales of the tooth fairy among my friends always turn up delightful excuses and nearly obscene truth-stretching meant at preserving the artifice of magic.

I have found many co-conspirators who have artfully palmed some money and then "found" it while helping their child search the bed for missing cash. A local friend writes, "Our tooth fairy is very busy, a bit forgetful and gets flustered with all the countries she has to visit in one night. She often leaves coins from other countries by mistake. She always includes a 50-cent piece or dollar coin, but the coins from far away are always the most prized ..."

Another tooth fairy
isn't able to make it every night, there is so much going on: In that case, she leaves a note "
explaining that there was a storm front over Greenland and she tried her best ... or she was sick and the Easter bunny was covering for her and messed up ..."

My son loves the idea of the tooth fairy so much, he creates his very own cognitive dissonance. One day he found where I'd stashed the second tooth he'd lost after I'd picked it up from his pillow. (Do you just throw them away? I can't!) This was, he explained, actually the first tooth he'd lost: It had been so precious, he'd carried it around with him all afternoon, until it was lost somewhere in the backyard, never to be found again. He mourned -- he'd been so excited about the potential money he was going to get. After he found my tooth stash, he placed the "lost" tooth under his pillow; only I knew this was that tooth's second time around. In order to maintain the illusion that fairies do, after all, spirit away the teeth when they bring cash, the tooth fairy obligingly left him a very special payment, because of that accrued interest, you know.

For parents who think of everything, the "2th Fairy"
Whenever there's a coffee hour discussion, a comment thread or Facebook conversation among three or more parents, there's always one parent who looks at the others a little down her nose (or perhaps she uses italics: Really?) and says that, in order to avoid giving the tooth fairy a bad rap for losing her way in the dark or forever coming with odd bits of money, she always has a shiny and sensible coin available. For some, that's "a shiny new quarter for every tooth," and to top it off, it's a different state's quarter than the rest of the collection. For others, it's a dollar or large half-dollar coin stashed away specifically for the purpose. "We do the gold Sacajawea dollars, too,' says one mother I know. "I use silver polish to give them a magical gleam." O.K., I'll admit that I'm resentful of these mamas' abilities to plan ahead.

But it's kind of hard to be resentful of the mama who developed the "2th fairy" (TWOth fairy ... get it?). Puns always have me grinning. She leaves $2.82 for every tooth. Spendy, yes, but that's "two dollars, two quarters, two dimes, two nickels, and two pennies." I find that adorable, even if maddeningly well-prepared.

Magic is always around you (at least under your pillow)
My reservations about the people-who-prepare melt away, however, when faced with a story from my friend, a professional photographer for whom art is clearly everywhere in her life. She recently commented on a blogpost, saying, "I started a really fun tradition, when my son was only three and lost a tooth to an accident. we held on to it, placed it carefully under his pillow that night, and told him he could ask the tooth fairy three questions about her magic. I would then transcript onto a note for the tooth fairy, which she would reply to and share some of her secrets, leaving little tokens for him ... glittery purple pieces of her magic dress, shells from far away lands, once an old atlas of the world ... good cheesy things. My mom used to read me a story that told how the tooth fairy built her castle from all the gleaming, healthy teeth from children, and that those with cavities made up the dungeon ... So when he loses his teeth, he'll say things like, "oh, that is DEFINITELY making a wall in that castle" and his questions to her, as he's grown, have been things like, "how do you hold the teeth together for the walls?" (toothpaste, of course)."

Don't forget your glasses
If you're hearing stories from your child that have you fearing the runaway inflation that is parenting today, it's important to remember that tooth fairy inflation is usually so much more accident than economic force. As one mother says, "One night, while half asleep, I realized that the Tooth Fairy had completely forgotten to swap the tooth for the cash (typically $1). I crawled out of bed, did NOT put on my (much needed) glasses, pulled what I thought was a $1 bill out of my wallet, did the swap, and fell back into bed. Fast forward to the next morning .... I was awoken by a VERY excited little girl who was thrilled to show me the $20 bill the Tooth Fairy had left. Oops ... the moral of the story: Tooth Fairy ALWAYS needs to wear her glasses."

Learn from us, gentle mothers and fathers. If your little one comes home from kindergarten eager to lose a tooth so she, too, will get $20, don't panic and decide it's now time to ask for that raise. Just get on one knee, and tell the story of the tooth fairy with the terrible eyesight.
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