Our youngest son lost his last tooth today. There was little fanfare, just him showing me a giant-looking molar resting at the bottom of a plastic sandwich bag. It’s been loose for a few weeks, and he’s been asking everyone to stick their fingers in his mouth and test its wiggliness—a great idea in the middle of cold and flu season.
When he joined our family at age 5, he had already lost six teeth, so the Tooth Fairy wasn’t really a big deal for him. We were told by a friend also from the Democratic Republic of the Congo that it is customary to throw a baby tooth out in an open field and make a wish. We tried that a few years ago for Tooth #7, but it was raining that day and he wanted to stay inside while he tossed the little baby incisor. I have no doubt that tooth is still somewhere in our garage.
Call it Truthful Parenting or Downright Laziness, but we’ve never done much with baby teeth magic, even for our older three kids. For our oldest twin daughters, I tried a couple of times to conjure up a tradition. We placed a Mason jar full of water by their beds and instructed them to drop their little tooth inside, watching it drift to the bottom. Then in the morning, the water was full of purple food coloring and light blue glitter and a coin sporting a baby-toting Sacajawea (aka “Golden Dollar”). But it wasn’t too long before I ran out of golden dollars or I forgot to remove the offered baby tooth, and the Tooth Fairy retired.
There’s something bittersweet about these “last time” moments. The first tooth is cute and tiny, and the last one looks like something an archeologist would dig up and place in an exhibit about Early Man. It’s the same with the first day of kindergarten. They will let you dress them in apple-themed dresses or shirts with a big, yellow school bus emblazoned across the front. Then the last first day of high school comes and you can’t even remember what they were wearing. You just prayed that they drove safely and remembered to slow down in the school zones.
As we put him to bed tonight, our youngest son smiled impishly as he told us he would put his tooth under his pillow and get some money. Now that he’s a street smart 9-year old, he’s just looking for a quick buck. He knows the score about the Tooth Fairy, but he’s not opposed to getting in line when his parents are handing out free money.
Of course, we’ll do it. We’ll play the game, because seeing him do the “Uh-huh…oh yeah…I got money” celebratory dance in the morning will be well worth the price. And parenting is so much about doing our best to start off great, realizing that we often miss the mark and then, hopefully, taking a second to notice when a last time is passing by in front of us.