My son recently lost his first tooth. He LITERALLY lost it. While he was doing his schoolwork, I noticed the empty space in his top row of teeth. I asked if he noticed a tooth was missing, and he looked at me with pure confusion on his face. Almost instantly, the expression shifted to shock and mild fearfulness. I had to break it down for him: His baby tooth fell out, and soon, a big-boy tooth would come in. As it sank in, he got excited!
We searched the whole house for the tooth to no avail. I’m pretty sure he swallowed it with breakfast. Thinking back, it really was the best case scenario for my low-key, hemophobic boy—no blood, no pain, no tears.
Since we didn’t have the tooth, we didn’t bother to tell him much about the tooth fairy. Less than a month later, he lost another one. We decided it was time to enlighten him about this mystical, ivory pixie. His reaction was honest, innocent, and firm. “I don’t want someone coming in my room when I’m asleep and taking something that is mine.” He went on to say he wanted to keep his tooth, but asked if my husband and I could give him money anyway. Even at 6, my kid’s negotiation efforts are not lacking.
Eventually, my son shared that he believed the tooth fairy was a character, much like Santa and the Easter Bunny. Please don’t mistake his knowing, as somehow having any less of a magical childhood. He has the most creative imagination of anyone I know, but he’s also a realist. To be honest, I feel quite relieved that the tooth fairy doesn’t stop here. Everything is out in the open; there is no sneaking around and no pressure to keep up with folklore.
Surely, my son is not the only child who questioned the existence of the tooth fairy and knew what was real or not, from the get-go. I know there are different versions of the tooth fairy, according to certain cultures. In many Spanish-speaking countries, Ratoncito Pérez (tooth mouse) comes for your tooth and leaves you money. Kids even disable mouse traps so nothing interferes with them getting their tooth money. The Romanian tradition when you lose a tooth is to say a spell and throw it on the roof for crows to take. In Scotland, they believe a fairy mouse purchases the teeth with coins. These fairytale myths, as fun as they may sound, don’t seem all that realistic to me. Maybe I’m a realist, too, and my son gets it from me.
I’m glad the tooth fairy hat is not one I have to wear and keep up with. I realize she is a beloved and harmless white lie, but I don’t think my son is losing anything by not believing. Some may argue that she helps ease a child’s worries with the initial shock of having your tooth fall out. (Let’s be honest, that aspect of growing up IS a bit scary…and bloody.) But for my son, the same easing of worries can be accomplished with a thorough explanation of what’s happening and why. And I don’t need to hide anything from him. It’s a win-win.
What matters most on this topic is whatever makes your child most comfortable. And just like with everything else in parenting, “each kid is different.” For mine, he values my transparency over a whimsical myth, and that feels pretty magical, too. No fairy dust needed.