It is 10:00 pm and I am ransacking the closet in search of glitter glue. My husband is pawing through our change jar, looking for the foreign coins he is sure he spotted there recently. What happened to instigate this bizarre late-night mission?
It’s Tooth Fairy Time!
Between you and me, I don’t even think our youngest (8) believes in the Tooth Fairy anymore. These days, he hands over his discarded teeth with a “sure, lady the fairy will get it” look. Wink, wink, nudge, nudge.
But so long as he keeps loosing teeth, we will keep shoving sparkly pesos under his pillow. It is important to note that my children have never received US currency for their teeth. From Canadian dimes found in parking lots to rupees donated by a world-traveling grandparent, this money is meant to be treasured—not spent. It’s not that our Tooth Fairy is stingy; he’s just interested in bringing the only most delightful coins to our sleeping snagglepuss… or so we say.
And, yes, our tooth fairy is male. And a rat, but that’s another post.
So, when I read this article saying that children in New York average $13 PER TOOTH, I was stymied. I began to ask around—how much do NC kids bring in? Surely, it must be lower than this!
“Twenty dollars for the first tooth,” one mom told me, “five for every tooth after that.” One dad confessed that his daughter was able to buy her own GoldieBlox kit (a $30 toy) with the proceeds from her first three teeth. I stand flabbergasted. These kids are making a killing. For a full set of twenty teeth—they were looking at an average of $100- 200!
Since 2009, the NC minimum wage has held steady at $7.25/hour. It would take many parents nearly two full days work to come up with the kind of money these families are dishing out– and that’s not considering rent, bills, and food monies that take priority over under-pillow presents.
Those high-rolling Tooth Fairies were the exception, though. In my small and completely unscientific survey, most families ranged between fifty cents and two dollars a tooth. This is below the average expenditure of $4.36, according to the Tooth Fairy Poll.
In the child’s world of make-believe characters, the Tooth Fairy is the most democratic of them all. S/he does not care about your gender, religion, or finances. If you have teeth, s/he’ll do business with you. As parents, we are always scrutinizing our actions, holding ourselves to unreasonable standards and experiencing guilt over what we are (or are not) doing that will impact our children later on. We do what we can, on what we can afford, and hope that it is good enough to get us through.
Tonight, I take a gold coin with the number “100” stamped proudly across the back, add a little glitter to make it magical and slip it under my son’s pillow while he pretends to be asleep. He cannot spend it, and neither of us mind. Our fairy trades treasures, not money, for teeth.
>>Leanne Simon is a mother, writer, and social justice worker. She holds degrees in Child Development and Spanish from NCCU, and is currently pursuing a Masters in Peace and Conflict Studies at UNC-G.