We were in a hotel dining area when it happened. After a rare vacation, we were on our way from Florida to Texas, and our daughter, who'd been fiddling with a lower incisor for months, bit into a carrot and went wide-eyed. From what she'd understood about the tooth fairy, money had just fallen out of her mouth. This was a BFD. I grabbed a cup to stash her tooth in until bedtime and then left her in the care of my husband while I ran outside to call my in-laws. Their granddaughter had lost a tooth. Stop the presses! They were thrilled.
I headed back inside the hotel lobby and what I found was pandemonium. My husband, digging through trash bags and practically hissing at tourists as they dumped half-eaten Belgian waffles into the trash can. A mortified looking concierge. My daughter in tears. I didn't have to ask what happened, but I did anyway.
"Daddy threw my tooth away!" My daughter wailed. My husband looked miserable. He said nothing and continued to rummage through the foul detritus that only a highway-adjacent Holiday Inn Express can produce. Finally the daylight began to fade and I put a hand on his shoulder.
"It's over," I said, wiping a schmear of what might have been strawberry compote or human blood from his cheek. He hung his head. After explaining to my daughter that the tooth fairy knew all about accidentally lost teeth and would make her rounds anyway, she calmed down and started whistling through her tooth gap. After she fell asleep, my husband and I had a whispered conversation.
"I'm going to make this right," he vowed, head held high. I didn't know what he was talking about until the next morning.
I woke to my daughter shouting about the tooth fairy and waving two bills in the air. I smiled sleepily. My husband must have slipped her two dollars out of guilt. "That's nice, honey," I said, ready to roll back over. Then something caught my eye. I could make out a number on one of the bills. Was that a two? And a zero?
"Forty dollars?" I shouted, and swore some more, dragging my husband out of bed and into the bathroom, to whisper-fight with him and find out what on Earth would possess him to fork over half of our grocery bill for a week to a 6-year-old.
"What did you do?"
"I felt so bad," he hissed. "I threw her tooth out."
"Two months," I promised, "She'll lose another tooth, and thou will see what thou hast wrought." He told me to quit being dramatic and rolled his eyes.
My husband had vastly inflated the going rate for teeth in the house. My daughter lost another tooth and looked skeptically at the quarters, insisting that she was sure the tooth fairy would make it right. My husband, ever the sucker, left a fiver under her pillow. More swearing from me. The next tooth after that was unaccompanied by the usual sweet missive my daughter wrote and only came with a warning: "I'm watching you."
This had to stop. We went for months without another tooth lost and then, this summer, she popped another one. My husband was away for work and I decided to put an end to the madness. Fifty cents. Sure, it was low by today's rates, but given previous payouts, I considered it more than fair.
The next morning my daughter came to me with a confession. She knew that there was no such thing as the tooth fairy. I assumed that I'd been too stingy and the jig was up, but she told me she had always suspected, ever since that first night. She apologized and offered to fork over her allowance for a few months to make up for her long con. I hugged her and told her not to worry about it but not to tell her friends what she knew. She nestled against my shoulder all snuggly and sweet.
"Don't tell Daddy I know, OK? He might get sad."
I gave her a squeeze. "Plus," she whispered into my shoulder, "I'm saving up for LEGOs."
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