What's so bad about the tooth fairy?
I was recently in a playground when a boy of six or seven ran up to me and proudly wiggled a top front tooth and said it was almost ready to be pulled out.
"Oh, how lovely," I said. "Remember to put it under your pillow so the Tooth Fairy can find it."
His mum started frantically flapping her hands at me behind his back and pulling an odd face and at first I thought she was asking me if I wanted a flat white from the kiosk, so I continued.
"Just make sure you are in bed nice and early because the Tooth Fairy never comes when little boys are still awake."
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At that point the mum dragged the boy away and hissed over his shoulder at me: "Shhh, enough about the Tooth Fairy. We don't do the Tooth Fairy in our house, it's far too expensive. Thanks for NOTHING."
I also didn't get my coffee.
I was so shocked to learn there was a mum out there who had banished the Tooth Fairy that I asked some of my "older" mum friends (who have children of the tooth-losing age) and they backed up my worst fear: that the Tooth Fairy had hiked her prize money up so much that many parents were opting out of the tradition and some, like the lady in the park, were flatly denying her existence to their children.
And the figures don't lie. In a recent study of 1000 parents conducted by natural care brand Jack N' Jill Kids, some mums and dads reported giving up to $40 per tooth - a leap from the average of 91 cents per tooth those parents themselves received as kids.
It got me thinking about what I will do when my three little boys are at an age when they start wiggling loose teeth with their tongues. Would I tell them about the Tooth Fairy? Would she leave a gold coin for a tooth? Or something a little higher like a $5 or $10 note?
I tried to remember the amount of money the tooth fairy had left me as a child, but I couldn't. Instead I remembered the handwritten notes on bits of lined paper from a reporter's notebook the Tooth Fairy would leave for me on my bedside table.
Calling herself "Tabitha the Tooth Fairy", she would thank me for my tooth, ask how I was going in school and tell me she would say hello to Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny the next time she saw them.
I lost a lot of teeth, and so there were a lot of notes, and as I grew older I began to recognise the handwriting as that of my father's, the paper ripped out of one of the shorthand notepads he used in his work as a journalist.
I can remember not being upset or disappointed to find out the Tooth Fairy (and almost certainly Santa) was not real. Instead I was filled with a warm happiness in knowing my father was going to such elaborate lengths to create a little bit of magic in our home.
Do all mums or dads need to go to so much effort for a tooth? Probably not. I would have been equally as delighted if Dad had just slipped a $1 coin under my pillow while I slept for me to find in the morning – it was the act of creating something for me to believe in that I loved.
I hope parents are still doing that and ignoring the pressure to up the Tooth Fairy's gifting amount and sticking to a gold coin and maybe a chocolate bar for the big front teeth (although I advise not to leave that under the pillow!)
A Stuff.co.nz poll shows most parents agree, with the majority saying the Tooth Fairy leaves a gold coin in their house. Only 6 per cent of parents who took the poll said the Tooth Fairy skips their house.
To those parents who have expunged the Tooth Fairy I can only ask you to think of that poor boy I came across in the playground who accidentally learned from me that there was a Tooth Fairy, that she's not real anyway, and that either way his mum had denied him the magic of existence, pretend or otherwise.
I reckon you'd give all the gold coins in the world not to see a look of disappointment like that.