Hacking the Tooth Fairy

Photo: Philip Brewer under CC BY 2.0
Photo: Philip Brewer under CC BY 2.0

When my oldest son lost his first tooth, he tucked it under his pillow like so many children before him. The Tooth Fairy left a fifty-cent piece in its place. He was thrilled. A couple of weeks later, a boy he knew had his own encounter with the Tooth Fairy and told my son all about it.

“Mom, why did the Tooth Fairy leave Jacob five dollars and only left me fifty cents?” my son asked later.

<insert squealing tires and car crash soundtrack>

FIVE dollars? For a tooth? Color me incredulous. (ABC News reports that the Tooth Fairy left an average of $2.42 in 2012.)

I can’t recall how I responded to my son, but it became apparent very quickly that we’d need another plan. Whatever the Tooth Fairy tucked under the pillow next time needed to be unquantifiable. Kids will be kids, and kids will compare their loot. Gifts with an obvious value, like cold hard American cash, made it very easy for them to use words like better or more. We needed a simple token to celebrate a milestone; something that made the recipient feel special without breaking the bank. Something that didn’t leave them feeling like they’d been outdone by the kid with the overzealous Tooth Fairy.

Ultimately our Tooth Fairy opted for a type of currency that couldn’t be compared to what the other kids found tucked under their pillows: foreign coins. The next time my son lost a tooth, his loot entranced his friends. Was it worth more than what the other kids got? Less? Nobody knew, but it didn’t matter. The foreign coins had an exotic flair that made their actual value unimportant. I was delighted. (Plus, I admit I was thrilled that those coins piqued my son’s interest. Each one sent him off to the map to discover its origins.)

Got kids who are getting ready to lose a tooth? Come on over to the dark side and join us by considering these alternatives:

What does the Tooth Fairy leave under pillows at your house?