The Seventy-Ninth Chart

April 19, 2013

By Ekta R. Garg

In the last year Six has lost several teeth, and the Tooth Fairy has visited her and dutifully rewarded her with 50 cents per tooth.

Don’t think I haven’t heard complaints about how much she gets.  My daughter has informed me several times that other people get more or that she thinks 50 cents doesn’t really amount to much.  I give her some version of the “Too bad” speech and move on.

But when the Tooth Fairy dropped the ball this past Sunday, I couldn’t give a speech on anything.  To be fair, Six took the entire situation pretty well.  And she didn’t even balk at the 50 cents.  But that’s probably because the whole thing mystified her enough to distract her from the amount she got for her baby tooth.

What happened was this.

The tooth to the right of the two lower teeth had hung by a corner for a couple of weeks now, and Six had started to get impatient for it to fall on its own.  Normally one to show some inhibition in such matters, on Sunday she decided she’d had enough.  The extra-loose tooth had made it difficult for her to eat, and when she talked she kept touching her tongue to it so that it felt like it had fallen out.  In the last few days before Sunday she came to me several times asking whether it had come out yet because she kept getting the sensation that it had.

“I’m going to pull it out,” she declared late Sunday afternoon.

She marched upstairs to the bathroom she shares with her sister, and Four followed with a great deal of excitement.  A tooth-pulling definitely trumped Legos and coloring any day.  I thought for a minute about following them upstairs, but I changed my mind and decided to let Six take the initiative on the matter.  It would give her a boost of confidence, I felt, for bigger things in the future.

I have to help my daughters build mountains of self-esteem with pebbles of encouragement.

I heard the girls chattering away in the bathroom, and then a few moments later Four rushed downstairs and trotted to the dining table.

“Di-Di needs a napkin,” she said, grabbing one from the table for her big sister.  The girls had been playing doctor and patient before Six decided to pull out her tooth, so Four declared on her way up the stairs that she would be conducting a physical and wanted to check Six’s legs at some point during the tooth-pulling to make sure they were okay.

What can I say, she’s four.

After about five minutes, Six called out triumphantly from the bathroom.

She came downstairs about 30 seconds later holding her tooth in the napkin and grinning.  More than the relief of finally having the silly tooth out, I saw triumph in her face.  Triumph bordered by the slightest bit of satisfaction.

I took the tooth and soaked it in a little cup of water, the same routine I’ve followed every time Six loses a tooth.  Soaking the tooth for an hour or so cleans off any extra blood without worrying about losing it down the drain.  After dinner I cleaned up the kitchen and dried off the tooth.  I took it upstairs and when I went to bid Six a good night I put her tooth in the special tooth treasure chest she has for Tooth Fairy visits.  We went through our nightly good night routine, and as I left her room I reminded myself that after I brought my husband back from the airport that night I would have to take the tooth and replace it with 50 cents.

I’m sure you know where this is going: I forgot.

I forgot completely, and I didn’t remember her tooth until the next morning when I went to wake Six up for school.  As I stroked her hair in the morning and wished her a good Monday morning, the entire thing came rushing back to me.  I didn’t take Six’s tooth and leave her the Tooth Fairy’s reward.

Normally one to need a few extra minutes in the morning, Six got out of bed and ran to the little tooth treasure chest right away.  She picked up the treasure chest, shook it, heard her tooth rattling around, and opened it.  She looked confused, and immediately began to wonder aloud what had happened.  Why didn’t the Tooth Fairy take her tooth, she asked.

I gave her a weak “I don’t know” in response, but her mind had begun churning out possible reasons and she didn’t really pay attention to me.  She voiced the theory that we should have left the treasure chest open.  Maybe the Tooth Fairy couldn’t see the tooth in the dark, she said.  We talked about it as we got ready for school, and she looked at me before heading down the stairs.

“Do you think I could write the Tooth Fairy a note and ask her what happened?”

The best thing about parenting is that when you do it long enough, you learn to improvise.  With enough parenting practice you can improvise within a matter of minutes.  That morning, before we got in the car for school, I’d decided on a plan.  When Six asked if she could write the Tooth Fairy a note, I’d already thought of writing a note from the Tooth Fairy to her that night.

Great minds, I guess.

So she dashed off a note before we left for school, and when I came home I took the note upstairs to my bedroom.  Later that night I pulled out a fresh piece of paper and wrote her a note congratulating her on losing the latest tooth.

“I’m sorry for the late pick-up of your tooth,” I wrote.  “I’m training a new assistant, and she got a little mixed up on the directions to your house.”

That was actually the second note I wrote.  I started one that had something to do with the Tooth Fairy having to help the Easter Bunny, but I wrote too big on the paper and ran out of room (so much for disguising my handwriting.)  By the time I got to the bottom of the paper, I figured involving the Easter Bunny would have been a bit of a stretch anyway.  Easter was weeks ago, and in child-speak a couple of weeks equates to at least three or four months.

When I finished the second note I made sure to take Six’s tooth, put the note on her dressing table, quietly dropped four dimes and two nickels onto the note, and left the room.

On Tuesday morning Six woke up and made another dash to her dressing table.

“Hey, she wrote me back!” she said in amazement.  She showed me the note, and I listened as she read it aloud.  When she got to the part about the assistant getting mixed up, Six looked at me.

“I hope the assistant didn’t get into too much trouble for mixing up the directions,” I couldn’t help saying for added dramatic effect.

Six nodded, and her expression told me that she had some sympathy for the poor disorganized assistant.  Never mind that the assistant isn’t real.  Neither, for that matter, is the Tooth Fairy.  But I guess that doesn’t matter.  Because when Six saw the 50 cents, for once she didn’t complain about the amount.  She let her sister hold the coins and the girls put them in their Hello Kitty bank together.  Then they got ready for school, and Six told me before she got out of the car that she couldn’t wait to tell her friends that the Tooth Fairy has an assistant.

Her excitement and enthusiasm—and her sympathy for the fictional assistant—made up for the entire episode from Sunday.  It showed me that I’m getting the hang of the whole improv thing.   And maybe—just maybe—I might be getting a hang of the parenting thing too.

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