Girl-child is at that age when there are gaping holes in her head – specifically where her two upper front teeth use to be. To date, I believe she has lost six teeth and has thus far been open to the possibility of a rather eclectic tooth fairy leaving various bits of currency from around the world under her pillow at night. Not wanting to have her teeth taken away, Reina has carefully crafted a handwritten note each time asking said fairy to kindly leave her tooth behind. So far, her wish has been granted.
Personally, I don’t believe the tooth fairy exists but I understand that children have this thing called – what’s the word? – imagination. Since we have a "no lies" policy when it comes to raising our children, I have tread carefully around this subject.
When my daughter broached the topic of the tooth fairy, I took a page from Neil deGrasse Tyson, host of Star Talk Radio and astrophysicist, when he discussed the subject with his kids. I said, “I have never seen a fairy in our home, but I have heard others speak of a tooth fairy who, if you leave your tooth under your pillow at night, will exchange it for money.”
I then asked girl-child for her thoughts and this led to a discussion of how a tooth fairy would get into homes, visit so many homes in a night (perhaps there is more than one), and what a tooth fairy would do with all the teeth. The great thing about this approach is that it lets her explore reasons for and against belief in the tooth fairy and to consider the logistical problems a tooth fairy must encounter, if they exist. Call it a mental exercise of mythical proportions.
On a recent visit to my favorite dental hygienist, Lynn Deng, at Beijing United Family Hospital, I asked if there was similar lore in Chinese culture. She told me that when she was a child, kids were told to take their bottom teeth and throw them on top of the roof. That way, their permanent bottom teeth would grow up.
For teeth that fell out from the top of her mouth, her parents told her to bury them in the ground so that the top teeth would grow down. Although Lynn thinks this was a common tale for kids of her generation, she does not think it is repeated much anymore.
After all, how would you throw a tooth on top of a 30-story apartment building? Perhaps that’s what the tooth fairy has been up to all along.
Photos courtesy of sleepyneko