Monday, March 30, 2009

Recession-proofing the Tooth Fairy

I’m no economist, but from a purely elementary standpoint, the Tooth Fairy needs a more sound business plan. With no obvious income, her job requires her to dole out money nightly, presumably in various forms of currency. She likely has to pay quite a bit in bail, as well, with all that breaking and entering.

She also needs a professional organizer. Around the Sullivan house, she often forgets to deliver payments the first night my kids leave teeth out for her. Although she pays extra after forgetting a pickup, the kids still think she is cheap. With them, she seems to believe that $1 a tooth is enough (she does leave extra if a tooth extraction involved anesthesia or a fist fight).

By comparison, some of my children’s friends receive $1 for the first tooth, $2 for the second tooth, and so forth for a grand total of around $300, including wisdom teeth.

Until this year, I had never considered how the economy might impact the Tooth Fairy. But a spate of recession-time tooth loss in our house has me thinking that the Tooth Fairy may, indeed, be recession-proof.

When my 10-year-old son lost his first bicuspid, he woke up the next morning telling us that the "Tooth Fairy" (he mimed the quote marks) paid him an astounding $10. I fumed, wishing she’d return to her old ways.

At a time when I’m trying to teach my kids the value of money by showing them how to spend on needs, not wants, why does this squandering fairy have to provide such a poor example? Does she really need the teeth?

A few days later my son lost a second bicuspid. This time, the "Tooth Fairy" forgot to come.

In the morning I explained to my amused son that the "Tooth Fairy" might be feeling the recession. I suggested he write her a note. Maybe, I pleaded, he should write that he would appreciate whatever she could offer.

He played along and did just that. Trouble is, he printed the "Tooth Fairy’s" name in big italics with quotation marks around the words. When my husband saw the letter, he said, “Well! I guess it looks like we’re done with the Tooth Fairy!”

My son received another $10 for that tooth. Frustrated at my child's new spending power, I wondered if this was the Tooth Fairy's version of an economic stimulus package.

Five days later he lost a third bicuspid. Descending the stairs the morning after leaving out his tooth, he proclaimed, “Guess what? The Tooth Fairy (again miming quote marks) didn’t come again!”

A loud sucking sound filled my head as I jumped into emergency-action mode.

“Tell you what. I’ll front the 'Tooth Fairy' the money,” I said, pulling out my wallet (and miming quote marks). “But you have to write her a note saying she owes me.”

“OK...?” he said, grinning. “And $20 will be enough, because she didn’t leave extra the last time she forgot!”

“Twenty dollars? Not in this economy!” I laughed and handed him a fair amount.

With a glint in his eye and a raise of his brow, my son slowly slid the cash from my hand, said “Thanks, Mom,” and turned away with a smile.

I suppose the magicians of our youth give to each person what they think that person truly needs. If so, then receiving $1 for most teeth must be a positive indicator.

Likewise, if the "Tooth Fairy" never repays me, I’ll be reminded, yet again, how blessed I am.

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