1. Keeping your mouth shut on the sidelines of youth sporting events.
2. Not showing your surprise when they figure something out on their own.
3. Sharing your phone.
4. Not vomiting when they vomit.
5. Giving up and tying their shoes for them for the rest of their lives.
6. Timing when to help a child who’s stuck on a word.
10. Not laughing
11. Getting Tooth Fairy-ed
I was dozing off when Sarah snapped, “Jared! Tooth Fairy!” I launched upward and forward as if I might see one. Sarah maintained a rhythmic evening brush of her hair while she multitasked some focus to the urgent matter.
"Jared. We’ve got to do the Tooth Fairy!”
This is how the Tooth Fairy works. A kid loses a tooth. You all celebrate. He puts it under his pillow, therefore hiding the entire incident from memory. Blissfully cleansed of your duty to be a fantastical cash-yielding flutterbug, you shut down everything except your desire to sleep. Hopefully, somewhere between then and the next morning you'll remember your obligation to the annals of parenthood and dentistry. One time we didn't. Quin came in and said the tooth fairy had forgotten him. I had been asleep when the allegation was made. Sarah reached into my soft, wispy slumber. Like God's hand coming down on a warm summer day, she ripped me into the cold truth: we were terrible people.
For your reference, we managed to turn things around by saying that maybe the Tooth Fairy was just late on her rounds. It's the kind of thing you sputter while looking at your significant other for approval. The motion nodded forward, Sarah distracted with breakfast while I went to work on the cash. Things worked out, but like every time with the Tooth Fairy, or any of our concocted gift-giving poltergeists, we complained that it's even a thing.
Why IS it a thing? We tell kids not to lie or let strangers in the house and then several times a year we're culturally mandated to fake a home invasion. We piece together the weirdest black-magic mosaic of traditions to ensure that we're creeping around the house at midnight, Easter being the biggest struggle because only like three religious scholars actually know when it is. But my mom has a rejoinder. It's pretty good I think. She's dead, but before she went I had this conversation with her about how she never gave up on Santa Claus even long after all of her children had become jaded little shits. She got comfortable in her chair and told me how it wasn't the kids who needed to believe in Santa. It was the adults. Santa, the Bunny, the Tooth Fairy; they are all necessary for any living, breathing person to really do something great for the children. Adults, she went on, somehow believe more in themselves when imbued with the powers of our holiday heroes. She went on to explain how hard she'd work just to make Christmas right, Easter more enjoyable and, of course, the blood-letting a of a tooth a less terrifying occasion.
"Without Santa, none of us would do that," she finished in a brilliant soliloquy of elder wisdom.
"So your point is that without it, we wouldn't have to work so hard?" I added like a young, cynical prick would
So 14 years later I'm scrambling to find change to ferry unto our son. I had nothing. It's the age of credit, debit and plastic. I wondered if I could put a Barnes and Noble card with around 3 dollars under the pillow. Approximately 1/4 of a book is probably not a good gift but, honestly, we're getting a tooth in return. At what other point in your life would you accept a freshly-extracted tooth for money? This is what parenthood does to you. This is the addictive elixir of our benevolent ghosts.
"Um, Beast, I only have a ten-dollar bill," I explained to my wife. Her nickname is Beast or sometimes Tiny Beast. Also Tiner, Tiny, Itsy, Tinesto, Honus, and Dr. B.
"That's too much."
"I know. I was thinking maybe we leave a note that it's good for the next four teeth."
Well practiced in pointing out my flaws with humor, she quickly mimicked an evil Tooth Fairy.
"You owe me more teeth, little boy," she said with a cackle.
That maybe wasn't the best idea. But I wanted to sleep so badly. I would have put a hundred dollar bill under his pillow with no strings attached. I actually thought maybe I could put a credit card with a note about a spending limit. This is how we go into debt. Dreaming. The America Dream, too many dreams or, in this special case, dreaming of dreaming.
Sarah came back with some change from Eliot's piggy bank. "Are we stealing from the children?" I asked. The answer is yes but no. I mean we most likely gave her the money. And what about room and board? Children are terrible roommates. OK OK YES we were stealing from the kids. But it was to give back to the kids. I'm sure the Trumps have done it and they're leading the world.
So we didn't steal. Besides, Eliot's change would have been sloppy. He'd get an envelope with pennies and nickels and worry if we were going to make the mortgage.
There is the two dollars in fifty-cent pieces in my magic kit. I have this amazing trick with 4 fifty-cent pieces and four cards. I used to do little magic shows for kids. That was before I knew I'd be buying their teeth. The relationship is different now. My biggest trick being that I disappear and sleep.
I told Sarah I needed to think about locations for cash. I usually have some in the ashtrays of the car. But I'd used all the quarters for parking meters. There had to be some somewhere. That's the motto of the recently moved: "It has to be somewhere!" Yes, yes it does. In a box or in a trunk or in a dumpster...or maybe in the Catskills. Yes, it exists somewhere. And I prattled on like that for a few minutes before I realized Sarah was gone. She'd slipped out to get some change at a convenience store. I'm no dummy. I realize this meant she probably got to buy a Snickers or some such. But I was not one bit jealous. I would get to go to sleep. My wife had it covered.
Real-life heroes making dreams come true.