By Kris Woll
Our kids lose teeth, they move forward, they change. But as parents, through it all, we try not to forget.
This week my 7-year-old son lost his eighth baby tooth. They are dropping at an alarming rate. I bought more applesauce and yogurt than usual in case we have to move to a very soft diet; steak and chewy breads are off the table until some of gaps are filled.
My son didn’t even bother to put the tooth under his pillow—he just popped it in the trash. The next morning, he came out of his room in a huff.
“Mom, you forgot to put money under my pillow!”
I calmly walked into his room. I actually had placed a little something under his pillow while he slept, emptying mouth wide open, the night before. (Not like tooth number 5—or was it 6?—when I had to make lame excuse for why the tooth fairy sometimes waits an extra night to deliver the booty.)
I suspected he flopped around at night, shifting his pillows and pushing the money to the floor. I moved the bed away from the wall. “Check back there,” I ordered, and then before he could, asked, “And why did you say that I forgot to put money under your pillow?”
He stared at me seriously, considering his response.
“I meant that the tooth fairy forgot,” he said.
“Hmmm. And what do you think about the tooth fairy?” I asked.
He stared at me again, silent for a while. The ceiling fan swooshed above us.
“Thats she’s you?” he responded.
I paused, preparing to give my answer.
“How did you figure that out?”
“Kids talk,” he replied, grabbing the flashlight he keeps on his nightstand and pointing it into the crevasse between his bed and wall.
So the tooth fairy is over, for my big kid anyway. And I noticed he has quite a lot of hair on his legs lately. And one night, after soccer, he almost ate a whole frozen pizza by himself. It’s undeniable: He’s growing up. He’s getting bigger. And this is an amazing thing. The best thing. A gift. I don’t want to hold him back from all—ok, maybe from some, but not much—that he is moving toward.
Still, as I notice that last year’s jeans hem graze his mid-calf, I am reminded: time is passing. Days and weeks and years are going by. He is getting older, so am I, so is everyone we know. The adorable pictures and videos we scroll through and open on the family computer—of babies struggling to crawl and toddlers smashing birthday cake all over their chubby faces and proud first this and that—are artifacts, history. I can snuggle and nuzzle and, when I kiss them goodnight, I can call them my babies, but they aren’t and won’t be that again.
Their long bodies spread out on their beds, and once their feet kicked against my ribs.
I don’t wish they were still kicking my ribs. I don’t wish they were not growing up. I don’t even wish the tooth fairy back into his head. I just don’t want to forget, I’m starting to forget, so I write to remember.
Thanks to his trusty flashlight, my son noticed—amidst the Legos and Pokemon cards and bouncy balls and missing socks beneath that bed—his payment for tooth number 8. It had fallen from under the pillow, just as I suspected. He reached his long, strong (but once so small and chubby—man, did he have rolls as a baby!) arm down and grabbed the money, leaving the toys and socks where they were. He quickly added it to the shark bank on his bookshelf, moving quickly so as not to risk that his knowledge or confession might require a recall of the funds.
And then he promised he wouldn’t tell his little sister what he knew, as long as he could be the one to put the money under her pillow when her first tooth came out, and of course I agreed.
Kris Woll is a Minneapolis-based writer. Read more of her work at kriswollwriting.com.