My son is past the age of believing in the tooth fairy. He’s taken to handing me his bloody teeth as soon as they fall out, his other hand open for the dollar he’s grown accustomed to getting with each lost tooth. I still give it to him out of tradition, sometimes even going through the trouble of hiding it under his pillow instead just to give him a giggle. But then I’m stuck with this crusty tooth that has been hanging out in his mouth for the past 10 or so years.
This is what happened this past weekend. He had been working at the tooth for days, favoring that side of his mouth since it was too loose to chew food properly and yet still in there tight enough to not budge the last little bit. I’d have to yell at him gently coax him to get to bed as he stood in front of the mirror with his mouth wide open, his hand crammed halfway down his throat as he tried to get that stubborn molar to let go of the last bit of gums it was holding on to. He finally succeeded, already in bed as he let me know he had left the tooth for me on the staircase banister.
When I was a kid, the tooth fairy faithfully came and traded each of my lost teeth for a dollar bill or 4 shiny quarters, and many times a note telling us how beautiful our teeth looked. When we got older and discovered the truth about the good old TF, my mom showed us the little box that held each of our teeth separately. She had made use of felt jewelry boxes. And when I opened mine, it held 20 or so tiny teeth that had once been in my mouth.
“Do you want them?” my mom asked me, smiling kindly at me. And that’s when it became apparent. I had almost missed it, but the tone was there. So was the glimmer of hope that bordered on desperation in her eyes. She wasn’t asking me, she was pleading with me – practically on her knees and begging me. ‘Pleeeeease take the teeth. What the heck am I going to do with these?’ I gingerly put the teeth back down and stepped away slowly. Like I really wanted 20 nasty little teeth that probably held every single childhood germ I had put on them from years of not being the best brusher.
I admit that I have not been the best tooth fairy. I have several boxes of teeth that have various homes around the house. A kid would lose a tooth, and inevitably I wouldn’t be able to remember the last place I put their teeth. And so I’d create a new “special box” to save their teeth in. Or I’d find one of the tooth boxes, but not know which kid’s teeth were sitting in there. So the teeth would end up being all mixed up. And once, when my son brought a tooth home after he lost it at school, and it broke on the way, I *gasp* THREW IT AWAY.
The one I tossed away gives me reason to pause. My kids are no longer believers of the TF. They know where the dollar bills and gold coins are coming from. The jig is up. And I don’t want to be that mom who shoves a box (or more) of teeth in my kid’s face and runs away before they know what hit them. Throwing all of the teeth away is highly tempting. I’m not opening the box(es) of teeth, staring at them longingly as I wonder where my kids’ youth has gone. In fact, I find them a little bit disgusting. They’re teeth. I mean, it’s almost like saving their fingernail clippings. It’s a part of their body they have outgrown. And if we really think about it, would we be willing to save anything else our kids had chewed their food with, and were now decorated with bits of dried blood? Gross.
But maybe I’m wrong. Maybe there are uses I’m overlooking when it comes to saving baby teeth. They might make a lovely necklace, a way to commemorate the youth that is lost with each wiggly tooth. Or maybe they’re best preserved in a scrapbook, or even Mod Podged to a picture frame to present to the grandparents during the holidays. Perhaps friends might find a random tooth mailed to them with a lovely card a welcome form of greeting. They may even be just fine sitting in one (or more) boxes to be opened occasionally when the kids are grown and gone, remembering that they were once small enough to have these tiny pearls in their little, innocent mouths.
Or maybe I can just be a bad mom and throw them all away.
What do you do with your kids’ lost teeth?