Pride, teamwork and the Tooth Fairy

“Daddy, I have a surprise for you.”

My 8-year-old daughter has been tooth-loss challenged her whole life.  She was the last kid in her class to lose a tooth, watching with agony as the Tooth Fairy visited every one of her friends’ bedrooms but never her own. Finally, she had a breakthrough this year, but still, it’s been slow going.  Her remaining front tooth had been hanging on like a monkey on a vine, hanging on with the tenacity of Alex Cora at the plate against Matt Clement.

Finally, as I greeted her after work Monday night, just before dinner, she opened her mouth and showed the double-sized gap. Victory!

Not to be outdone in his desire to reap a ruthless, toothless reward is my 6-year-old son. Tooth loss comes more naturally to him, and conveniently, he had a wiggler front and center on his bottom row. Merging greed with courage, he asked his mom if she might be able to pull it out.  It was close enough to make it possible … annnnnd … victory!

Ladies and gentlemen, we had a doubleheader.

My wife makes the Tooth Fairy arrangements in our household. But as she went into my daughter’s bedroom late at night, the boy, who chooses to sleep on her floor in a sleeping bag most nights, sat straight up. My wife had to withdraw discreetly. She then declared herself too tired to stay up any later, and so, for the first time ever, Tooth Fairy logistics fell to me.

This was something like replacing Clayton Kershaw with Ramon Ortiz.

I mean, sure, if I could just groove a fastball past these kids, there’d be no problem. But their heads were just hammered to their pillows. It was going to take some sort of clever curve to strike this exchange of cash for choppers. Plus, their floor creaks like Independence Day fireworks.  Conditions were against me.

My first time in, there was just no chance.  My son stirred again, sitting up.  I asked if he was okay, as if I just happened to be hanging out in the neighborhood, kissed him and left the room.

Well past midnight, I gave it another go.  This time, my son stayed asleep. But I couldn’t reach either tooth, not without using a forklift to boost their noggins from their pillows.  How does the Tooth Fairy do this?

A little after 4 a.m., I woke myself up for a third attempt.  Time was running short.  I went in, and finally had some luck. They had shifted positions. I could reach my daughter’s tooth, safe in its little Tooth Fairy pouch. I extracted it and replaced it with her reward ($3, upped from $2 thanks to the ever-increasing peer pressure of classmates who have been getting $5 – no lie!).

However, though my son was now near the edge of his pillow, I could not find that tooth.  He had to be lying right on top of it or something.  I was beside myself.  I tried and tried to get my hand to it, but I just couldn’t.  Worried that the jig would soon be up, I stuffed the money underneath and just hoped that somehow, there would be a chance to get the tooth before he woke up.

When I came back into our bedroom, my wife had awakened, wondering what I was doing.  I cursed the Tooth Fairy nightmare I was enduring. She didn’t hesitate. Coming out of the bullpen like Orel Hershiser in the ’88 NLCS, she went in for the save.

And here’s the evanascent point of this post.

Teamwork dictated that I would root for her to succeed. Pride dictated that I wanted her to have as much trouble as I did.  I was torn.  Her success would shine a light on my failing. Her failure would threaten to bring down the entire carefully constructed Tooth Fairy enterprise.

“Be mature,” I finally said to myself. “You want her to get that tooth.”

But as the moments passed, leading to her empty-handed return, I can’t say that I didn’t still feel a dash of peace.

Later, I would realize that the end of the story should have been predictable all along. My son woke up, saw the money and didn’t even notice that his tooth hadn’t been taken. As it turned out, it had somehow escaped his pillow entirely and had taken residence underneath where his midsection had been. The jig wasn’t up — it was rigged against me!

So, did I pass the Teamwork Test, or did I fail? I’m not sure. I just know that I don’t belong in this league. As far as I’m concerned, I’m ready to go back to the sidelines. The Tooth Fairy will have her job back.

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