I Didn’t Know Tooth Fairies Visit 4 Year Olds

The thing about growing up is you don’t realize it’s happening. You only realize it’s happened. Like when your FOUR YEAR OLD loses his first tooth.

The first day of Spring Break started off as well as I could have hoped. I woke up to a clean house (a rarity), and felt generous enough to sacrifice a piece of that by letting the kids play Playdoh while I worked on laundry.

I figured it would be a great day to document some small, ordinary moments. I haven’t done that in a while. So I got my camera out and set it on the bar after I snapped a couple pics of them playing nicely.

Minutes after I took that picture, Kendall said, “Hey mom… look… at my tooth.” I turned to see him with his hand in his mouth. I assumed he was pretending a piece of Playdoh was a loose tooth… or something. I don’t know what I thought was going on, but I DID NOT think his real tooth was falling out.

“You’re so silly,” I joked, then turned back around.

“Mom… mom… look… look,” he said, and then thrust his hand out. In it was not a colorful piece of Playdoh, but something small and white.

Wait… we don’t have any white Playdoh… I slowly walked over to him, my head cocked to the side, squinty eyes.

“Kendall, where did you get that?” I stupidly asked, fully in denial.

“From my mouth,” he replied after giving me a totally deserved are-you-serious look. I looked up, and then I saw the black shadow where a tooth once was. I had no idea how to react so, naturally, I said, “Wait… let me get my camera!”

“Smile! Show me your teeth!” I nervously commanded with cheer. He struggled…

Then my string of questions set in.

“What happened? Did you hit your mouth? Does it hurt? Has it been loose for a long time?”

I’ll be totally honest. The horror that was bubbling up inside me was showing on my face. I just wasn’t prepared for this. I had no idea if it’s even normal for 4 year olds to lose teeth. Was he sick? Had we failed dental hygiene for preschoolers? I quickly inspected his tooth for any signs of decay that would make it fall out.

It was then that I realized how much I fail… just absolutely fail in the Keep Calm department when others are struggling. Here I was freaking out because I wasn’t ready for this, and poor Kendall knew even less about what was happening.

“Mom,” he said through tears, “can we put it back in? Can we go to the doctor and have him fix it?”

“Oh! Oh, honey. Oh, it’s okay! This is okay! This is normal. This is supposed to happen! You have another tooth… a grown-up tooth because you’re getting SO grown up! It will grow in it’s place,” I said in that high-pitched voice that’s my default when I panic.

Oh SURE it’s “normal” mom. YOU’RE TOTALLY ACTING LIKE THIS IS COMPLETELY NORMAL RIGHT NOW.  <<What I’m sure he was thinking on some level.

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Note to self: Have the period talk with Leyna and prepare yourself WAY BEFORE you think all that will go down. Horrified, caught off guard faces that you physically can’t hide will ruin SO MANY LIVES when that happens.

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“But mom, why do I have to lose my tooth? I don’t want a new one.”

And thus started the conversation we are still having- the whys and the hows and the whens.

I had to scramble to come up with what the Tooth Fairy in our house would do last night. Scott and I settled on a letter, a new toothbrush and toothpaste (needed anyway), and 4 gold $1 coins for the first tooth. We figured we’d do $2 for every tooth after this. We really have no idea what we’re doing, but the plan sounded okay at 10 p.m. last night.

Hat tip to the Facebook commenter who mentioned the ass-saving idea to put in a clause about how the tooth fairy can be a day or two late sometimes.

This morning, instead of excitedly running to our room, holding his loot up with joy, he muttered, “Mom, the tooth fairy didn’t bring me a new tooth.”

When I explained that’s not what the tooth fairy does, and that it would just have to grow in, and that takes time- he looked at me very suspicious of the whole tooth fairy thing. I mean, just what the hell IS her job, then, if not to bring you a tooth to replace the one she’s taking?

He eventually warmed up to the goodies, and I think he’s getting more comfortable with the extra space in his mouth. My biggest regret though all of this is simply not preparing myself for this. And not in the “I don’t have a cute tooth fairy pillow for him!” sense, but in the sense that, as a parent, I just wasn’t even in that space yet.

He’s FOUR. He’ll be 5 in May, but still, he’s FOUR. He’s in preschool. I thought loose teeth were a kindergarten and beyond thing, not a preschool thing.

After some internet hysterics on my part, a lot of people chimed in to tell me that it’s totally normal to lose teeth this early, especially if he got them all early, too. He did. I swear, he started teething out of the womb, had quite a few by 6 months, and all but his 2 year old molars in by his 1st birthday. The tooth he lost, bottom right, was actually the first tooth he got in. So all that makes me feel a little better.

Upon further interrogation, he revealed the tooth came out after he tried to take a Playdoh lid off the canister with his mouth. Something, I’ll confess, he saw me do minutes before.

Did I know it was loose? No. I guess looking back there were maybe a few small signs, but that kid always has his hands in his mouth, and his pain tolerance is so high. He never tells us when little things like that are bothering him.

So, lesson learned. Growing up happens. It’s happening right now.  It’s happening whether we want it to or not, whether we’re prepared or not. Sooner or later (or so much sooner than you ever thought) it happens.  Now, go talk to your 3 and 4 year olds about how TOTALLY NORMAL it will be when their teeth start falling out.

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