The Tooth Fairy Doesn’t Live Here Anymore

Last week while I was cooking dinner, my 11-year-old casually handed me his molar (the third one in as many weeks) and held his hand open for money. This has been our routine — him trading his tooth for a dollar — ever since I told him the truth about the tooth fairy almost three years ago. Customary? No. Practical? Yes.

It wasn’t always this way. When my boys were much younger and losing a tooth — especially the first tooth — was exciting and novel, we did the whole tooth-under-the-pillow thing. I’d make a big fuss about the tooth falling out, then whichever kid lost the tooth would put it in a tooth-shaped felt pocket and place the pocket under his pillow. After he went to sleep, I’d sneak in and swap the tooth for a dollar, a la the tooth fairy. It was a sweet tradition — until the nights came when I forgot to make the exchange or didn’t have any small bills to leave. That endearing custom soon became a source of high anxiety for me. Being a pragmatist, I decided the best way to avoid this stress was to come clean. The tooth fairy was next on my kill list anyway, as I had already successfully iced the Easter Bunny, leprechaun and that dreaded Elf on the Shelf (ours was named Zachary). After outing the pilfering pixie for who she really was (i.e., me), I promised to still give the boys a dollar for each fallen tooth, but without all the trickery. Problem solved! That’s some magna cum laude mothering right there, if I do say so myself.

Our first “first tooth” experience, c. 2008

Our last “first tooth,” c. 2012

The thing is, before I had demolished the tooth fairy, the experience had already been ruined for my boys by their classmates. Kids talk, and in our ‘hood, apparently, they get big bucks for their baby teeth. Gone are the days of finding a shiny quarter under your pillow. These days, the going rate is anywhere between twenty and one hundred dollars for the first tooth and five to ten thereafter. For real. I asked around to be sure and those are in fact the amounts other parents fessed up to. Do the math: With twenty primary teeth, that’s a minimum of $115 and possibly as much as $290 per kid. I honestly do not remember how much we gave each of the boys for their first tooth  — maybe five dollars, possibly ten — but I do know that the going rate in the Tarr house for each subsequent tooth has always been just one dollar.

If you have more than one kid, the tooth fairy may need a side gig to pay for all those baby teeth.

And it’s not just about the money: Today’s uber-competitive parents have turned the tooth fairy into the year-round sister of the Elf on the Shelf. Thanks to social media, the pressure to be cute and creative — leaving traces of glitter (excuse me, fairy dust!) on the windowsill, doctoring photos of your sleeping child to make it look like the tooth fairy is beside him/her, writing miniature handwritten notes that lead to hidden prizes (like a new video game) and folding those crisp bills into origami-inspired art — is as bad as it is with that damn Elf. It’s stressful enough just remembering to leave the money and take the tooth. Who wants to spend their night staging photo shoots or crafting treasure hunts, too? And don’t get me started on the glitter mess.

Tooth fairy photos — creepy or cute?

Thankfully, my boys are too old for all that nonsense. The tooth fairy doesn’t live here anymore and that is just fine by us. Now I just have to figure out what to do with that box of baby teeth in my vanity.

– LJDT

Mother Knows Best

If you know my mother at all, you know her favorite things in life are black coffee and anything chocolate, Home Goods and Lord & Taylor, oldies music and the Sunday funnies, her friends and family — especially her two daughters and five grandsons (her husband and sons-in-law pull a close second. Sorry, guys). She’s a devoted grandmother who drives three hours to Pennsylvania for 24-hour visits on the regular, always with cupcakes and some new kitchen gadget that she “thought [I] might like” in hand. She’s a supportive mother who lets me vent without judgement, complain without correction and brag without limitation. And she’s a faithful wife who has survived over 49 years of marriage and almost as many years of coaching with my dad. She’s not without her flaws, but I wouldn’t trade her anything — on most days, anyway.

She’d do anything for her grandsons — even don a turkey hat in public. I’m sure I’ll pay for using this photo, but how could I not?

I’ve written in the past about my mom and identified the traits I’ve inherited from her — everything from her hair color and big hips to the inability to tell a succinct story. I’ve also received sage advice and useful life skills from her, like how to pluck my eyebrows, make sauce (although I’ve since altered the recipe to accommodate food allergies/sensitivities) and where to find the best deals. But some teachings go deeper than basic hair removal and savvy shopping tips; They offer life lessons worth their weight in gold. Here are the five that resonate with me the most:

  1. Lick the spoon. When cooking, baking or making chocolate milk … It’s the best part. Translation: Treat yourself and do what makes you happy.
  2. Dress the part. Even if you’re not the best tennis player (runner, yogi, etc.), you can still look cute in the outfit. My interpretation: Be confident in who you are.
  3. Never arrive empty-handed. A small gesture goes a long way. Meaning, be kind and generous to others.
  4. Your house, your rules; My house, my rules. Decoded as setting and respecting boundaries, both your own and others.
  5. Try your best and know that you’re doing a better job than you think you are. No explanation needed, just words to live by. #believeinyourself

Is Grace Dewey the next Tony Robbins? Not exactly, but she is one smart cookie. I’m not gonna lie … She can also be a hot mess and a huge pain in my ass at times (thus the short, 24-hour visits), but her heart is usually in the right place. Today is her 75th birthday and Thursday is Thanksgiving — what better week to tell the blogosphere how wonderful my mom is and how grateful I am to have her?

Happy Birthday, Mom! Chocolate cake and Motown to celebrate tomorrow when I see you.

c. 1973. One of my favorite photos, but why am I dressed like a clown at the petting zoo? So much for dressing the part!

– LJDT

The Perfect Teenager

Recently, a friend of mine used the “P” word to describe her middle schooler. Not the Trump “P” word (get your mind out of the gutter). The word she used was “perfect.” I held my tongue because I love my friend and her son is honestly a great kid, but he’s still young. Hormones and high school haven’t wreaked havoc on their world yet.

As a mom with slightly older boys, I’m going to drop a truth bomb … There’s no such thing as a perfect teenager. The perfect teenager is a myth. A unicorn. A falsehood. An alternative fact, even. I was reminded of this today when I ran into another friend who was lamenting her teen’s behavior — a boy who is, by all accounts, kind, courteous and earnest, not to mention smart and talented. He is a “good boy,” but he is a teenager, so it goes without saying that he is also a hormonal, dramatic, capricious asshole at times.

Phone number, please!

Humblebrag alert: My boys are “good boys,” too. I’m often told how handsome, bright and athletic, as well as kind, polite and respectful they are. Even helpful at times! But I am a realist (at times, a cynic) and know this is only a half-truth, at best. At home (read: with me), my boys are less kind, polite, respectful and helpful. At home (again, read: with me), my boys are often temperamental, argumentative, uncommunicative and negligent. Just like most teenagers. It’s infuriating and exhausting, but it’s also par for the course.

I think I owe my parents an apology … Sorry, Mom and Dad!

Since I still have a few more years to go before escaping this teen stage, I’m trying to keep my sanity by remembering these four truths:

  1. It’s only a phase. Like all other childhood phases, it will pass. It may pass like a kidney stone, but once their skin clears up and they graduate from high school, my kids will magically turn back into decent, loving human beings again. I hope.
  2. It’s not all bad. Every now and then, they do or say something that fills my heart with joy and gives me a glimmer of hope that the end is near … until their moods swing back and they suck again.
  3. It’s not just my kids. From what I hear, I’m not the only mom who sometimes feels unappreciated, disrespected and used by her own offspring. Maybe that’s why the expression, “Misery loves company” resonates so strongly with me.
  4. It’s not me, it’s them. I like to think that the reason my boys behave like responsible young adults in public (despite how they behave at home) is because of my good parenting. And even if it’s not, just let me have this one.

#parentingishardwork

My kids are far from perfect. Very far. But as imperfect as they are, I love them with all my heart. No matter how frustrating this stage may be, and no matter how loudly (and often) I bitch about it, I’d still do anything for them. Sure, I’d like to strangle them most days, but I will always have their backs. Always. I may be their biggest critic, but I am also their biggest supporter.

Selfie with my loves, last summer

– LJDT

Fourth Time’s a Charm? Not Exactly

Last Friday, I spent six hours at my son’s middle school for Parent Visitation Day. I think this should negate at least six of my bad mommy moments (one for each hour ) — am I right?

This should be on my next Mother’s Day card, for sure.

Since this is not my first rodeo, I’ll shed a little light for those unfamiliar with the concept: On Parent Visitation Day (PVD, as I like to call it), parents follow their student(s) around from class to class in order to get a feel for what their day is like. Spoiler alert: it’s long, chaotic and exactly as you remember middle school to be.

When it comes to this shadow day, there are three types of parents: The super excited class participators who think this is the best idea ever (most likely, they’re with their first-born child and this is their first experience with PVD); The badass rebel who’s been through it before and says, “Nope. Been there, done that,” so they skip it (hey, no judgement here!); And the reluctant rule-follower who’s there begrudgingly and will most likely cut out early. I fall in the third category, although I wish I was in the second.

Having already gone through this torture three other times with my older son, I swore I’d never do it again. The first time, when my oldest was in sixth grade, I naively suffered through a full day of classes. The following year, I bailed before lunchtime. And last year, I arrived late and only made it through a couple of classes before I ditched. Does this make me a bad mom? Maybe. If so, just add it to the list. But I’m also an honest mom and Parent Visitation Day is sheer misery for me. The chairs are uncomfortable, I pee too much and I think I have adult ADD. Or maybe I’m just too old and uptight to enjoy it. Either way, PVD is my tenth Circle of Hell.

When I read the calendar last week, for a brief moment I though I was in the clear now that my older son is in high school. I actually thought I had dodged a bullet — until I remembered that my younger son is only in the sixth grade. As a newly minted middle schooler, that means I have three more years of visitation days ahead of me. Ugh! So I held my breath and secretly prayed … Maybe he wouldn’t want me to go. Surprisingly, not only did he want me to go, he was excited about it. Despite my best intentions to avoid a PVD four-peat (is that what follows a three-peat?), mom guilt won out. So there I was last Friday, suffering through yet another middle school experience.

I know I should have been happy that my eleven-year-old was excited to spend time with me, but I also knew it wouldn’t last. Sadly, I was right. My son’s excitement petered out midway through first period when I made mistake #1: Offering my help in Spanish class. To ease the embarrassment, I bribed him with the two mini muffins that I grabbed from the parent visitation lounge (a.k.a., the library, where they were conveniently hosting a book fair and spirit wear sale). Crisis averted  — at least until lunchtime, when I committed mistake #2: Asking a few of his friends to pose for a photo. It went downhill from there.

Product of my mistake #2: Photo evidence of my middle school “freshman” and some of his buddies.

If the past four years of attending parent visitation days have taught me anything, it’s that I know my kids and I know my limits. My kids like the idea of me being with them at school, but not the reality of it. And my limits no longer include six hours of middle school … Or wearing a name tag.

Maybe next year he won’t be embarrassed, or maybe he’ll tell me to stay home. A girl can dream, right?

– LJDT