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

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

Back to School: The More Things Change, The More They Stay The Same

It’s the end of week 3 of the new school year and I’m already fed up with the morning struggle. Who’s with me?

This year, both my boys started in new schools (one high school, one middle school) with new start times, new bus routes and new schedules and commitments. But with all the newness, some things never change — at least not in the Tarr household. My boys still sleep through their alarms and need to be woken up. They still take too long in the shower and need to be hurried. They still treat breakfast like it’s Sunday brunch (read: slow and casual) and need to be prodded. And they still forget their stuff (e.g., lunchbox, house key, chrome book) and need to be reminded. Yes, this happens each and every morning. And yes, as a result, I yell at them each and every morning … But at least they haven’t had to chase the school bus yet. Score one for the Tarr boys!

Obligatory first day of school photo, 2017: Entering high school (9th grade) and middle school (6th grade), respectively.

Time management is a skill neither of my boys possess. Genetics are partly to blame, I’ll admit. I am perpetually five minutes late — in part because I’m always trying to cram one more thing in before I leave the house (e.g., start the laundry, empty the dishwasher, put on makeup if I’m lucky!) and in part because I still think nothing is further away from my home than twenty minutes (which is a falsehood I need to grasp after eight years of living here). But genetic makeup is only part of the story. I think for my kids, it’s a combination of not being morning people and not be interested/motivated. After all, going to school means sitting still and doing work for six and half hours. To tell you the truth, I kinda don’t blame them. But I still want to pull my hair out when they are checking their phones to read last night’s sports scores and trades instead of brushing their teeth.

I’m sure there are well-intentioned readers out there who would tell me to make better use of the night before: Have the boys shower, make their lunches, pack their backpacks and lay out their clothes for the next day. Done, done and done. My boys already do all of that, sans the clothes. They don’t care what they wear; They just pull from the top of the drawer. But even with all the prep and planning (and the extra sleep they are getting due to the later school start time), my kids still can’t pull it together in the morning without a struggle.

I know it’s only been three weeks and things will improve over time. We’ll get into a rhythm, we’ll find our groove and then it’ll be smooth sailing … Until the seasons change, sports shift and a new routine is required. #thingstolookforwardto.

Happy back to school season, everyone!

Think a 14-year-old and an 11-year-old are too old for a school-day “morning checklist”?!

– LJDT

Playing Hooky, For Kid’s Sake

Friday was a warm, sunny day here in Pennsylvania — the perfect day to play hooky. Being the super awesome mom that I am (read sarcastically), I surprised my younger son with a day off from school and took him and a buddy to the NFL Draft Experience in Philadelphia as an early birthday present. My soon-to-be-11-year-old is a football fanatic, so this was a dream come true for him. Was I the coolest mom, or what? Yeah, I was … until I wasn’t.

Skipping school to attend the NFL Draft Experience … Life is good!

If you know anything about me, you know this type of event is not my thing. Far from it. Here are just a few reasons why:

  • I like my routine (morning workout, breakfast, errands, shower, lunch, writing, etc.). This was not my routine.
  • I am an introvert and need alone time each day to recharge. I did not get down time on Friday.
  • I despise crowds and have a mild case of social anxiety. Reported crowd size: 100,000 people.
  • I have too many food allergies to eat from a concession stand and outside food was prohibited. I subsisted on a bag of almonds I snuck in.
  • I drink a ton of water and pee a lot. Port-a-potties are my nemesis (I peed down my leg twice trying to avoid touching the hole/seat).
  • I get very swollen ankles when I stand for too long. Nearly 12 hours at the NFL Draft Experience = Fred Flinstone feet.
  • I am childishly impatient. Every activity had a line and every line was l-o-n-g-g-g-g!
  • I love the hot sun when I’m sitting on the beach. Philadelphia is not the beach.
  • I would do anything to make my kids happy. Case in point.

Needless to say, this was not my ideal way to spend a Friday playing hooky. I’d rather be relaxing at a spa or sitting on the beach, reading a book. But this wasn’t about me. It was about my child. Yes, I did have one or two (or maybe even three) meltdowns along the way, but I sucked it up and stuck it out for his sake because that’s what parents do; We make sacrifices for our kids, big and small. We do things we may not want to do to make them happy. Seeing my son’s face after completing the mock combine drills, hearing him talk about meeting Le’Veon Bell and watching him cheer as they called the next draft pick was pure happiness. And that was what this day was all about. So while I’d rather stick needles in my eyes than do it again, I’m glad I was able to give him an experience he’ll brag about for days and cherish for years — even if I did bitch a few times along the way.

Meeting Le’Veon Bell (Pittsburgh Steelers) — how happy is this kid?

With the Vince Lombardi Trophy #footballgoals

Today is my son’s actual birthday, so I’m letting him skip school again. This time, he wants to go to the movies and out for lunch. Now that’s more my speed.

Happy 11th birthday, O!

– LJDT