How Playing the Tooth Fairy Made Me Question my Parenting

My six year old son had a milestone moment this week: he lost his first tooth. He’s young for his grade and had looked on for some months as his classmates lost tooth after tooth. So it was with great excitement that he held up his tooth, safe in a tiny plastic treasure chest, to present to me after school one day.

He couldn’t wait to go to bed that night, anticipating the Tooth Fairy’s very first visit. When my husband and I were finally sure he was asleep, I was faced with some decisions to make about playing the tooth fairy.

despite the forecast, live like it's spring.

Should I do what all the other moms are doing?

In our rather affluent corner of the world, it’s common for the Tooth Fairy to give a first tooth bonus. His friends report getting as much as twenty dollars for their first one. Although ridiculous, it poses some problems. How high are his expectations? Is he going to feel left out if he doesn’t get what his friends get? I don’t want to raise an entitled child, but I also remember what it feels like to be different than everyone else. In the end, the Tooth Fairy left him a whopping six dollars. One for the tooth, to establish what’s going to be “normal,” and a five dollar bill as a first time bonus.

Am I a Pinterest Mom?

A quick search on Tooth Fairy traditions will give you loads of ideas on what you can do to make this experience as magical as possible. People spray their dollar bills with glitter, or give Sacajawea coins. They make special tooth pillows to hold the tooth, and they write tiny tooth fairy notes. They leave “fairy dust” on the windowsill, or they prop up tiny dollhouse doors next to their bedroom door. And the list goes on.

While I love creating special experiences for my kids, I had to ask myself how much hassle I was willing to handle for each of his twenty baby teeth (plus twenty more for his little brother). In the end, I settled on printing out a tooth fairy receipt. It was a nod to something a little extra special and it was easy enough to manage. (Pro tip: find the one you like best and print out a bunch of copies to have on hand!)

How sentimental of a mom am I?

I stood next to the counter and examined his tooth in my hand, remembering how exciting it was when we could see it poking through his baby gums for the first time. What should I do with his precious little baby tooth? Do I keep it in a special box? Put it in a scrapbook? Throw it away? (“How ’bout you make a necklace from it?” my husband teased.) I consider myself a sentimental person, but my own mother never saved my teeth and I’m not sorry or sad about that in the slightest. My mother-in-law kept my husband’s teeth and it creeped him out to find them as an adult. I ended up tossing my son’s tooth into the kitchen garbage can and promised myself I would take a thousand pictures of his new toothless smile.

The Takeaway

Playing the tooth fairy provided an unexpected opportunity to evaluate my decisions as a mother. The truth is, every day we are faced with decisions that determine what kind of parent we want to be. In big and small ways, we chart the course for the kinds of kids we’re raising and the values we want to impart. And the good news is that there are  usually several right answers to each parenting decision. There are many ways to be a good mom. So when you come to some weird parenting crossroads, like holding a baby tooth over the garbage can and wondering what to do, know that you’re a good mom regardless of what you decide!


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Sarah K. Butterfield is an author, speaker, and ministry leader who has a heart for empowering women to grow in their faith and be intentional with their time. She and her husband and two boys live in San Diego, where she writes about pursuing a deeper relationship with God in the midst of motherhood.

5 thoughts on “How Playing the Tooth Fairy Made Me Question my Parenting

  1. I love this. I always feel like I’m the only mom that has not perfected something that I had not even thought about before, and then I go on Pinterest and it is even more overwhelming. Excellent decision mommy. I’ve been considering the tooth pillow as the tooth fairy has had a few problems finding the teeth on a couple occasions.


  2. Ah the good old VMAT2 gene. It’s particularly strong in children. This gene was influential in our development because it helped us follow a leader – no matter what outlandish stories he/she told us. In children they are happy to accept that adults know best and in general, we have the experience to make that true. But then we delight in telling children about the tooth fairy, the monster under the bed (keeps them from getting out), Santa Claus, the Sandman and others. Because of VMAT2 children will believe this but as they get older it will have less effect and doubt appears. Incidentally this gene is also known as the God gene.


  3. Hi Sarah, we found your blog via your IG page. You bring up many of the exact questions we recently faced when our daughter lost her first tooth: to keep them or not; how much to leave; do we decorate the dollars; etc. Yes (for now), a few dollars, and no. Though we aren’t usually the kind of parents to go all out (we’re lucky if we even remember to move “the Elf”), we did get a bit carried away with the whole Tooth Fairy thing…quite by accident, really. In any case, the last line of your post sums it all up perfectly!


  4. Thanks for sharing your experience as a tooth fairy! It’s all good! I laugh every time I have occasion to show off my stash of 36 year old baby teeth! 😁

    Liked by 1 person

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