A few months after I began dating my future wife, she had to work a late shift at the local hospital and asked if I would mind staying with her 7-year-old son until she got home at 2 am. Of course, I said yes. Then she asked if I’d mind if he had a friend sleep over. Again, albeit a bit more slowly, I said yes.
I’d spent a lot of time with her son and would eventually end up adopting him, but at the time I wasn’t exactly an expert on kids. Still, I was a 38-year-old man. I could handle two 7-year-old boys. Get them a couple of movies, a pizza and some soda, and we’d be all set. What could go wrong?
We ate and watched a movie, and then I set up the pull-out couch in the living room with sheets, blankets and pillows. Around 9 or 10 o’clock I was reading in the bedroom when they called for me. When I walked into the living room, my son’s friend triumphantly held up a small, bloody tooth.
This was something I hadn’t dealt with in about 30 years, when my own baby teeth fell out, but from what I remembered it wasn’t a very complicated process. I rinsed the tooth, put it in a plastic sandwich bag (a slight upgrade from the tissue we used in my day), handed it back to the boy and told him to put it under his pillow.
While patting myself on the back for handling the situation so smoothly, I wondered if I had a dollar in my pocket. So you can imagine my surprise when I heard, “This is great! Another five dollars from the Tooth Fairy!”
Turning back slowly, I asked if I’d heard him correctly. He gets five dollars per tooth from the Tooth Fairy? I got a quarter in my day and figured a dollar was probably the going rate. He nodded happily, innocently. Yes, five dollars per tooth. I smiled back, then hurried upstairs to dig through my pockets.
I found four one dollar bills and was able to scrounge up a dollar in change. Crisis averted. When they were finally asleep, I snuck back downstairs and slipped the money under his pillow, remembering to take the tooth. For five bucks, I figured I deserved it.
My girlfriend found me asleep when she got home and didn’t wake me. In the morning, I explained to her what had happened, putting particular emphasis on how well I’d handled the situation and on the amount our little friend’s teeth were worth. She said that most kids she knew, including her son, got a dollar a tooth. She also expressed surprise that the boy’s mother, who was a friend and worked at the hospital with her, would give so much money. She and her husband had five children, which is a lot of teeth. At five dollars per, the Tooth Fairy might need to take out a small loan.
When the boy’s mother came to pick him up, I handed her the valuable tooth. When I asked why the Tooth Fairy paid so much at her house, she burst out laughing and said it’s a dollar per tooth at her house. I’d been scammed by a 7-year-old kid.
My son and his friend (the scam artist) are now college-aged, but my wife and I have a 10-year-old son who recently lost a couple of teeth. The going rate in our house is still the same – a dollar per tooth. The Tooth Fairy, it seems, learned from his mistake.