Monday, April 18, 2011

Special needs mommy guilt: dissed Tooth Fairy edition

If you're a mom, you may feel guilty about your parenting from time to time. If you're a mom of a kid with special needs, you may feel a whole other level of guilt about your parenting. Like the Guilt 2.0 I just experienced at the Mom 2.0 conference I was at.

Saturday night, bloggers did readings at The Eiffel Society, an industrial-chic lounge constructed from remnants of a restaurant that once sat on the Eiffel Tower in Paris. I loved the look of the place. I felt happy to be out in New Orleans, and not one bit guilty about being away from Dave and the kids. I needed (and deserved) fun time with friends. Then Kyran Pittman read from her new book, Spinning Dandelions; she mentioned a forgetful Tooth Fairy. And suddenly, I felt awful.

I had never done The Tooth Fairy with Max. Never considered it. I guess I didn't think he would get it, and Max hadn't known to ask me about it. When his first tooth came out (he was at school) it went AWOL; he'd swallowed it. Same with the next ones that followed. I worried that I had no tooth to leave for the fairy. Months later, I did manage to collect one of Max's little teeth. And all I did was wrap it up in a wad of cotton and put it in a mementos box. And now, that seemed so wrong to do.

What kind of mom denies her child The Tooth Fairy?! And what was I doing, underestimating Max like that? So what if he wouldn't have exactly grasped the concept. Who the heck IS this Tooth Fairy, anyway?! It's not like photos exist or she has a website or her own talk show or anything. Although I did search on Flickr, and found this Tooth Fairy...

...and this one.

Really, The Tooth Fairy is however a parent spins her (or, er, him). I certainly could have imagined some Purple Spaghetti Tooth Fairy for Max. And besides, he surely would have enjoyed finding money beneath his pillow.

It's weird how this had all never occurred to me till the other night. Sabrina's first tooth has yet to fall out, and she's been talking and talking about it. Every night, she makes me wiggle one of her front teeth. "See? It's loose!" she'll say. And I'll say, "Maybe soon!" She came home from school recently with a special little felt holder for that first tooth. Friends have told her that if she leaves it under the pillow, The Tooth Fairy will bring her some money. She hasn't yet asked me what the Fairy's going rate is, but I am sure she will...and maybe try to negotiate.

As I sat there in that dark room, I felt swallowed whole by guilt. I mean, I know I don't belong in Mom Jail or anything like that. But the guilt I feel when I realize I haven't given Max the credit he deserves really, really gets to me.

Max still has his baby back teeth. You can bet I'll be putting them under his pillow when they fall out. And you can bet I will try my best not to underestimate him like that again.

Photo/dazfacedara & VideoVillian


  1. I empathize, but also know it's all very relative. My mom never mentioned anything like a tooth fairy to any of her kids, and it was only later on in life that I discovered she'd kept some of our baby teeth locked away. You might discover that Max ends up not caring about the tooth fairy after all, or he could love it. But it's good that you'll explore it with him :-)

  2. I have done all those silly things with my Sophie who is now sixteen and has probably never realized what's going on. I've done it, though, for her little brothers, and I think it's really helped them to treat her with dignity, to pay attention to her, etc. It's never too late, Ellen, and I wouldn't be too hard on yourself! My boys are now nine and twelve and still losing teeth!

  3. I'm sure he'd get a kick out of the little treats he can buy with tooth fairy money. And hey, you might even be able to work it into a lesson on "you use this to buy/earn this". While that might be hard to grasp, it'll be a start to something he'll eventually need to learn.

    Meanwhile, don't beat yourself up over it. It's not like you were withholding the tooth fairy to be cruel. Whether he gets the full idea behind it or not, he'll be thrilled with new treasure. And the past lost teeth will be just that, the past.

    As for the going rate, good luck with that. Our tooth fairy (Our theory is that there is one Santa, one Easter Bunny who sometimes delivers early so he can reach everyone because he isn't as magic as Santa (baskets spotted early one year, opps) but each state has it's own tooth fairy.) doesn't have a set rate. It depends on the tooth and other miscellaneous factors. This last tooth earned my 7yo 3$ between the fairy and me. Daddy had to use pliers to get it out because it was literally wedged between the surrounding teeth (the ONLY thing holding it in but they held it tight) and was starting to form an abscess. It needed to come out asap so out came the pliers. Needless to say, my son was less than thrilled. So I bribed.

  4. I did it for Luke because of his older sisters. For the first tooth (which was lost), my middle daughter wrote a beautiful note to the tooth fairy about how Luke would like a toy instead of money. Since the first 2 teeth where the was lots of concern, he has lost another (but it took a while to figure out due to cleft issues) and 2 have been pulled by the dentist.
    Since my girls now know all about the tooth fairy, I'm off the hook until he starts to understand (that is if there are any baby teeth left then)

  5. I hear ya Ellen. I've had those pangs of guilt over the years with Molly too (now 11yrs). I guess the reason I never did it with her was b/c she is blind and doesn't really move much under her own steam (balance issues). Plus, she has pica so if she did manage to find the money under her pillow, she probably would have eaten it ;-) Maybe I should have left a cookie under her pillow, I don't know. But I understand - the little bit of guilt I have is based on underestimating her too. Maybe she would have understood and gotten a kick out of it? Luckily most of her teeth went MIA too. And luckily she didn't have any siblings to compare her lot to when it came to things like the tooth fairy. But try to remember, if Max is anything like Molly, he is wholly accepting of everything and wouldn't question you starting now. And he probably also gets just as much of a kick out of you giving him a hug than of finding money under his pillow :-)

  6. Baily has swallowed all of his teeth as well and being as I have 6 kids the tooth fairy makes pretty regular visits around here, but with no teeth to leave for her I am pretty sure he has gotten jipped a time or two. Without that tooth reminder I honestly tend to forget to put the money under his pillow. As far as going our house it is $2.

  7. OMG! I was checking in on you today and stopped dead when I read your post. I DID the same thing with Lily this year about Easter. I was planning the Easter gifts for my niece and nephew and realized "OH CRAP! I don't have anything for Lily!" The actual thought went through my head, "Well, she doesn't get it anyway." Shame on me!!! I had a horrible time trying to get her involved last year and I guess I realized it was all for me and not her. I underestimated her development, I need to keep trying! Thank you for the reminder! We are all human! I have never said I was mommy of the year!

    Thank you for this post!

  8. I do the wipey fairy with Faith, since she doesn't "get" money I put a package of wipes under her pillow. She loves to pull them out of the bag so I think thetas as good as money to her! Lol! Don't feel bad, Ellen, your doing a good job and you can just do different next time!

  9. I wouldn't feel guilty if I were you. You make your own traditions to suit your circumstances. There's no crime in not following the crowd, and there's no crime in having a different reality for each child, either.

    Max's "Tooth Fairy" could give him a sticker if he does a good job (or even a lousy job) brushing his own teeth, or give him a little purple toy (or toothbrush) when a Big Boy tooth comes in.

  10. Oh my goodness, no guilt! The only reason the Tooth Fairy even knows where we live is because my kids remind him/her to come. Repeatedly. We moms have enough productions to pull off throughout the calendar year. T.F. is minor arcana. ;-)

    Great to see you at Mom 2.0 and wish we'd had time to chat. Maybe see you at Blogher?

  11. You know how I found out there was no Tooth Fairy? When my mom, finding herself without cash late at night (and this being before the days of the ATM machine), wrote me a CHECK and put it under my pillow.

    The Tooth Fairy wrote me a CHECK.

    You're an awesome mom. Cut yourself some slack - and go back and look at that amazing car wash costume you made Max.

  12. My daughter knocked 1 tooth out - and then had its 2 neighbors pulled by her dentist - when she was 3. We've still got them around. We talked about the tooth fairy...but it turned out she was afraid the tooth fairy would steal ALL of her remaining teeth! A bit scary, right?

    A very wise friend of mine once told me that her parents made sure that she and her sisters always got what they needed - and knew that their needs were all different. So Sabrina gets 1st tooth fairy visits, and Max gets an awesome car wash costume. You are doing a great job giving each of your kids what they need, and respecting their differences.

  13. My eldest is neuro-typical, and her younger brother & sister have special abilities. I have done the usual tooth fairy / santa/ easter bunny with her (she is now 8) and so of course i do it for her little brother & sister. But i will admit that i am looking forward to the day that she says "i'm onto you", and i will not have to go to so much effort and secrecy! I don't think i would stop doing these things for the kids, but i don't know that them knowing it is me would be such a bad thing. Mum actually getting due credit?!? Bring it on!


Thanks for sharing!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...