the smell of my desperation has become a stench

The second tooth

Last Thursday night we were all sitting around the dinner table talking when Jon noticed that Leta was fiddling with her loose tooth. The same loose tooth that he has threatened to yank for the last month, causing both her and me to run screaming into the other room where we crouch in the corner and I whisper soothingly that I will save her from that mad man.

What? Whose team am I on? THE ONE WITH THE TEETH INTACT.

I mentioned my uneasiness with loose teeth when she lost her first one. There’s just something about teeth and feet that I have a hard time with, as if you needed to know that about me, but there it is. Don’t ever show me your feet or I’ll have to kindly ask you to remove my number from your phone.

He decided right then that this was the night, this was the time, no more excuses or running to mom. If I even thought about getting in his way he was going to take off his shoes and socks and rub his toes in my hair.

So, picture this: Leta is hysterical beyond comprehension. I don’t blame her, but I’m trying to be supportive. Scratch that, I’m trying to prevent a scenario in which I have to yank someone’s hairy feet off of my head.

She’s hyperventilating, crying, generally freaking out. Because she thinks it’s going to hurt. Even after we remind her that it didn’t hurt when her first tooth came out. But she’s not having it and is being ridiculously irrational. And Jon, someone who is married to and has to deal hourly with someone who is ridiculously irrational, is so over it. So over it that after forty-five minutes — I AM NOT EVEN KIDDING, FORTY PLUS FIVE MINUTES OF MY LIFE LOST TO THAT DAMN TOOTH — of Leta’s screaming NO! and STOP! and WAIT!, he reached into her mouth with a tissue, through the wall of her hands, and jerked that effer out.

The following is a script of what happened next:

Leta, shrieking: OW! OW! OW! YOU’RE HURTING ME! IT HUUUUUURRRTTS!

Jon: What is that again?

Leta: IT HUUUUUURRRTTS!

Jon: Really?

Leta: YEEEEEEEESSSSS! IT HUUUUUURRRTTS!

Jon: Really?! That’s interesting, Leta. Because I have your tooth in my hand.

Leta: WHAT???!!!

Jon: It’s out.

Leta: It’s out?

Jon: It’s out.

Leta: IT’S OUT?

Jon: It’s out.

Leta: IT’S OUT??!!

Jon: It’s out.

Leta: IT’S OUT??????!!!!!!!!

Marlo, fed up with all the bullshit: IT’S OOOOOUUUUUUTTTTTT!!!!

Leta shoots up out of my lap where she has been sitting, where I have buried my head into her back so that I don’t have to see anything, runs to the middle of the room and screams, “YOU GOT IT OUT IN, LIKE, TWO SECONDS. YOU’RE, LIKE, A MAGICIAN. THIS IS, LIKE, THE BEST DAY OF MY LIFE.”

You’re, like, a magician.

I, like, totally lost my shit and laughed for a good ten minutes.

Good thing I had my fun then, because the party was only getting started. That kid was so pumped on adrenaline that she would not sleep. Jon tried several times to sneak into her room to perform Tooth Fairy duties only to have her sit straight up, her hair a fiery mop of tangles, and go, “HI!” Not freaky at all.

By eleven o’clock I told Jon to go to sleep, I’d set my alarm for 4 AM and sneak in there. Certainly she’d be heavily asleep by then. Certainly. Certainly! Did you know that “certainly” and anything remotely similar in meaning is the Universe’s cue to screw with parents? It says so in the Ten Commandments.

I woke up at 4 AM. FOUR O’CLOCK IN THE MORNING. Five dollars in my hand. Yes, that’s the going rate in our house for a tooth, and I know we’re spoiling her and she’ll become a monster. A monster who will want her Oompa Loompa, like, NOW. I mean, her dad is, like, a magician, so where is it?

The moment I touched her doorknob she sat straight up in bed. Let me remind you that it’s four o’clock in the damn morning, so there is not a clear thought in my head. And so instead of poking my head in and saying something like, “Hey, heard a noise, are you okay?” I hit the floor. I hit the floor so fast that she didn’t see me, and then I army crawled to the side of her bed, if this isn’t the most ridiculous thing I have ever written, Heather, you are an idiot.

I lay quietly beside her bed for about ten minutes to let her settle down, and then I reached up, stuck my hand underneath the pillow where Jon had put the tooth, and furiously felt around in the dark. NOTHING. I could not find that tooth, and then I heard Leta sit straight up again. Except this time she said, “Hello?”

Please someone tell me that you are a failed Tooth Fairy, too.

I jerked my hand back to my side and lay there barely breathing. Two minutes went by when suddenly Leta peered over the side of her bed, saw me lying there idiotically, and said, “Who’s there? Mom? Is that you?”

And what did I do? I waved.

I waved and said, “Hi!”

“What are you doing down there, Mom?” she asked.

“Oh, you know. Had a bad dream so I thought I’d sleep next to your bed.”

“You don’t have to sleep down there!” she said. “Come up here with me!”

Wheeeeeee!!!!!

So I got in bed with my amped seven-year-old who would not go back to sleep. She kept moving around and asking questions, and in the meantime I’m covertly reaching around that entire bed trying to find the tooth. Three hours go by. Three of the longest hours of my life, of Leta asking what I was doing every time I moved my arm. I’M BAKING A GODDAMN CAKE, LETA. GO TO SLEEP.

By seven o’clock I had located the tooth which had somehow grown feet and walked two pillows to the opposite side of the bed. We’d put it inside a ziplock bag, and when I grabbed it? It crinkled.

No, let me say that again, and imagine this in my Southern accent: IT CRAAAAANKLED!

“What’s that noise?” she asked.

“What noise?”

“I thought I heard a noise,” she said.

“You didn’t hear a noise,” I said, and I used my talking to mask the sound of removing that bag from underneath the pillow and stuffing it into my shirt under my arm. At the same time I shoved the wadded fist of cash into its place. “You just think you’re hearing something because you’re delusional from sleep deprivation.”

Right then she sat up, the hugest smile on her face. “Can I peek underneath the pillow?”

Can I get a phew?

When she saw the five individual dollar bills she gasped. “How does the Tooth Fairy do it, Mom?!”

“She’s, like, a magician,” I said.

Heather B. Armstrong

Hi. I’m Heather B. Armstrong, and this used to be called mommy blogging. But then they started calling it Influencer Marketing: hashtag ad, hashtag sponsored, hashtag you know you want me to slap your product on my kid and exploit her for millions and millions of dollars. That’s how this shit works. Now? Well… sit back, buckle up, and enjoy the ride.

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