My five-year-old son has loose teeth. Three of them.
One may come out as soon as today.
He’s pretty excited about it. Made me call mom this morning to tell her.
I quickly realized: Oh, shit. I’m the Tooth Fairy now!
I almost never have cash laying around because I don’t listen to my father.
So, I need to make sure I have money on hand for situations such as this moving forward.
But, how much to give?!
A great question, it turns out. I started thinking about my childhood. Growing up with next to nothing.
How much did I get?
As memory serves, $1-$2 per tooth. I might have even approached little-kid baller status with a $3 molar a time or two.
That was 25-30 years ago. So, my initial reaction was to give $5 per tooth. Which is almost enough to go buy something cool when you’re a little kid.
A couple of my co-workers thought I might be overdoing it.
And while I value their opinions, I tend to do what I want. And what I want is whatever the best-possible thing is. And what’s the best-possible thing?
Let’s discuss with an economic review.
Make the Money. Don’t Let the Money Make You.
I’m pretty sure I lost my first tooth in 1984.
The equivalent buying power of $1 in 1984 is $2.25 in 2013 due to inflation. You can check my math here.
Which means me getting $2 or so in the 1980s is not far off from $5 in today’s dollars ($4.51, to be exact) if we want to maintain Tooth Fairy equity three decades later. And fairness totally matters to me.
It pisses me off when people who stay at the same job for several years can’t even keep up with inflation with their annual “cost-of-living” wage increases.
It pisses me off when I see colleges and universities raising tuition 6 percent or whatever the maximum cap is every year and saddling generations of young professionals with enormous debts that take more than a decade sometimes to pay off—even with high-paying jobs in the legal and medical sectors.
My little man isn’t savvy enough to know better. He may be equally happy with $1 as he would with $5. I don’t anticipate him getting online and researching today’s going rate for lost teeth.
But the Tooth Fairy can’t be reckless. Not on the cheap side. And not on the excessive side. Certainly not the first time.
The Santa Parallel
This is something my ex-wife and I used to disagree about. Very respectfully. No fighting. But we’re both products of our respective upbringings.
At Christmas throughout our childhoods, the perceived value of the gifts under the tree were not consistent with one another.
At my house, Santa Claus brought me most of my best, high-value items. Almost all of my favorite gifts growing up were from Santa. My Nintendo Entertainment System Action Set in 1987, being my all-time favorite gift. There were a thousand other things. And I always did everything twice, because I would have a “Christmas morning” with both my mom and stepdad, and then again with dad and stepmom a day or two later.
I always got a lot of awesome stuff from both Santa and my parents. But the real standout stuff came from Santa.
At my ex-wife’s house, Santa would only bring four or five gifts. Not anything shitty. But still lower-value items. Huge gifts? Like video game systems, or family four-wheelers or whatever, were given by the parents.
The thinking is that you don’t want your kid running off to school talking about what Santa brought them and mentioning big-ticket items, or to have another kid run home and ask mom and dad why she only got a board game and a crappy book with a public library sticker still stuck to the inside back cover while her friend got a new pony.
That makes sense to me. I grew up with a higher-percentage of wealthy friends maybe than the average kid due to attending a small Catholic school. However, I was never jealous of my friends. I don’t really get jealous of people having “things.” Never have. And also, I had such a magical time at Christmas every year—TWICE—that I just didn’t waste any energy wondering why someone else might have got something that I didn’t. My brain didn’t work that way.
But still, I don’t want to make other children feel bad, or put unneeded pressure on other parents due to the stories our children might swap at school. I’ll be sensitive about that at Christmas (though an abundance of cash will most certainly not be a problem this year!) as I am now with this Tooth Fairy situation.
C.R.E.A.M. Get the money. Dolla, dolla bills, ya’ll.
One dollar is not enough. I’m sorry. It’s not.
But $10-$20? That seems outrageous. That’s not happening either.
I think I’ve convinced myself that $5 is the right monetary ceiling here.
And I think I’ve convinced myself that lessons in money management (which I could certainly use a refresher on as its perhaps my greatest personal weakness) might be in order for my little man.
I am not financially disciplined. I want to be. But I’m not. I might even be a little reckless. Not majorly. But a little bit.
I think if you had a heart-to-heart with my ex-wife, she would tell you that this is in her top three of Matt’s Most-Undesirable Traits.
And I’d be quick to agree with her.
On a human-relations level, I very much want my son to be like me. I think I know how to treat others, and I think his observations of how I treat others over time will give him a blueprint for appropriate manners and decorum, depending on the audience. I hope so, anyway.
But on the money-management level? I have some very serious changes to make in my life before I can be a credible teacher.
But that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t try.
So, maybe the Tooth Fairy gives $5, with the caveat being my son has to put $2 of it into his savings account. Otherwise, he only gets $3 next time.
I’m going to consult the Tooth Fairy’s ex-spouse to see if she co-signs on this strategy. Because we must still be a team. Even on matters related to dental folklore.
My guess is she’ll think this is a decent plan.
Which means I have two new chores for today:
- Build a Tooth Fairy emergency fund.
- Write a note to my son from the magical little wealthy tooth collector.
I’ve certainly had worse jobs to do.
The Tooth Fairy