By Gwen Rockwood, newspaper columnist and mama of 3
God was smart when He set things up. He knew kids would need two parents because, inevitably, one of them is not going to be up to a particular kid-rearing task.
In a two-parent household, grownups divvy up jobs based on who does each task best and by who is grossed out more than the other one. Let me explain. I’m quite adept at handling the messiest of dirty diapers without gagging or wanting to sprint outdoors for fresh air. My husband? Not so much.
On the other hand, I’m terrible on the scene of a sudden stomach virus attack. I’m one of those sympathetic pukers who is likely to lose her own lunch at the site of someone else’s mess. So I’m on poop patrol and he’s on vomit duty. (Granted, poopy diapers happen a whole lot more often around here than vomit duty, but – in my mind – it’s still a good trade.)
Last week, I was particularly glad to have Tom around because 7-year-old Adam was about to lose his front tooth. The dentist told me the wiggly tooth needed to go and to come back for an extraction if we couldn’t get it out on our own.
After a week of wiggling, it was still barely hanging on. I told Tom I’d schedule an appointment for the tooth to be pulled, to which he replied, “Oh, that’s silly. I’m sure we can get it out on our own.”
I objected, saying, “But the ‘me’ part of ‘we’ can not yank out his tooth. Just can’t do it.” He knew, by the way my skin was beginning to crawl, that I meant it.
So he convinced Adam it was time for the tooth to come out. Adam agreed because he knew losing the tooth would trigger a visit from the Tooth Fairy. Tom began wiggling and tugging but the stubborn tooth wouldn’t let go. Adam got nervous and started to back out, but Tom kept reminding him about the Tooth Fairy payoff.
I was too nervous to watch, so I busied myself putting laundry away. After what seemed like eternity, I heard a yelp from Adam’s room followed by a joyous celebration and then by a loud “Uh oh!” I rushed in to investigate and Tom said that Adam accidentally swallowed the tooth. So they found pen and paper and scribbled this note: “Dear Tooth Fairy, I accidentally swallowed my tooth. Please leave the money anyway.”
Tom assured Adam this type of note would certainly work, since the Tooth Fairy doesn’t like to wait around for a tooth to exit the digestive system. After all three kids were in bed, Tom and I watched TV, did the dinner dishes and completely FORGOT about the Tooth Fairy’s scheduled visit. At 3 a.m. that morning, Adam walked into our bedroom. “Mom, Dad… The Tooth Fairy did not come!” We both glanced at the clock and said, “Adam, the Tooth Fairy could come at any time of night, and it’s not morning yet. You can’t be awake or she won’t come,” Tom said.
So he shuffled sleepily back to his room. But it’s hard to go to sleep when you’re expecting a fairy to show up. At 4 a.m. with money in hand, Tom opened Adam’s door and the boy sat straight up in bed, squinting in the darkness and said “Who’s there? Who’s there!” Tom quickly closed the door again and retreated to come up with a new plan. Finally, with a little improvisation, he got the job done, while the Tooth Fairy’s wife slept peacefully in the master bedroom.
At 6 a.m., Adam ran to our room to tell us there was no money under his pillow. I glared at Tom accusingly. “Go look around the house. Maybe she left the money someplace else,” Tom said. Adam rushed off to start searching, while Tom filled me in on what I’d missed. Since Adam was on Tooth Fairy watch, Tom crept slowly downstairs at 4 a.m., being careful not to let any step creak lest he get caught in the act. He couldn’t wait around until Adam fell asleep, so he’d left the money downstairs, he said.
On the breakfast table were a handful of quarters and a note that read: “Dear Adam, I broke my leg so I couldn’t come upstairs to your room. Thanks for the tooth. Your friend, The Tooth Fairy.”
Adam was thrilled with the money and the note, wondering aloud what might have happened to the poor Tooth Fairy. A sports injury, perhaps? Maybe a collision with the Easter Bunny? Regardless, the tooth was out, the Tooth Fairy came and all was well.
And the moral to the story is this: Single women everywhere should look for love, romantic chemistry, work ethic, honesty and all the other things that matter in a mate. But they should also try hard to find one that will get up at 3 a.m. and play the role of a letter-writing Tooth Fairy – even one with a broken leg. Parenthood is a team sport, and you need someone who’s good at the game.