When my daughter lost her first tooth it was a special moment for us, as it is for any family.  A rite of passage if you will, as a child moves through grammar school and heads toward their “tween” years.  

Just as we had done with her older brother, we made her place the tooth under her pillow and sometime after she had fallen asleep, I put a half dollar coin there. The next morning, I woke her up and told her that she had a visit from the Tooth Fairy the night before and that she should look under her pillow.

The first thing I would tell anyone who is inclined to become a parent someday is that kids are unpredictable.

Life can go off script quickly, and often. As you add lives to your family in the form of children, this intensifies rapidly. My daughter’s reaction was subdued, to say the least. 

I was taking a video of her reaction to share with family later and was a little frustrated that her level of excitement wasn’t what I had anticipated. I chose to remain positive regardless of the lack of enthusiasm that I had perceived.

A couple of weeks later, my daughter, while eating a banana at daycare, lost her second tooth. Later that evening, while picking up the kids, we took special care to make sure we didn’t misplace her tooth. As we prepared for bed, we once again began the same process that we had with her first tooth.

“Daddy, can I just keep my tooth?” my daughter asked contritely. 

“You can, but the tooth fairy won’t leave you anything under your pillow tonight.” I replied.

“About that Dad, the tooth fairy didn’t pay much for my tooth last time.” commented my daughter softly.

“Well, you see, it’s not exactly a payment, it’s more like a gift that the tooth fairy gives you, to celebrate losing a tooth.” I said, trying to explain that the tooth fairy wasn’t exactly a business person trying to take advantage of her.

“That’s ok, I will just keep my tooth then.” my daughter concluded as she shifted her attention away from the conversation.

At this point, I’ve lost control of the exchange. 

With a background in sales, I should have known to start with open-ended questions and finish with close-ended questions. So, now I have two options in front of me; let her keep her tooth and miss out on part of her childhood or continue the discussion having already given her the vantage point.

Here we go.

“Suppose I could talk to the tooth fairy about compensation, what would incentivize you to put your tooth under the pillow?” I ask, hoping to render my daughter and her newly prized possession asunder.

“Twenty dollars.” she responded, without hesitation or so much as a hint of facetiousness in her voice.

“I don’t think the tooth fairy has budgeted for that high of a tooth value, maybe five dollars would be good though, that’s a 900% increase from your last tooth after all.” I tried to explain using my negotiating skills.


Before we continue, as an owner of a small agricultural business, I have been in this situation numerous times with both suppliers and clientele.

It’s that moment during a negotiation where any good businessperson knows that regardless of time, you’re supposed to be patient and wait for the other party to respond. Although, I would like to say that I am fortunate that my business partners do not come in the form of cunning six-year-olds with gaps in their smile.

“Ten dollars is quite a bit of money really. You could do a lot with ten bucks.” I said with complete disregard for every single thing I had ever been taught about arbitration.

“Dad, we could just keep the tooth for now and talk to the tooth fairy when the rest of my teeth have fallen out. I bet the tooth fairy has never had those many teeth under a pillow at one time before and would pay a thousand dollars!” my daughter exclaimed with unbridled enthusiasm.

I started to do some quick math in my head. At twenty dollars per tooth and eighteen more yet to fall out of her head, I’m currently anticipating a three hundred and eighty dollar price tag, assuming the current market for baby teeth is stable for the next few quarters.

“Okay, if you’ll place the tooth under your pillow tonight, I will explain to the tooth fairy that the tooth cannot be picked up unless the compensation is twenty dollars. But I need you to understand that this is a *one-off* and the tooth fairy may not always leave you this much for future teeth.” I said, trying to salvage what little dignity I had left in this discussion.

My daughter, pleased with the response, places her tooth under the pillow.

The next morning, she wakes up to find a twenty dollar bill placed squarely under her pillow, right where her tooth had been. The only words I could decipher during her five-minute-long garrulous response were “Shopkins” and “Legos”. I was initially inclined to spend the morning teaching her about the value of money. But then, thinking back on the previous night’s deliberation she seemed to have a pretty firm grasp on that already.

Three days later, as I’m fixing dinner, I overhear a conversation from the kids as they’re finishing their homework.

“…that’s why I asked for twenty, I know the tooth fairy wouldn’t have given me that much.” whispered my daughter.

“Yeah, he didn’t even talk to the tooth fairy. He probably swapped the fifty cent piece for the twenty dollar bill. He has a collection of those hidden in his sock drawer.” my son whispered back, nice enough to play along for my daughters’ sake.

For my sake.

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