Whenever one of my kids has lost a tooth, I’ve always had them put it in a plastic baggie on their nightstand in plain sight rather than floating freely under their pillow. This makes it easier for the Tooth Fairy to find lost teeth, I have always told my children. She’s a very busy lady and doesn’t have the time (or the will) to rifle through their bedding.
Later in the evening after my kid has fallen asleep, I, acting in my capacity as Tooth Fairy, leave a few dollars and a cute note scrawled in a loopy “Tooth Fairy” font offering congratulations on the tiny lost body part. I sprinkle a little “fairy dust” (glitter) for good measure and collect the bagged tooth from the nightstand.
Then I take the baggie and lovingly stash it in a drawer full of other tiny little enameled pieces of my children. Literally, I have a drawer full of pieces of my children.
Why am I doing this? Why do we do this?
I know we’ve all seen the tooth bear. (If you haven’t, trust that you are blessed and do not Google it. Just know there is such a thing as a “tooth bear” and it is exactly what you suspect it is.) There are also craft projects for saving and displaying or wearing your kids’ teeth, all varying in their degree of obviousness as to the fact that you are looking at human teeth.
I want to be really judgmental of these various ways to memorialize baby teeth because what the fuck, and yet, is my drawer full of plastic bags with my kids’ teeth that much less weird than a toothy craft project? At least with a baby-teeth necklace or a baby-teeth picture frame, or even one of those little keepsake boxes with the tiny compartment for each tooth, you have given the lost teeth some sort of purpose. All I have is a collection of body parts and no plan. Am I a psychopath?
What is the point of keeping my kids’ teeth if I don’t have a plan for them? I’m not hanging them like artwork on the refrigerator or making discrete necklace pendants out of them. I’m not sniffing them like I do periodically with their tiny baby socks, hoping for a whiff of babyhood. No, they’re just in my drawer, chilling, for no reason whatsoever.
Except, I do have a reason to keep my kids’ teeth. It’s because it is easier to keep a tooth in an unlabeled baggie in a drawer than to throw a part of my child’s literal body that fell off in the trash.
After the most recent lost tooth, and my subsequent staring into that creepy tooth drawer and thinking, “Well, this is sort of weird, but I guess I’ll worry about it later,” I took to my Facebook page to ask what other parents do with their kids’ teeth. I got about 150 responses, because apparently people needed to talk about this.
A few parents had some sort of sentimental craft they’d used to keep their kids’ baby teeth. Some kept only the first lost tooth, acknowledging that milestone as a special moment, which I can totally get on board with. I have a lock of hair from each of my kids’ first haircuts (to be fair, no plans for those either, other than to occasionally look at them while I dab tears from my eyes).
But the overwhelming majority are like me (and I’m guessing you too) and have their kids’ teeth randomly stashed in a drawer or jewelry box somewhere with no plan whatsoever for what will eventually happen to them. Quite a few responses were from parents whose children had already gone off to college, who had moved and thus been forced to sort through every possession they owned, or who had done some Kon Mari-type decluttering. Of these, nearly everyone, upon rediscovering their grown children’s forgotten lost teeth, had an “Ew gross, what the fuck” response and tossed their kids’ teeth in the garbage with nary a second thought.
I find this fascinating. Once our kids have a mouth full of adult teeth, it seems to be easier to throw away all those teeth we collected over the years. But in the moment our child loses a tooth, the majority of us can’t seem to make ourselves throw the tooth in the trash. It doesn’t matter that our child has no use whatsoever for the tooth and we have no plans to do anything with it. It just feels kind of… wrong to toss this tiny piece of our child into the garbage. It’s like it’s too fresh or something. So we just hang onto it with a plan to “figure it out later.”
Even now, with my kids at 14 and 10, I still can’t bring myself to throw away their teeth. I know the drawer exists, and I know it’s ridiculous, especially since at this point I don’t even know which teeth came out of which kid. But hey, I don’t need the drawer for anything else, so I guess it’s fine to keep it for now.
At least I’m not making a tooth bear.