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Lessons from the Tooth Fairy

Yesterday, I had one of those truly awesome parental moments. My six year-old son, Isaiah, lost his first tooth. He was so excited to be getting a visit (and some money) from the tooth fairy that he went to bed early. I waited until I knew he was good and asleep, crept into his room, took the tooth from under his pillow, and replaced it with a nice crisp dollar bill. The next morning he excitedly lifted the pillow and said, “I knew it. I knew she was going to leave me a dollar.” I just laughed and shook my head, thinking as I did the day he took his first steps or learned to ride a bike, that moments like these are why you have kids.

Later that day when we stopped at the grocery store, my son decided he wanted some candy. I told him he had candy at home. But he didn’t want that candy. He wanted a bag of Skittles from the store. Fine, I said, if you want the Skittles then you’ll have to buy it with your own money. He said he didn’t have any money, to which I replied that he’d just gotten a dollar that morning from the tooth fairy. “But I left that at home on my dresser,” he said, and replied that I could pay for the candy with my credit card like the rest of the groceries. Never mind that kids always have a way of volunteering their parents to do something they want, like you could just put it on your credit card. Really, can I?

But then, I thought this could be a good opportunity to see if he’d learned to keep to his word. So I explained to him that if I bought the Skittles then he would have to pay me back when we got home and he readily agreed.

True to form when we got home as I was putting the groceries away, my son, with a mouth full of Skittles says, “Well Mom, a deal’s a deal. I owe you a dollar.” He handed me the dollar without a trace of reluctance. I was genuinely moved so much so that I couldn’t take the money. “That’s being an honorable guy, Isaiah,” I said. “What does Mommy always say to you?” I asked. “Do what I say I’m going to do,” he replied. “That’s right,” I said, but told him to take back the dollar and put it in his piggy bank.

I know what some of you are thinking … that that’s a terrible way to teach a kid about money. After all, the bank doesn’t give you anything when you borrow money and you pay it back as agreed. In fact they charge interest and are fairly unsympathetic to what kind of lesson you’ve learned. However, I am not a bank. I am a mother who was so proud of her son understanding the importance of keeping his agreements that I didn’t have the heart to take his tooth fairy money.  

I have faced so many challenges as a single mother, and perhaps the largest of which has been not being able to teach my son how to be a man, not being one myself and all. But I made an important decision years ago. This is the hand we got dealt. It’s not an ideal situation, but if I pray, follow God’s word, see to it that he has good male role models, and do the best I can to impart in him the character traits essential to being a good and productive human being, then we would be, and he would be, just fine. So far, so good.

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