This past Sunday, I saw Ben fiddling with one of his teeth when suddenly he was holding it in fingers.
I'm not sure which one of us was more shocked at the slightly bloody gap in his mouth. I wasn't expecting him to start losing teeth this early. My first thought was that he had knocked a tooth out by accident.
His dental precociousness shouldn't come as a shock. This is a kid who got his first tooth at four months.
Yes, ladies. Ouch.
I was amazed at how quickly Ben progressed through shock, panic, and sadness to curiosity:
"No! I don't want my tooth to come out!" "Put it back in!" "Where is my tooth? Don't lose it! I want to hold it!" "Will another tooth grow in?" "Where's my new tooth?"
I found a tiny box for his tooth and in about fifteen minutes, he was happily playing again.
What's astoundingly lucky for everyone is that we had just rented an Elmo's World video that includes a "Teeth" segment. It features Andrea Martin as the voice of the Tooth Fairy, explaining the whole lost tooth ritual.
He's also seen a Yo Gabba Gabba episode about teeth that features Amy Sedaris as the Tooth Fairy.
So thanks to television and two superb comic actresses, Ben knew what to expect.
We acted out the Tooth Fairy visit several times that day, with the little box and a quarter. But when bedtime came, Ben was not quite ready for a visit from you-know-who. He wanted to keep the tooth in the box on his dresser rather than put it under his pillow.
Every night since then, he asks, "Where is my tooth?" I show him the box and ask if he wants to put it under his pillow so that the Tooth Fairy will come.
"We can ask her to leave your tooth and not take it with her. Do you want her to come tonight?"
"No. I want her to come a different night."
Five days later, and the tooth is still on the dresser.
Yesterday, Ben asked, "Is the Tooth Fairy real or pretend?"
I stumbled around for a bit and settled on telling him that the Tooth Fairy is real if he wants her to be real. And that the Tooth Fairy gets busy sometimes and when that happens Mommies and Daddies help her out.
He skipped out of the room. That was enough for him for now.
Until the next tooth, which is now wiggling away next to the little pink gap in his smile.