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Friday, March 30th, 2012

Why the Tooth Fairy is American in our Multicultural Home

Global tooth fairy traditions/ © Carsthets -

With six kids from six to 14 years old it is often hard to keep up with all the teeth falling out. Even my 20-year-old last year had four wisdom teeth pulled and seriously resembled one of the Twilight characters, pale with a few drops of blood emerging from the side of her mouth.

I have a litany of tooth fairy excuses that I have resorted to when I forget a child’s tooth has fallen out. I have told my kids that the tooth fairy forgot (because she fell asleep early), her wings got stuck in the rain, she didn’t know the address of our hotel (when it happened on vacation), or her fairy phone lost battery power causing her to lose texts, tweets and emails.

This crazy tooth fairy tradition has made me think about its impact on my blended multicultural family.  My Ethiopian kids tell me their grandmother threw the tooth on the roof and someone would deliver the extravagant gift of a goat for the first baby tooth. In Guatemala, where my youngest daughter is from, it is traditional to place the tooth under the pillow believing a mouse (ratoncito perez) will come and replace the tooth with candy. My son Alec is from the Ukraine where it is customary to wrap the baby tooth in a tissue and place it in a dark corner, while awaiting a new tooth to grow back.

While I am all for embracing the cultures of my children, I realized that it would be more confusing if each child had a different ritual associated with losing a tooth. For the sake of consistency, we opted for the American tradition, explaining to the kids that if we were in their country of origin, then that tradition would apply if their teeth fall out.  I guess that means they believe there is such a thing as an American tooth fairy!

As for the American tooth fairy tradition, I have some issues with the parents that pay their children $20 a tooth. Don’t you agree we should come to an agreement at what the actual reasonable rate should be? I am curious as to what other parents feel is a basic rate for baby teeth. Also, would you handle your multicultural family’s lost tooth scenario differently than I do? And tell us what’s the tooth tradition in your country?

Here is a video with a few of my children as we discuss the tooth fairy:

© 2012, Deanna Jones. All rights reserved.

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Deanna Jones is the author of the number one Amazon adoption book To Be a Mother and is the founder of Mother of the World (

Leave us a comment!

  1. CommentsHapaMama   |  Friday, 30 March 2012 at 1:13 pm

    Thanks for pointing out the how culturally specific traditions like the tooth fairy are! The tooth fairy did not visit during my childhood, and I wasn’t prepared when my kids friends started losing teeth and talking about the cash they were raking in. My husband’s family is very big on the tooth fairy, and so I let him handle this tradition.

  2. CommentsMichelle Nott   |  Friday, 15 March 2013 at 4:09 am

    My children are French and American. While in England at our family’s cottage, my eldest daughter lost her first tooth. So, I naturally said the Tooth Fairy would come that night and leave her a little something for it (a 1-pound coin). A few months later and back at home in Belgium, she lost her second tooth. So, I told her the Tooth Mouse would come and give her a little something…well, the thought of a mouse under her pillow frightened her to no end. I quickly took back my words by realising, of course, that since she lost her first tooth in England, that the Tooth Fairy had forever “dibs” on her and her little sister’s teeth – phew! That calmed her down enough to go to sleep. The Fairy leaves either one pound or one euro, depending if she had time to pass by currency exchange ;)
    I wrote a story about the Tooth Fairy meeting the Tooth Mouse that you can read here:
    Thanks for your site. I am enjoying reading through it. Best, Michelle

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