“Mommy, mommy, my tooth fell out!”

These were the words I heard from my hysterical six-and-a-half-year-old as she was running up the stairs one morning several weeks ago. My niece and nephew had slept over the night before, and when the kids had all woken up way too early, we sent them downstairs to watch some TV while we tried to continue sleeping in.

Liam and I woke with a start from the screams.

“What happened?” we asked, sitting up in bed, confused and alarmed, thinking Nora must have fallen down and had some kind of horrific accident. She just held out her tooth to us and continued screaming and crying, “My tooth fell out! My tooth fell out!”

Our much calmer niece explained that Nora had been biting down on a blanket when she—my niece—had then pulled on the blanket, resulting in the removal of the tooth.

As my head cleared a bit and I realized she hadn’t been whacked in the face with a bat, I reasoned that she was of the age when teeth begin to fall out, and must’ve just had a loose tooth that none of us knew about, including Nora. Either that, or the blanket had been wrapped especially tight around that one tooth and the yanking that took place had been ridiculously hard, and did—in fact—end up ripping the tooth up from its root. In any case, that tooth was not going back in.

I tried to explain what had happened and attempted to put a positive spin on the whole thing.

“Honey! You lost your first tooth! This is exciting! It’s OK. This is what happens when you’re six-and-a-half,” I said. “Was your tooth loose? Was it wiggly?” I asked, still trying to get to the bottom of this unexpected event.

“I don’t know,” Nora answered, clueless, but slightly more calm since the hysteria that had overtaken her moments before was beginning to dissipate.

I walked with her into the bathroom and held her tooth so she could rinse out her bloody mouth. She was nervous that she had swallowed some blood and I assured her it all was OK. As talk turned to the impending arrival of the Tooth Fairy, she seemed to turn a corner. She looked at me wth the slightest hint of a smile and confessed with a big sigh, “I just can’t stop shaking.” I bent down and gave her a reassuring squeeze.

“It’s OK. You were scared and you weren’t expecting your tooth to fall out. Sometimes we get shaky when things like that happen,” I said. “Just relax and take some deep breaths.”

So, not quite the celebratory first-lost-tooth experience I recall having from my childhood, but an experience nonetheless.

As bedtime approached, we had a hard time getting our girl to calm down and settle in, what with all the Tooth Fairy excitement that had been building throughout the day. Our niece confessed earlier in the morning that she had gotten $20.00 for her first tooth. We reasoned aloud that our Tooth Fairy was likely not going to be so generous. I mean, what does our child know about the value of money at this point? Very little. We like to keep expectations small around here. We hope our Fairy’s $2.00 contribution won’t be remembered as stingy.

Liam asked me later that night, “What are you going to do with the tooth?”

“Keep it, of course,” I replied. Maybe not in my jewelry box, which is where my mother kept all of our baby teeth. And where I discovered them one day while admiring her sparkly things, confirming the fact that the Tooth Fairy was indeed not a real thing.

Nora now delights in smiling with her tongue sticking out through the hole where her tooth once was, as well as cracking jokes every time she flosses when she runs the flosser through the giant gap between her other two teeth. Haha. Very funny, little one.

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