There is a Tooth Fairy!

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By: Mark J. Eisen, M.D.

I had a wonderful experience when a friend recently confided that their nearly adolescent son expressed dismay when told there was not a Tooth Fairy. This parent decided to re-explain the idea of the change in awareness for their son as a right of passage, or initiation. They didn't take away the reality of the tooth fairy but began to develop a more metaphorical, allegorical meaning for the idea of the tooth fairy. For small children this fairy exists in their imagination. It comes and carries their tooth away when it falls out, leaving a gift, a coin, perhaps a crystal or small toy as a token of exchange for this precious tooth that had been lost.

Many enlightened people today might scoff at this parent and their naive child still wishing there to be a tooth fairy. Some would consider a child with such ideas to be backwards, "not with it", and in sore need of computer training to break them of their unworldly life of imagination. I, on the other hand was delighted to hear of an older child still sustaining a pristine and innocent consciousness united with an ideal of good watchful beings in the world who care about events that occur to us humans. How often do we hear a five-or six-year-old boldly scoff at the idea of Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy. Yet here is a sensitive, imaginative and loving child upset at someone's having told him that the Tooth Fairy didn't exist.

I'm reminded of a passage in Job in which God challenges Job with serious questions. He asks if Job created the seas or the mountains or the trees? Could Job extend his life or make his hair grow? Could Job add an inch to his height? Job is utterly humbled. He recognizes that it takes a true creator being to provide the splendor and motive force of the world which the human being inhabits.

With our scientific cleverness today we often scoff at the idea that there are spiritual beings with intention that populate the natural world about us as well as the soul world between us. One can ask: How is it that water manages to flow at all? How can it flow with the variety of eddies and forms that it displays in nature and likewise in the watery element of the blood, lymph, bile and spinal fluid in the human being? And how is it that the wind propels the clouds and air and trees even as the air floods the human lungs and penetrates the blood bringing nourishment of oxygen and carrying off the dross of the body into the atmosphere? And how is it that the forms of crystals come about in nature and that nature organizes itself into a living panoply of plant and animal forms and substances which nourish the human being? Who is it that causes our hair to grow and our legs to grow as we grow up and who helps our mind to grow to encompass more that just the dull academic content of our education? How do we come to write poetry and produce great works of music, singing, sculpture and architecture? Is there any genius living behind and within these happenings or is it all the working of the material world?

And one can ask how it happens that a child, without any doing on his own part, magically manages to rapidly push a tooth loose from its own mooring in the jaw? How can they thrust forth a new tooth from deep in the bone that's fit for many years of service? In Waldorf pedagogy, it is understood that the passage of the changing of the teeth is an event of spiritual importance for the growing child. It signifies that the child has freed up certain forces for developing a life of cognition and thought. One observes this easily in every child. New ideas occur to them and they search out new experiences in the world. No longer do they cling to adults, imitating the things about them. Rather they begin to unfold a life of concepts.

Now, when that tooth pushes its way out, parents express joy too. They congratulate their child and tell them they are growing up. Likewise grandparents and friends. Most grown­ups more or less marvel at the changing of a child's tooth and we always remind the child that the Tooth Fairy will come and visit them. How does everyone know about this Fairy?

In times of stress or mourning we are reminded of this connection. Adults often forget their own relationship to the spiritual world. Many people turn to the development of a stronger inner life and remember that they knew at one point or another in their life that they had a guardian angel, a being who looks after them and keeps a special eye out for their well being. Even as we rejoice in the coming of age of a child at six or thirteen or twenty-one, so we can imagine that beings that have to do with humanity's development also derive joy and nourishment from seeing each human being succeed in their trials. Likewise the Tooth Fairy! This particular being may observe in relative silence the passage of age of the child but has a special interest in seeing that the orderly development of the child's life of thinking occurs. As part of that celebration they impel and help the changing of the teeth. No wonder this fairy is so pleased to have the child offer up this sign of its developmental victory, left under its pillow.

Now I'm not sure I can say that the Tooth Fairy leaves a quarter or a crystal for a child. Sometimes even angelic beings have to plant an idea in human heads and rely upon the adults doing what is needed. I believe the Tooth Fairy inspires parents to one degree or another to act as its agent in collecting those teeth, perhaps consigning them to a special box or a special place in the garden. As the emissary of that fairy parents bring a token to the child. This assures them they are being watched over and cared for by beings who have interest in their coming of age. Such assurance is a basis for faith and trust in the world later in life.

As adults, we need to move from one trial in life to another, from hardship or stress to the development of new capacities and insights. So a young child will recognize gradually that it needs to graduate from the simpler idea of a Tooth Fairy it may have had when younger to one that's united with a strong imaginative feeling for the creative working of beings in the world and in humankind. Of course this feeling can be cultivated in a child's experiences in gardening, the arts, or hearing an inspired teacher tell a story. For the Tooth Fairy which accompanies the child, that angel-fairy's biography must also evolve for each child. The children come to understand that their relationship with this being matures over the years and at a certain point is not recognized solely by gift giving but by an honoring or recognition of the many stages of development that the young person or adolescent has come to.

So when your child asks about the Tooth Fairy perhaps some of these ideas will help you to find a way to move your child forward sensitively and gently from the marvelous conceptions and feelings guarded in the shrine of your child's heart into a deeper view of the human being in the natural world.

Yes, there is a Tooth Fairy!


MARK J. EISEN, M.D. received his medical degree from the University of Michigan and completed his residency in Family Practice at Duke University. He practices the extended medical therapies developed by Rudolf Steiner and Dr. Ita Wegman known as Anthroposophical medicine. He currently has a private practice in Chapel Hill, North Carolina and is a lecturer for the UNC Medical School course on Alternative and Complementary Medicine. Used with permission from The Practice News, Dr. Eisen's patient newsletter.

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