Raising children is a complex stew of consistency, sacrifice, endurance, creativity and joy. Each moment in the relational process of raising your child contains at least one of these elements, and sometimes even all five. The first concept there, consistency, is a huge one, because it encompasses everything from discipline to family traditions. . .and woe to the parent who breaks the pattern of tradition. . .
Our oldest daughter, Micah, was around six, highly verbal, extremely imaginative and quite passionate, and she instantly loved the concept of family traditions. For her, if we did it once and she enjoyed it-- it was thereby a Tradition which must be repeated. . .and the more creative it was, the more it should be concreted into the patterns of our existence.
It was the perfect storm then: a child who loved imaginative and repetitive activities and the childhood sacrament of The Tooth Fairy. . .
Wait! I go through the pain of losing this bloody wiggly tooth and I get to hide it under my pillow and a whimsical creature from the Other comes while I sleep and pays for my shoddy first edition dental work with cold hard cash? Sign me up!
We added to the allure by paying her in gold Sacajawea dollars (You remember those right? A surefire top ten entry on the Bad Ideas of the Millennium List, ranking up there with peanut butter and jelly in the same jar, George Lopez getting his own late night show, or this product which has a firm grip on the #1 spot) You ever try to pay for something with Sacajawea dollars? People look at you like you gave them a handful of buttons. Nonetheless, my daughter loved getting those 2 gold coins, it was like pirate's treasure (delivered by an orally fixated pixie of course).
It was the night of Tooth #3. . .we had established with the previous teeth the pattern of bedtime hide and morning reward with the Tooth Fairy, and Micah was excited for the tradition to manifest once again. My wife was working late that evening on her animal business and I had some friends over for a sporting event and general male ballyhoo. We tucked Micah in for the night, finished our assorted activities, and went to bed late. . .
Our alarm clock the next morning sounded really weird. . .it sounded like a wailing kindergartener was standing by my ear. . .I woke up in my normal way, which is like a dimwitted bear after a winter of hibernation, and realized there was a wailing kindergartener standing by my ear.
My daughter was at eye level with her palm held out, a tiny misshapen piece of enamel known as an incisor lying there desolate and alone, her mouth contorted into the Saddest Frown Ever, with the following words being bansheed into my ear canal at a volume usually reserved for tornado sirens:
"She didn't come. She didn't come. SHE DID-N'T COOOOOOOME."
My wife and I bolted upright then and gave each other the patented Marriage Look known as the I Thought You Were Going To Face. We followed this up with the We're the Worst Parents in the Galaxy Face and the She's Going to Start Piercing Body Parts at Age 8 Because We Didn't Love Her Enough Face. . .
That moment may have been the worst I've ever felt as a parent. . .the sheer disappointment radiating from my child was completely my fault. . .I straight up forgot a cherished childhood tradition. . .
Shannon and I recovered nicely, her swooping in with the compassionate hug and tone of voice that moms seem to have intuitively better skills in, and I came up with a Plan B which began a few minutes later with a knock at the door. . .
Shannon calmed Micah down enough to hear the knock on the door and said,
"I wonder who that could be? Would you like to answer the door?"
Micah shuffled all teary eyed and red faced to the door and opened it. . .and there on the porch was a letter addressed to her. . .
It was a letter from the Tooth Fairy explaining why she didn't come (The Boogeyman delayed her), apologizing profusely (She normally would never let this happen) and here was a quick treasure map to the gold coins, just leave your tooth there when you find them (I had to hide the gold so the Boogeyman wouldn't get it).
We got dressed and had a fun treasure hunt together, and then went to the computer and started a children's book called The Night the Tooth Fairy Didn't Come (a work still in progress). That morning of disappointment has turned into one of our favorite family memories. . .
One of the things I like to study is the effect and role of unmet expectations in our lives. . .
We all have expectations and the vast majority of the time we genuinely expect them to be met. . .and when they aren't, our responses usually include any combination of disappointment, disillusionment, anger, frustration, bitterness, whining, or isolation.
Expectations and how they are fulfilled or not fulfilled affect us every day. . .even to the simplest things. . .
We get angry at the red light not because it is red but because we expected it to be green.
We get disappointed at the movie for not meeting the expectations we had after we saw the preview, at the meal for not looking or tasting like the commercial showed it or the menu described it, at the product we just purchased because it didn't function the way we wanted to or make us feel the way we thought it would. . .(or the TV show LOST didn't end the way we wanted it to and we're still cynical about committing to any drama in primetime ever again. . .)
But even more insidious and destructive is the way our feelings can fester and cause isolation in our relationships both with people and God. Unmet expectations poorly handled have derailed many a faith journey, marriage, and friendship. . .
We cannot realistically expect people to never hurt us (by forgetting the "tooth fairy") nor can we expect God to always act in the way that we want Him to (That would make us God and Him a circus performer on our leash). I am not saying we walk around only with the expectation to be disappointed, but it would make many of us way more healthy all around if we stopped placing lofty and mostly unvoiced expectations on God and our relationships. . .and concurrently stopped wailing inwardly about those expectations when they are not fulfilled the way we want them to be. . .
In fact, I think many of us are missing the "knocks at the door" because we are too busy screaming "She didn't cooooommme!". . .and if you don't hear the knock, you can't enjoy what might be one of the best treasure hunts ever. . .
"I wonder who that could be? Would you like to answer the door?"
Quick Bonus Story if you aren't tired of reading yet. . .
I think it was Tooth #5 where Micah knew the Tooth Fairy was just us, and she concurrently was very into fairies in general. So that night I put on her little costume fairy wings she had, grabbed her fairy godmother wand and had Shannon take a picture of me sneaking into her room as the Tooth Fairy. I printed off the picture, folded it, and placed it with the Sacajaweas. The next morning she came out of her room not laughing, but screaming, and yelled:
"The Toothy Fairy is NOT A BOY!"
. . .and proceeded to tear up the picture and leave it in the hallway.
You see, once again, unmet expectations!
And I just found this: