My parents owe me a bunch of quarters. Or a better Tooth Fairy.
Kids today collect an average $3.70 for every tooth tucked beneath their pillows, according to Visa's Tooth Fairy personal finance app. (And why wouldn't there be an app for Tooth Fairy finances?)
Seriously? Nearly four bucks per calcified cruncher?
Lucy, the Tooth Fairy has some 'splainin' to do 'bout her reward for my loosies.
The Visa Card people call it the Tooth Fairy Inflation Index. As the economy recovers, the price per chip of baby enamel rises.
According to their survey, the Tooth Fairy swapped an average $2.60 per pearly white in 2011, upped it to $3 last year, and now, $3.70 a tooth.
Some kids are even raking in about $20 a tooth. Yeah. Twenty dollars. For a tooth that fell out.
Parents, if Little Johnny muses, ''I wonder where we keep the pliers,'' hide your toolboxes.
Kit Yarrow, a consumer psychologist and professor at Golden Gate University, told The Associated Press that it's not just an improving economy that has the pillow pilferer's exchange rate rising. Today's Tooth Fairy is just trying to keep up with the Joneses' Tooth Fairy.
"A kid who got a quarter would wonder why their tooth was worth less than the kid who got $5,'' Yarrow said.
When the bragging begins whistling through gaps where teeth used to be, parents don't want it to be their kids who have to hang their heads in shame for having the cheapest Tooth Fairy.
This kind of reasoning never seemed to occur to my parents nor to the low-budget fairy fishing beneath our pillows. Self-esteem hadn't been invented yet when I was a kid.
If I whined because my rich friend Bradley got a whole dollar for his tooth, my folks were likely to snap, ''If you want a buck for a crummy ol' tooth, go live at Bradley's house.''
They said this as if it was meant to be a threat. But not only was Bradley's Tooth Fairy more generous, so was his Santa Claus. He had all the latest G.I. Joe Adventure sets, all the best Tonka trucks, and a pony.
I started packing my bag. ''I wonder where we keep the pliers,'' I mused.
About a third of the 3,000 households surveyed say the Tooth Fairy leaves a dollar or less. I don't know about you, but when I was kid, the Tooth Fairy dealt in quarters. On good days.
''You were lucky to get a quarter,'' Mom said. ''I only got a dime - if she remembered. You usually got your quarter. Sometimes you had to make your bed in order to find it...''
When my Tooth Fairy attached strings, it wasn't between a door knob and a loose tooth.
My daughter tells the story of the morning she woke up to find in place of her tooth not a quarter, not a dollar, not even five dollars, but ... a bottle of shampoo.
She rubbed her eyes, stared at the shampoo, rubbed her eyes again, and stared at the shampoo some more. It was obvious that she couldn't believe her luck.
I nodded enthusiastically. ''Isn't the Tooth Fairy great!''
Melissa narrowed her eyes on my big, toothy grin. ''I wonder,'' she mused, ''where we keep the pliers.''
---- Cole's first humor novel, ''Bash and the Pirate Pig,'' is being released this week in bookstores from B&H Kids publishers. Write him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or at the Burton W. Cole page on Facebook.