She came into our room early in the morning and stood at the end of our bed—something our firstborn hasn't done in years.
From the time she first slept through the night, she stopped coming to our room in search of comfort.
She still looks for it through the day, maybe in the car or when we steal a rare moment alone on an errand. But the night has long been hers to conquer, and she has always done well with the solitude.
She didn't come, she said quietly.
And I knew that she knew that I knew that she knew.
The day before, she gathered the courage to visit the dentist and have two teeth extracted—to prepare for impending braces. At 12, she is on the cusp of her teen years, and a metal smile will be part of that passage.
She doesn't like any gore and still squeezes her eyes shut during the scary or sad parts of a movie.
It was a big deal for her to sit and endure something that scared her so much. But she did it because she's ready to move on to the next step; to grow up a bit more.
When the tooth fairy forgot to swoop in while she slept and take those trophies from her—the last two teeth of childhood—she wanted to know what it meant.
When I say she knew that I knew, it's because I could see it on her face. I could see that she no longer believed, that she knew the truth, that she wasn't surprised.
What she wanted to know is whether we had come to the part of the story when we let that fairy take flight.
And if we had come to the end of the story, what else would come to an end too?
We looked at one another quietly for a moment, and then she turned and left the room before I could say anything, though she seemed neither happy or sad.
Later, I snuck into her room and let my eyes travel across all her treasures—a mix of childhood and tweenhood spread from corner to corner. I found a place to leave a crumpled bill, where she might not have noticed if she had been in a hurry.
Maybe this way, it would be up to her to decide whether we held onto magic a little while longer.
Two days later, when I went back in to gather the sheets from her bed, I saw the money was gone. And a quick sweep of the room, told me she had found it and tucked it away for safe keeping.
As I turned to leave, I heard something fall to the floor, and I watched a tiny container with remnants of her childhood, as it rolled away from me.
She had left it there, under her pillow, even after she found the money.
I felt the wings of that fairy flutter inside my chest, before I quietly let her go.
I was wrong when I thought I was letting her decide.
She knew it was up to me all along.