Tooth fairy falling on hard times

In a recent survey, Visa found that the tooth fairy leaves an average of $2.60 per child's tooth -- 40 cents less per tooth than last year.

The hard-time economy affects even iconic childhood moments, it seems. I know in our house, Santa brought 20 percent fewer gifts last Christmas. And 2011 ain't looking much better.

I try to shield the Little Girl from talk of diminishing means, but it invariably comes up. Divorced people especially are used to operating with less money, and the kids simply have to adjust to that. It's unfair, but that's the crazy way it is.

And there's nothing wrong with teaching little ones about the value of a dollar. I try to avoid those, "In my day..." kind of conversations. But I want my daughter to know that I came from working-class people who taught me that nothing is handed to you.

Having said that, I know I spoil the kid. It's a weakness, I admit.

But the truth is, I never left her $3 a tooth when her baby chompers were falling out of her mouth. Maybe a buck, maybe two.

The amount never mattered; it was the magic that counted.

And that's the real payoff of childhood.