I have many talents as a mother. I make a mean pot of Kraft macaroni and cheese. I can fix almost anything (well, not in my own life, but for the 10-and-under set I’m a whiz). Sometimes I surprise the kids with something fun. I can keep track of multiple medications and dosage schedules. There is an assortment of character band-aids on hand at all times and I know how to use them. I have eyes in the back of my head. Many, many motherly talents do I possess.
The care and feeding of loose teeth is not part of my repertoire.
I don’t believe there is any sort of instinct for compassionate handling of a 6-year-old who wiggles a tooth all day long, declares it hurts and it needs to come out, but who screams if you touch it. If such an inborn trait exists, I am lacking. My daughter is not impressed with my standard response of “If it hurts, pull it out.” And I suppose that may be why she howls whenever this is the topic at hand and I approach her mouth.
The Tooth Dilemma has been an important kindergarten issue, it turns out. For weeks, then months, the Chickadee’s classmates were wiggling and then losing teeth, while she kept asking when it would be her turn. Finally, about a month before her 6th birthday, we were doing our nightly let’s-check-your-teeth ritual (I would try to wiggle some of her front teeth, all of which were firmly rooted and unbudging) and we found a wiggler. And there was much rejoicing! And I don’t think her hand left her mouth for about three weeks straight! Great was the glory of the loose tooth!
The novelty wore off when the loose tooth became the monstrosity that is a very-loose-but-still-hanging-on-and-hurting-tooth. That lasted about a week, during which time I contemplated sneaking into her room and extracting the tooth while she slept just to stop the whining. And then–on her 6th birthday, no less–she lost her first tooth. At Daddy’s house.
I had a little twinge. Okay, fine, I had a great big surge of “Oh this is just fanfuckingtastic, Fun Daddy gets all the glory once again!” if you want to get technical.
She brought the tooth home, and it took her three days to come to grips with parting with it. I wondered how long the ritual of placing the tooth under the pillow at bedtime followed by a tearful morning-after confession of “I couldn’t do it, Mama!” could last. In the end her love of cash won out, and the Tooth Fairy (having spent the previous nights groping under the Chickadee’s pillow in the dark) finally hit pay dirt and was able to complete her transaction.
I was hoping to rest on my laurels for a while after that, but shortly thereafter the tooth next to the gap started to wiggle. And then a permanent tooth began growing in behind it. Being the caring, sensitive mother that I am, and not wanting to alarm my daughter given this turn of events, I referred to her as Shark Girl and told her if we were lucky, she’d sprout a third row of teeth as well.
After a while, that tooth reached very-loose-but-hanging-on status and the whining once again commenced. One night I was on my way out to choir practice when she was fussing over it, and I offered to pull it out. One gentle tug brought screams (but no tooth). I left amidst tears, wishing the babysitter Godspeed. Well imagine my surpise when I arrived home to hear that the babysitter had pulled it for her. I was relieved, but again… that pang. It just felt like I should’ve been involved somehow.
So when we arrived at the third loose tooth I was certain that I would get it right, this time. I would not frighten her nor call her endearing yet possibly scarring names, and I would know Just The Right Moment to swoop in and catch that tooth as it tumbled from her mouth. But that tooth defied logic and gravity. It could be persuaded to lie perfectly flat both frontwards and backwards, but was still–magically, freakishly!–attached. And tonight, with five minutes before I needed to leave for a meeting at church, I realized that I wasn’t sure I could take another Babysitter Extraction.
I grabbed hold. I began to twist. She began to scream. I chickened out.
Let’s be clear: the Chickadee’s other nickname is the Swan, not as in plastic-surgery-addicted-reality-show-fodder, but as in the one who spends an hour dying in the most melodramatic manner possible. I don’t think I was actually hurting her. But with two strikes against me for inept tooth handling, I didn’t feel comfortable proceeding.
The babysitter showed up. I offered to try again; she declined. I asked the sitter (trying to stay as casual as possible) to please leave the tooth alone. I left for my meeting.
I was less than a mile from the house when my cell phone rang. “Mama, I was waving good-bye to you and it just fell out!”
It feels like a failing, having missed the actual event not once, not twice, but three times, now. I don’t know why. I don’t remember reading that Real Mamas Catch The Tooth but nonetheless I seem to believe that if I were truly good at this whole mothering thing, I would at least occasionally be witness to the event. Will she remember, when she grows up, that her mother was somehow mysteriously absent for these illustrious milestones? Will it taint her memory of my care of her?
It’s doubtful. But just to be on the safe side, once the fourth tooth gets really loose I think I’ll just put a little piece of duct tape in there any time we have to be apart….