Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Tooth Tragedy

(This is an old post I'm in the middle of re-writing for a shot at publication....Enjoy!)

After 2 months of wiggling and jiggling her tiny bean of a tooth, my eight year old daughter finally, officially, lost her 7th tooth. She diligently twisted and turned it until every last thread of tissue was disconnected.

The whole process of tooth loss is a bit nauseating for me to witness. First your child announces that the tooth is loose. Then they begin to play with said tooth incessantly, desperately trying to speed up the Tooth Fairy’s visit. They push it around with their tongues, wiggle it with their fingers, and eat apples with stunning regularity. Gradually, the tooth begins to dangle, sliding around the pink gum in acrobatic 360 degree turns. The "pop" sound a tooth makes when it is finally pulled is very distinct and turns my stomach, just a little, every time I hear it. Weirder than watching your child lose a tooth, is watching the new gargantuan permanent tooth fill up half your child's tiny face. We all have those photos of ourselves in elementary school with gaping holes in our smiles. We also have photos of ourselves with large beaver teeth occupying a startling amount of space in the 4x6 image. The arrival of Beaver Teeth marks the beginning of the infamous Awkward Phase that no childhood has been able to successfully avoid.

I digress. Alex wanted to pull the tooth all by herself . In the small bathroom, my husband Michael, my son Caleb, and I all crazily cheered her on like she was just moments away from a gold medal.

“You can do it, Al!”

“Twist it to the left! Ok, now to the right!”

“Almost there! Just do it! Just do it!”

In one swift, epic moment, she bravely pulled the dangling tooth with her right hand. The sheer force of the determined gesture sent the tiny tooth flying from her tiny hand into the great abyss of the upstairs bathroom. It felt like we were watching the scene unfold in slow motion, complete with the slowly drawled scream of “Noooooooo!!!!” as the tooth flew through the air. The upstairs bathroom has white hexagon tile. I immediately knew we were in trouble. Tiny white tooth on tiny white tiles.

Alex started crying hysterically. Deeply worried that the tooth fairy would not come if there wasn’t any tooth, she mouthed over and over “I just gotta find it. I just gotta find it…”

Mike, Caleb, Alex and I frantically, painstakingly scoured the bathroom on our hands and knees. We went over every square inch of tile, sink, tub, and rug.

No luck. Alex’s tears started coming faster and I knew full blown hysterical sobs were near.

In a hopeful attempt to assuage her fears, my husband quipped, "Honey, the tooth fairy knows you lost a tooth, don't worry. She always comes, no matter what." She didn't buy it. She looked at him incredulously and cried harder. 
Strike One.

It was my turn to take a crack at calming her down. I said with my very best mommy-means-business-face, "Alex, really that's enough. Come on, honey. Stop it right now." I stepped back, hoping my attempt at discipline had done the trick. In response, 
the tempo of the sobbing sped up and tone of the crying morphed into a loud shrieking sound. Strike Two.

I knew we were on the threshold of total and complete devastation. Bedtime was approaching and unless a miracle happened, our 20 minute tuck in would turn into a 90 minute one. The 90 minute tuck would result in a grumpy morning the next day. The grumpy morning would turn into a grumpy day. Basically, total family misery was at stake.

I was out of ideas. Desperate, I began praying, “God, please, please, PLEASE, let me find the STINKING TOOTH.” On the cusp of a third strike, I suddenly remembered that I still had some of her old teeth from the last time the tooth fairy visited. Not quite sure what to do with old baby teeth, I had thrown them into a junk drawer that contained other stuff I didn’t know what to do with. With lightning speed, I ran into my bedroom, grabbed the old tooth and hid it in my palm.

I did what any self-respecting, desperate mother who wants to put her kids to bed on time would do.

I lied.

I pretended to find the tooth on the bathroom floor.

I said with a little too much enthusiasm, “Honey, let’s look one more time on the floor. I didn’t really look very well behind the toilet……Oh my goodness! Look! I found it!” I triumphantly held the old tooth up, sucked in my breath, and waited.

She bought it.

The tears dried up and the post-sob hiccups eventually subsided. I took a picture of her new, toothless smile, wondering just when the permanent Beaver tooth would break through. Alex and Caleb were in bed on time and the tooth fairy left a buck under her pillow.

I fell asleep that night to my husband’s words, “You’re a genius, you know that?”

“Desperate times call for desperate measures.” I replied.

“Yeah,” he agreed. “Especially when the tooth fairy’s involved.”

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