~ Loose Tooth ~
The whole thing happened in a matter of seconds. When I heard my four-year-old slip and come up crying in the other room, my husband told me to stay put: “I’ve got it.” Recently, Nicholas had been playing his drama card like a cardsharp, and his dad and I were trying to cut back on jumping at his every whine or cry. I sat on my hands, wanting to comfort him, but also trying hard to be a rock. He was going to be fine. Then my husband announced, “Okay, there’s some blood.” “What?” I yelled, pushing up from my seat. “And he lost a tooth.” This was all reported in a matter-of-fact tone while I yelped and ran into the kitchen, where our son was now screaming with bright red blood pouring out of his mouth.
“Oh baby, I’m so sorry!” I ran to him and instantly burst into tears. When he saw my distress, Nicholas’s cries rocketed up another notch. There was blood – lots of it – and a big gap where his precious little white tooth had been. “His tooth! His front tooth!” I kept shouting the words like an imbecile till my husband told me, “You need to calm down and go in the other room now.” I’ve never been good with blood, and like any mother, my heart stops with each thunk, thud, or cry until playing resumes or my son, who has learned his mom is a worrywart, pronounces, “I’m okay, mama!” Still, we’d been lucky in the arena of accidents up until now. Despite Nicholas’s love for street hockey, football, and pretty much every other sport, he’d managed to stay remarkably injury free.
So how was it that an innocent twirl on the hardwood floor turned into a tooth-stealing injury? My husband, who saw it from afar, says that our son, in mid-twirl, slipped and landed face first on the wooden step that divides our sunroom from the kitchen. Out popped his baby tooth, as if from a perfect excision, its long slender root still attached when we recovered it from beneath the stair. We put it on ice (though later were told that teeth fare better in cold milk). While I rocked our boy back and forth, paper towels stuffed in his mouth, my husband called the dentist. Apparently, his was also a voice of reason: make sure the bleeding stops; these things happen; apply ice; forget about the tooth, he was going to lose it in a year or two anyway; give him Tylenol or Motrin as needed.
Eventually the bleeding abated, Nicholas’s cries calmed, and a few popsicles and episodes of The Berenstain Bears later, he was feeling better. His mom, however, was still sick to her stomach; my attempts to keep him safe had been thrown out the window in a few seconds. My husband tried to make me feel better. “Honey, he’s fine. He was going to lose that tooth anyway.”
“But how will he talk without a lisp?” I cried. And then it occurred to me, “And his school pictures!” I let out a moan. “He’ll be gap-toothed.” There it would be: evidence forever of how I’d let my son down, left him in harm's way.
My husband cocked his head and looked at me as if I’d slightly lost my mind. No doubt he wondered if I needed a sedative more than our boy. Like many a mom, I’m great at guilt. If I had been watching Nicholas that second, would he have stumbled? Probably. I doubt I could have broken his fall. I might have cautioned him to be careful, to slow down; but more likely I would have been taking delight in his whimsical twirl. He’s an active, imaginative boy and I love nothing more than to witness all that imagination in play.
Later that night, I tucked him in and hugged him till he told me to stop. The tooth was safely tucked under his pillow, awaiting a prize from the tooth fairy. I asked Nicholas, as I do most nights, what he was going to dream about. I braced myself, certain his answer would involve blood, gore, pain, an innocence stolen. “I think I’m going to dream about the brown rollercoaster,” he said after a moment. This was in reference to the ride he and his cousin had gone on six consecutive times, screaming with delight, earlier in the day at the local fairground.
I smiled and remembered to breathe. Maybe we weren’t doing such a terrible job as parents. And when I dropped him at preschool a few days later, Nicholas gloating like a rock star while all his friends crowded around him to exclaim at his missing tooth, I felt a touch of pride for my son and this unexpected rite of passage. My heart will always break a little when I see his crooked grin. But when I heard him ask a friend as I was leaving, “Do you want to see my loose tooth?” and I stopped, about to correct him that it was no longer there, I thought better of it. He was on his way, ready to have another great day, no matter what life handed him.