Tuesday, September 22, 2009
I rarely have bad dreams or nightmares but when I do there is a reoccurring theme, my teeth are falling out. There are variations on the theme such as the events leading up to my teeth falling out or the setting in which my teeth fall out but the bad dream culminates with me trying desperately to catch my falling teeth and put them back into place. Go ahead and analyze this if you'd like. My bet is that the teeth are symbolic of all the many pieces of my life that need to be in order yet keep falling apart. Cramming them back into position is my attempt to establish order. Another very plausible interpretation is that the many years I spent at the orthodontist as a teenage having my teeth manipulated by ungloved hands sporting long fingernails made a lasting impression. I don't really like to think too much about teeth.
Motherhood offers up plenty of opportunities to face my fears and to think about things I don't like to think about, namely losing teeth. A year ago the dentist mentioned to me that Jake had his first loose tooth and did I want to take a good look into his mouth and see it? No, not really but I did because moms need to know this type of stuff. Yes indeed there was a wiggle in a lower tooth. Here we go, I thought. Teeth falling out.
Finally, finally, late last spring Jake lost his first tooth and not a minute too soon as Zach was showing signs of his own first loose tooth. Oh the disappointment of having little brother lose a tooth first. Jake pulled the tooth himself which wasn't too difficult considering he had worked it over for days and the tooth finally surrendered. I had to look at the tooth and the spot it occupied but I didn't enjoy it. At the same time I'm teary eyed because my first born has lost his first tooth and he is so proud. We discussed the possibility of the Tooth Fairy coming that night and I suggested he put the tooth under his pillow and see what happens. I did think to ask what Jake knew about the Tooth Fairy ("she brings money, sometimes toys") and this helped me to know what his expectations were regarding her visit.
I really don't think Jake "believes" in the Tooth Fairy. In fact, if he actually believes that a fairy enters his room at night, checks for the tooth under the pillow and then leaves money, candy, prizes or toys then I have made some terrible parenting mistakes. He's too smart to fall for the fairy story but he is also too smart to miss an opportunity for money. The next morning Jake excitedly reports that the Tooth Fairy came by, left him a favorite toy AND didn't take his tooth! Now he can start a collection! The tooth is tucked into a tiny, plastic treasure chest and placed on a high shelf.
Jake begins work on loosening a second tooth and I make it a point to show Zach Jake's new space in his mouth and his old tooth in the treasure chest. I talk to Zach about his own loose tooth and ask him to wiggle it. Zach complies and I hope he understands that teeth will come out and new ones will fill in and that's all very normal.
Jake managed to lose his second tooth at school which means he took a victory walk to the nurse's office where he was checked over and provided with a tiny, tiny treasure chest for the tooth. Hats off to the elementary school teachers around the country who daily witness teeth being wiggled, twisted and pulled while they educate and to the nurses who give a pat on the back and offer a keepsake chest. The Tooth Fairy visits again and this time she leaves money.
The teeth just keep falling out. Jake loses his third and the fairy brings money again. Cha-ching! He starts to work on the neighboring tooth. Zach checks out Jake's latest loss and then wiggles his own two very loose teeth. A wiggling obsession grows and I fear I will have to pull the tooth myself if Zach can't manage to do it. But as I try to approach his mouth with my hand, he fends me off. I back away and then eventually leave him alone.
Zach pulls the tooth or at least wiggles it until it falls out. No one saw it happen and Zach's not telling the tale, but a tiny gap in my sweet Zach's mouth shows that he has lost his first tooth! My baby has lost his first tooth and it is nowhere to be found. We all excitedly congratulate Zach on this milestone and then comb the carpet for the tooth. No luck and I must let it go. Maybe he swallowed it? Ugh, I can't think about that. Later I manage to STEP WITH MY BARE FOOT on the lost tooth. I pick it up and place it in Zach's own treasure chest. Zach doesn't know there is (is not) a tooth fairy but Jake does so he makes sure Zach's tooth is under the pillow at bedtime.
The next morning Zach finds a Kit Kat under his pillow. How on earth did the Tooth Fairy know that is his favorite treat and means more to him than money? Before I know it the Kit Kat is eaten and his second tooth is missing. After a barefooted search, I conclude he really did eat the second tooth which prompts Jake to ask if the Tooth Fairy visits you after you lose a tooth but can't find it to put under the pillow. This make-believe stuff gets so complicated.
Losing teeth and getting new ones. All part of growing up. Soon those new teeth will be in, crooked no doubt, and we'll find ourselves at the orthodontist where beautiful smiles are created and nightmares are born. All part of growing up. Braces on, braces off. High school graduation then college. My boys will grow up and go away but later, not today. Today my Jake believes in a fairy with an endless supply of cash and my Zach believes Kit Kats grow under pillows.