Back in January we spent a bitterly cold afternoon visiting Daddy while he worked on a construction project. We slid around on the ice-covered ground for a while, then hopped into his truck and cranked the heat in order to regain feeling in our fingers and toes.
As we slowly warmed up, your teeth somehow became the topic of conversation. All of your friends have already lost at least one, in fact most of them have very hole-y grins, but you have yet to lose a single tooth. I could tell it annoyed you, this falling behind. You are competitive to a fault, even over things you have no direct control over. My reassurances that it’s actually good to keep your baby teeth as long as possible seemed to help a little, but you still ran your finger over the tiny, tightly-set teeth, feeling for the slightest give. And you found it.
I, of course, had to confirm that this was truly the case, so I stuck my fingers in your mouth, grasped a bottom tooth, and wiggled. It’s surprising how difficult it is to tell if a tooth is moving or if it’s simply the padding of fingers squeezing and releasing, but just as you said, I felt something too.
Your grin lit up the truck, and as I looked into your excited eyes, I shifted my gaze lower to stare at those two perfect rows of impossibly tiny teeth. I have always loved your teeth. They’re smaller than most and fit perfectly together in your narrow mouth. I’ve already steeled myself for the probability that you’ll require braces once those big adult teeth arrive.
But I hadn’t steeled myself for the rush of emotions I felt when we discovered your first loose tooth. I was thrilled to be there for the occasion, it’s a big milestone to pass, but my heart also felt so heavy at the thought of you growing up. Of seeing a mouth full of holes that slowly fill up with teeth that don’t fit right and look way too big and goofy for your tiny mouth.
It’s a rite of passage for you. The last vestiges of your babyhood falling away, one by one.
As we sat in Daddy’s truck, tears sprang to my eyes. You noticed of course; you always do. I love how sensitive you are towards me. So you tempered your excitement just a bit and acknowledged my feelings of sadness. Somehow, at six years old, you already understand why Mommy doesn’t want you to grow up.
And now you’re seven. That tooth has gotten looser and looser over the past month, and for the last week or two you’ve described your plan about how it will come out. You want to lose your first tooth today, on your birthday, and you want your teacher to pull it out.
Honestly, I have no problem with your teacher doing the honors. I remember my first grade teacher pulling out my teeth too. The thing I have a problem with is missing it, of not being there for such a big event in your life. I’ve told you several times that you should wait until you’re home so I can see it happen, but as I think about my reaction, I wish I’d kept my mouth shut.
You are growing up. You spend more of your awake time away from me than with me. You are your own person with your own experiences. Letting you grow up and away from me is hard, but I know it’s necessary, and I don’t ever want my feelings to stand in the way of your dreams.
So if you lose your tooth at school today, I will be so excited for you. When you come home and show it to me, I will cheer and dance and snap pictures of your new smile and ask you to describe every detail of what happened. And I’ll save my tears for when you’re not around to see them.
Happy seventh birthday sweet boy.
I love you.