At Helena’s last dental appointment, her dentist observed that as Helena was almost ten years old, she would soon begin losing another round of baby teeth in the coming months, specifically those baby teeth located immediately next to her barely used adult teeth. After a minute during which my skin crawled up one side of me and down the other, I nodded silently and mentally prepared myself for the waves of horror, gagging, hysterical sobbing, emotional turmoil and all around psychological trauma that usually accompanies the shedding of deciduous teeth in our house. Then there was Helena’s reaction to think about as well.
Turns out, my kids are totally OK with having body parts fall out of their orifices and pretty much rank the whole process of losing baby teeth right up there with Christmas and snow days. In fact, they’re not above buying Chiclets and hot gluing them onto their gums in order to prolong the entire disgusting cycle.
I don’t do teeth. I mean, I don’t mind my own and I don’t mind looking at other people’s teeth if they’re shiny and white and permanently affixed in a smile that is at least two feet outside of my personal space but loose teeth? Or teeth that are wobbly? Imminently rootless? Have we met? I don’t feel an affinity for anything that falls out or is yanked out or is spewed out of my kids’ mouths unless it sounds like I love you or YAY! It’s my turn to do the laundry! But stuff like spit, vomit, excuses, teeth, and the words “boogar,” “fart” and “Oh yeah! I forgot! I need to make a pioneer costume and bring in 12 pounds of churned butter by tomorrow morning for school,” are enough to make me gnash my own teeth right down into my liver.
By the way … did you know that puppies lose their teeth? Why did no one tell me this before we brought Oliver home? THIS IS WHEN YOU FIND OUT WHO YOUR TRUE FRIENDS ARE.
I couldn’t remember the details of this second phase of baby teeth shedding from my eldest daughter Zoe, having successfully blocked out the entire episode with loads of therapy and Xanax so with Helena, I had no choice but to assume her second set of deciduous teeth would be much like her first. I mean, we all know the drill, right? First comes an excited hollering of MY TOOTH IS LOOSE, MOMMY! LOOKIT LOOKIT LOOKIT accompanied by a tiny little movement barely noticeable to the naked eye. Then comes a slightly bigger movement that could actually constitute the beginnings of a wiggle. Then comes a full fledged wiggle, followed by a bigger one and then an even bigger one until one day, the tooth is suspended outside the child’s mouth by a thin, bloody, sinewy, stubborn membrane which is then poked and prodded 24/7 by an overeager tongue attached to a six year old who has already spent the tooth fairy money six ways to Sunday in her head.
The entire process takes about three to four weeks until one day the six year old comes running off the bus yelling I LOST MY TOOTH, MOMMY! LOOKIT, LOOKIT, LOOKIT and flinging her backpack onto the kitchen table whereupon she proceeds to yank everything out of it, including a cheese stick from three weeks ago. She continues to desperately search for the tooth which, as best you can understand from the hysterically happy shrieks now bouncing off the ceiling, is secured inside a bright yellow, plastic, mini treasure chest, courtesy of the school nurse. And no sooner do you get this piece of information when you see a flash of bright yellow whiz past your face as the mini plastic treasure chest flies through the air, plummets to the ground and breaks open at which point, you can do nothing more than stand there in frozen horror as the tooth in question rolls out, grows fangs, cackles and then scampers across the floor to plant a big, wet, juicy, french kiss on your big, bare toe.
I’m a little fuzzy on what happens next but I’m pretty sure it consists of lots of yelling and screaming and crying and scrubbing of feet with bleach before you eventually pass out from the grossness of it all and ultimately winds up with your six year old standing over you with concern written all over her face, over which she has scribbled MOM! ARE YOU FINISHED? I’M NOT ALLOWED TO GET COOKIES ALL BY MYSELF, YOU KNOW.
But I’m here to tell you that the second phase of deciduous teeth is nothing like the first phase so be forewarned. First of all, that adorable six year old who labored for an hour over a colored picture to hang in her bedroom window to help the tooth fairy find her bedroom in the dark of night? She has turned into a 9¾ year old who uses the tooth fairy’s OCD tendencies to her advantage when negotiating the fair market value of her tooth, based on three sound principles: (1) time is money; (2) every minute the tooth fairy does not have to spend in a hazmat suit while using salad tongs to retrieve a tiny piece of dead enamel from under a pillow increases the value of that dead enamel exponentially; and (3) a tooth that can be thrown down the garbage disposal before witnesses is worth far more money than one that simply vanishes into thin air one day, only to magically reappear one week later in the most unlikely of places like, say, atop the tooth fairy’s cream cheese bagel, coincidentally on the same day that the 9¾ year old was grounded earlier for a multitude of reasons, not the least of which was practicing psychological warfare without a license.
Second of all … the teeth themselves are a whole different animal. These teeth can do in thirty seconds what it takes the first set of baby teeth three weeks to accomplish. Like this past weekend when Helena walked by me and said in passing Hey mom, I think I have a loose tooth and I managed to keep my skin from crawling out the door while responding Are you sure? Which one? and she stopped dead in her tracks, slapped her hand to her mouth, turned to me with blood gushing down her chin and replied DA ON AT JUS ‘ELL OUT O’ NY NOUTH and sure enough, there in her hand lay the bloody remains of a tooth that had indeed bit the dust at warp speed.
And then there was last night when Helena sat down next to me with 23 teeth in her mouth, got up to get ice cream and sat back down with 22 teeth and a gaping bloody crater in her mouth.
I’m not sure what’s going on but we’ve got cream carpets here so I re-purposed Helena’s Easter basket by making her walk around with it hanging from her nose at optimal level, just in case.