Friday, December 16, 2011

Life Lessons with Lola


On the way to school yesterday, Lola started complaining about her loose molar. She has one left to lose (yes, she is only nine, but both of my children were precocious about getting and losing teeth) and it is at that hanging-by-a-thread point that is making her nuts.

Eve used to love having wiggly teeth. She would push them back and forth, back and forth with her tongue and her finger, working it and working it to see just how precariously she could get it to cling before it fell out. She delighted in disgusting friends and family by pushing the tooth until it was perpendicular to the others in her mouth.

Lola was terrified of losing teeth. And I didn't help. Her first tooth began coming loose when she was five and in Kindergarten. Every day she would complain that it bugged her to eat with it like that and at bedtime she would cry in fear that it would come free in her sleep and she would swallow it or choke on it. Day by day it got more and more loose but she was afraid to touch it or let anyone else touch it for fear that it would rip violently from her mouth and she would bleed to death. Despite Eve's repeated efforts to calm her by telling her it didn't hurt to lose a tooth and my lectures about it being totally normal, Lola became increasingly hysterical as the days wore on.

One afternoon as I passed by the playground where Lola was having recess with her class (I worked in the office at the Montessori school), Lola ran to the chain-link fence and called to me. When I walked over to her, she burst in to tears and told me she was so worried about losing this tooth. I was frustrated and, frankly, done hearing about this damn tooth, so I asked her to open up and show me. As soon as she opened her mouth to its widest point I reached my thumb and index finger through the fence and into her mouth, grabbed the tooth and pulled it out. [It was only holding on by a thread, trust me, it didn't even bleed.] She jerked away from the fence, her eyes wide in horror and I presented the tooth to her.

"Here you go. Now you don't have to worry about it anymore, honey."

I know it was mean. But, honestly, after all of the drama we'd had for over a week about this damn thing, I was ready to show her that it wasn't such a big deal after all.

She never let me see a wiggly tooth again unless we were separated by a wide table or an entire room. I can't say that I blame her.

So fast forward four years and I'm terribly relieved she only has one more to lose. I asked her if she still feels as frightened now when she loses a tooth as she did back then.

"Not really, but you have to admit, Mom, the way you talk about it is pretty scary."

Huh? Turns out she's right. To a kid, "losing" something is always bad. Losing your favorite toy. Losing your mittens at school. Losing your TV privileges. And so when we say to a kid that they are going to lose a tooth, it doesn't sound natural. It sounds scary.

"You're right, Lola! I never thought about that. How else could we say it?"

"I don't know, Mom. Telling a kid their tooth is going to fall out isn't much better. Nobody wants to have some part of their body 'fall out.'"

She's right. And, ironically enough, by the time you are able to truly understand that losing a tooth is an exception to the rule that losing things is bad, losing a tooth actually would be a bad thing.

So here's to Lola's last baby tooth "leaving the nest."

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Sweet "little girl", no more loose tooth :), my little boy's traumatic event is to get his hair cut, and same as for your baby teeth, it started for him with his first hair cut, and it is still a major event for him, 8 years later... I am sure he could so much relate to you and your loose tooth. For us it can take weeks of discussing the issue before the actual hair cut. Love from one sensitive boy to a sweet sensitive girl :)

- Isabelle

Carrie Link said...

Making room for the new?

Kathryn Grace said...

What an important reminder! Sending this to my kids now, as theirs will be losing their teeth, ahem, replacing their baby teeth with new ones in a couple of years.

Deb Shucka said...

I love your kid stories! This is another really great example of the (often hidden) power of our words. I like the leaving the nest analogy, although it does create some interesting visuals.

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