It’s amazing how significant a child’s tooth can be.
I remember so well the emergence of my five-year-old daughter’s first tooth. The cries of discomfort. The drooling. The chewing. The night wakings, all over again.
Then: the fascination, the excitement of watching the white tooth slowly cut through her pink gums. The proud smiles. The gaping at her in awe. The running of our fingers over top of her tooth, to feel that cool jagged edge.
We were ecstatic. She’s growing teeth! She’s a real human! Ow – she just bit my finger!
Fast forward five years, and into a brightly coloured children’s dentist office, which features a simulated treehouse in the waiting room, along with video games and a variety of toys and play areas.
We’re here for some dental work, and she’s playing happily, while waiting for her medication, the kind that will allow her to relax for the tooth removal, to kick in.
A while back, she had a pretty major fall, which had a serious impact on one front tooth, which has now become infected and will need to be taken out, according to her dentist.
We all agreed – the tooth needed to go. However, I didn’t realize how much that one tiny change would affect her entire appearance, and thrust her full-on into the category of “officially maturing kid,” and no longer “mommy’s third and final baby.”
It took about 20 minutes for the skilled and cheery dentist to remove her very first tooth, as she lay back and watched her beloved Bee Movie on the overhead screen.
Then, the small greying tooth was placed into a tiny plastic container, to be saved for the tooth fairy’s first visit later that night.
I watched with concern as my daughter was raised from the reclining position, searching her eyes for signs of distress. There was none.
She was grinning, and in that gap-toothed grin, I could see it was happening. My baby, my third and final precious baby, was really growing up, and that gaping hole in her mouth was the evidence. It was fascinating and poignant, just as it had been to watch her first tooth emerge.
She beamed with excitement as she gripped the tiny container in her hand. “I can’t wait to show my friends!” she squealed as she got up from her chair.
Meanwhile, I couldn’t stop staring. She was my daughter, yet she was changed. Her missing tooth gave her a brand new look, and it tugged at my heart.
The baby days, it seems, are really and truly over. She’s a five-and-a-half-year-old who is very tall for her age, and now has a gap in her mouth that gives her a remarkably mature appearance. And I daresay she knows it.
Now, she’s smiling more than ever. She came home from her first day back at school, reporting breathlessly that her best friend also had a “gap-toothed grin” (though her friend likely came by it naturally), and that everyone thought she looked “so different” now.
You sure do, I thought to myself, my mind flashing back to those early months of her life.
I’m sitting on the floor with her, at roughly five months old, and I’ve just fished a frozen teething ring from the freezer. I hand it to her and she gurgles and brings it to her mouth. Her eyes light up, seemingly in contentment, as she finds ice-cold relief.
Then I’m jolted back to the present. Walking down the street toward our house, her small hand ticked in mine, she asks excitedly: “Mommy? I’m going to go and put my tooth under my pillow as soon as we get home, OK?”
OK, I tell her, buoyed by her energy. We’ll do that.
As she saunters ahead of me, I realize my wistful moment has passed, and that she now possesses my favourite look yet. She’s growing up, no doubt about that, and I’m loving – and will continue to love – every minute of it.