Me: "Who has the best seat in the house, me or daddy?"

Adam: "Well, Daddy's is nice, but yours is best. Your's is squishier."

Monday, July 20, 2009

Like pulling teeth

Ellie has a loose tooth. It was barely, imperceptibly loose two days ago, but true to anxious form, Ellie has been working on it. About four times a day I get a gory visual update on her progress as she gapes her patchwork mouth open at me and thrusts her tongue through the channel between one baby tooth and one bumpy edged, emerging adult tooth. The tiny, loose tooth juts out over her lip in macabre fashion and I squawk, "Gross! Cut that out!!!". She laughs mischievously and does it again.

The first time Ellie had a loose tooth, she was so eager to get it out and on it's way wherever the Tooth Fairy takes them, that she begged me to pull it out for her.

(If this were a movie, this is where you would hear the tell-tale harp music and see the warbly image of a flashback coming on.)

I was six. My top front tooth was loose, not quite floppy, and still a bit tender. My dad called me to him when he saw me futzing with it and said, "Let me see how loose it is." with a look on his face that I would later learn to run from. "I don't want you to. You're gonna pull on it." I said from several feet away. His face changed to the one that said "You WILL do as I say", and he coaxed with a firmer tone, "No I won't. I promise."

I reluctantly edged closer and barely opened my mouth. He placed a thick index finger under the edge of the tooth and wiggled it twice before abruptly flicking his finger, snapping my tooth out of my mouth. I bled, which, as everyone who was ever six knows, makes it hurt much worse. I cried, not because it hurt, but because I felt so betrayed. "You tricked me." I said. "Cut the tears." He barked.

My six year old self sat beside Ellie, and I puzzled at why anyone would subject herself to that. "PLEASE! Please pull it out!" she begged. I explained that it would hurt. I told her it would bleed. I told her it might not come out on the first try. "I don't care!" She smiled.

I took inventory. I wasn't six. Not even close. She wanted me to yank out her tooth as much as I had wanted to keep mine. She deserved to have control over this situation, and I had a chance to be the parent that trusted, listened to, the child.

Like a doctor with a clip board, dutifully giving informed consent before a procedure, I re-explained all of the possible hazards of her choice. I sounded like a pharmaceutical commercial (may cause nausea, dizziness, flatulence...). I gave her the chance to back out, but she bounced on her knees on the bed chanting, "Pull it! Pull it!".

I got a tissue and griped the tooth. It felt tiny in my fingers. I could barely feel it in the tissue. Wincing, I counted to three and then yanked, sort of. The tissue slid right off the tooth. I knew it! She yelped. "There, see. Just wait till it comes out on it's own."

"No mama, you can do it! Try again! I'm OK, see? I'm not crying." She opened her mouth, wide and welcoming, a smile on her cheeks.

I took a deep breath, and finally agreed in my heart to give my daughter what she knew she could handle. I gripped the tooth up high with the tissue and pinched my fingernail over the edge under the gums. I counted. I ripped. There was a weird pop.

Ellie's hand flew over her mouth, and her face tightened as her finger slipped passed her lips and into the gap. She pulled it out, eyebrows furrowed, and saw blood on her finger. I held my breath.

"AAAAaaaaaaaye...... AM SO EXCITED! I'm gonna get a dollar!!!" She said, blooming into a gappy, bloody smile. And she really was excited. I handed her the little ivory trophy and she danced on the bed with it clutched to her heart. "I'm so exci-ted! I lost my to-oth! I'm gonna get a dol-lar!!!" she sang to the tune of nanny-nanny-boo-boo.

Lost. Not really.

She comes tonight to update me again, finger flipping the tooth nearly upside down like the tail-gate on a pick-up truck.

"Cool." I say. And I mean it. She pulls them out herself these days, when she is ready. I think the Tooth Fairy will be heading this way tomorrow.

1 comment:

rebekahmott said...

What kids will do for money lol. The description that you gave made me feel like I was there ugh. Nolan is ready to lose his, I just say really please just wait. It is funny to me how detailed your thoughts are. you are a great writer.