Loose tooth causes parental lamentation

Posted by GT on October 10th, 2008 — Posted in Newspaper columns

Originally published in July 2006, The Daily Sentinel, Grand Junction, Colo.

Many of the happiest moments life puts on my table these days come with a maudlin side dish of melancholy. It’s hard to say what I tasted most strongly when our older daughter, 6 this October, lost her first baby tooth last week in my parents’ home.

We weren’t ready for our girl to reach that wonderful, short-lived stage in life during which it’s a good thing for pieces of yourself to fall off, and neither, I think, was she.

It happened in Colorado Springs, the city I called home through most of my childhood. My wife, kids and I were in town a few days to visit relatives and also spend some time at the North Pole amusement park in nearby Cascade.

(A side note: Have you been to the North Pole? If not, you’re missing out on what may be the state’s most family-friendly amusement park. It doesn’t cost a fortune – particularly if you download the half-price coupon from the Web site, www.santas-colo.com – you don’t have to shout to hear each other above music blaring from speakers all over the place and the rides won’t break the little ones’ necks.)

The first night in the Springs, my parents served up a dinner of steak and “smashed” potatoes, which is what we call a baked potato after squeezing it from its skin and using a fork to squish it up with butter. Something about that meal must have been enough to jostle a tooth in our girl’s lower jaw.

Here’s what I know for sure happened that early evening: Lisa and I were on the back porch with my parents, shooting the breeze, when our daughter came out, looking perplexed.

She told us she must have hit herself in the mouth really  hard, although her answers to the questions Lisa and I peppered her with revealed she didn’t actually recall any kind of accident.

That’s when we realized – with that silly, stereotypical parental mix of joy and sorrow that comes every single flipping time we get fresh evidence that she’s growing up and will someday leave our home – she had a loose tooth.

Now, here’s what I think happened right before she came to us: Our girl was in my parents’ living room, checking things out. She realized her tongue was getting into the habit of pushing around a tooth, and the tooth wasn’t putting up much resistance. So she checked it out with a finger and confirmed the tooth was flexible.

She knew right away this probably meant she was about to lose a baby tooth, but having never experienced it before, she wasn’t certain and didn’t want to jump to conclusions. So she sought us out to give our own diagnosis.

Once she’d confirmed everything was hunky-dory and I got her to pose for one last picture of her smile as I knew and loved it, that tooth’s days were numbered.

She went to work, pushing and pulling at it with her tongue and forefinger until it was rocking back and forth in her gum like a pendulum. Watching it move like that gave me a case of the heebie-jeebies, and I couldn’t help urging her to give it a rest even though that was like asking her to ignore a persistent itch.

The tooth tumbled out during an increasingly vigorous assault at bedtime, maybe four hours after our daughter discovered it was loose. Shortly afterward, she took the bloody cotton ball out of her mouth to show my camera her new smile, the one with the gap in the lower front, and that night the Tooth Fairy rewarded her with a Sacagawea dollar.

I couldn’t say for sure, of course, but I’ll bet the fairy had to do a little extra looking around to find a special coin that night.

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