Tuesday 30 January 2018

The Wobbly Tooth

When I was pregnant, I spent a lot of time worrying. I was nervous about the birth, anxious about breastfeeding and terrified of being left in charge of a baby. I didn't know how to change nappies, how to stop babies crying... I was clueless. Luckily, I had a few friends who had been through it already. They sent me articles about parenting, gave me advice about what baby products to avoid and generally welcomed me into the comforting bosom of motherhood by calming me down. 

What they didn't do, however, and what none of the parenting books I read did, was prepare me for the horror of having a child with a wobbly tooth. They talked about crying babies, frustrated toddlers and the terrible twos. But they didn't look far into my future and warn me that one day I would be forced to watch my child poke a loose tooth around in her mouth. 

I am not good with anything to do with the body. I hate blood, I am not ok with grazes and I live in fear of my children hurting themselves. When they do appear next to me, crying and covered in blood, I have to brace myself before I can look at the injury. What if it's gross? What if I don't know what to do? What if it's something serious?

A wobbly tooth is not serious. Unless you're six, then it's a pretty big deal. Ebony has been desperate to lose a tooth since the first kid in her class appeared gappy-mouthed at the school gates. It's a right of passage, I understand. It means you're growing up. Apparently, this is something to look forward to when it doesn't come in the form of grey hairs and laughter lines. 

She has been telling me she has a wobbly tooth for months. I thought she was just hoping, desperate to feel a tooth coming free in her mouth. I nodded politely, feigned excitement and told her not to mess with it. But then it actually did start wobbling, a lot. It stuck out at funny angles when she spoke to me, misplaced by the sheer effort of talking. She bit into a pear at school and it plunged forwards, holding on for dear life at the roof. 

And then she started to mess with it. I could see her, tongue busily nudging it into different positions, her fingers always in her mouth. I can remember that feeling from my own childhood, the pleasing sensation of moving a loose tooth. I can also remember my mum freaking out when I did it, telling me to stop. And, inevitably, I have become my mother. "Stop wobbling it," "Don't mess with it," and "Oh god, please stop," frequently fell from my lips. I cannot stomach the thought of a loose tooth, nevermind actually having to watch the process. 

And then it came out early one morning. She woke me up at 5:30am to tell me, I had had three hours sleep. Laurie, I think, was more enthusiastic about the news. She clenched it in her hand, the world's tiniest tooth, a pearly white token of growing up. She told me how it came out, "I pushed it this way, then that way, then this way and it just came out!" 

She put it in a box and sellotaped it closed to stop her little sister, or the cat, from finding it. And she told me seriously that she knew the tooth fairy was me, it was a 'virtual reality' and so couldn't possibly be true. I got her a little tooth fairy pot, something a little classier than a box wrapped in excessive amounts of sellotape, and she proudly placed her tooth inside. 

"I'm going to sleep with one eye open tonight, so I can see if the tooth fairy does come or whether it's actually just you pretending." She said, firmly, before bed. Laurie put her to bed, it took a long time because Ebony was busy asking questions about the tooth fairy. How big is she? This big? This big? Is it just you?

Then in the middle of the night, she woke, luckily not when the tooth fairy was paying his visit, and she came running down the hallway. The pound, apparently, was shinier than a normal pound, magical, and proved the existence of the tooth fairy beyond any doubt. Only a fairy would have such shiny coins. 

And now she has a gap, a teeny tiny pocket of darkness inside her smile. And, she tells me, another tooth is already wobbling, ready to come out. I only hope I don't have to experience the twisting and poking of each of her tiny teeth because it makes me sick to my stomach. It turns out you can't stop them growing up, the best you can do is hope it's not gross as they do. 

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