Our almost-6-year-old has been telling me for a year that he has a loose tooth. Wishful thinking on his part.
Then, a couple of weeks ago, he came running up to me. “Mama! Mama! My tooth really is loose!” I checked, and sure enough, one of those bottom incisors wiggled under my finger. “Wow! Your first loose tooth!” I exclaimed. My sweet baby boy giggled, hugged me, and scooted off happily.
I, on the other hand, went to the bathroom and cried.
It’s funny, the things that hit you as a mother. When our first kid lost her first tooth, I was as thrilled as she was. It was a little bittersweet, of course, but I couldn’t wait to play Tooth Fairy. That first lost tooth was a sign of our baby growing up, a symbol of a new and exciting era opening, a prize for having survived the exhausting early years of unclear communication and sleep deprivation.
But it’s different this time. He’s my baby. I’m excited for him, of course, but sad for me. It’s our last first loose tooth, and I can’t help but see it differently—as a sign of our last baby growing up, a symbol of a sweet and innocent era closing, a goodbye token from the adorable early years of misspoken words and midnight snuggles that we won’t ever have again.
I’m not ready for his smile to change. His adorable little crossbite, his wide-mouthed grin that shows almost every one of those baby teeth when he’s bursting with joy or excitement. I’m not ready to see holes in his mouth where those teeth were. I’m not ready for the awkward stage where his teeth will be too big for his face, or for all of the life changes that those changes in his smile represent. I’m not ready for the twenty more nights I’ll have to set a Tooth Fairy alarm because that job gets old after two kids. I’m just not ready.
But it happens. Baby teeth get loose and Tooth Fairies get tired. A mother’s perspective changes, and so children’s smiles. Moms grow nostalgic, and children grow up.
And all we can do about it is sit on the edge of the bathtub and cry.