November 1, 2013
By Ekta R. Garg
Last week on Monday I arrived at school to pick up Five from school and she ran to the car with her excitement brimming. When I opened the car door, she climbed in and her face bloomed in a smile.
“Mamma, I have a loose tooth!” She opened her mouth and pushed the tooth in question in my direction with her tongue. “See?”
I made the proper exclamations about the tooth, wondering when the tooth had gotten loose. The previous night she hadn’t noticed it. No one had. And all of a sudden she had a loose tooth.
I reminded her—as I do every day—to sit in her seat so I could get moving to pick up her sister. As she sat down I noticed in the rearview mirror that she continued to play with the tooth.
“Don’t play with the tooth,” I told her. “Your grownup tooth will come in crooked.”
She didn’t bother to listen. Obviously she was on a mission. For what I didn’t know. But nothing would deter her from it.
Two days later on Wednesday after school, Five marched to the car with a sense of completion on her face. When she got into the car, I found out why.
“I lost my tooth,” she declared. “I got a certificate for it too.”
I asked her how it happened, and on the drive to Seven’s school Five told me how she pulled the tooth herself.
“Didn’t it hurt?” I asked dubiously.
Really? Pulling a tooth didn’t exactly sound like a painless venture, but it’s been so long since I’ve lost my own that I can’t say with accuracy anymore. Still. It’s pulling teeth.
I think the other reason why it surprises me that Five pulled her own teeth is because of the experience I’ve had with my other child and her loose teeth. And pulling her own teeth. Or not.
Just after her sixth birthday Seven had a loose tooth that she refused to touch. She also refused to let anyone else touch it. A simple request to her to open her mouth so that we could look at the tooth induced wrinkles of paranoia across her forehead.
For a while we indulged the paranoia. Seven can get skittish when it comes to anything that involves pain. The Great Splinter Removal of the Summer of 2013 almost caused her to have a nervous breakdown.
To give her due credit, it was a huge splinter. Stuck in her foot.
Anyway, she had a loose tooth that she didn’t want anyone to touch. If we looked at it for more than a few moments, she started to get nervous. So I spent many afternoons and evenings reassuring her that my hands would remain at my side while I just looked.
For a while we ignored the tooth thing. But when the tooth got so loose that it hung from the last sliver of gum tissue, we knew we had no choice but to push the issue of yanking the tooth out. Tears and pleading ensued. Seven tried to beg her way out of it. But we didn’t let her. It had come to a point where the loose tooth interfered with her eating—well, almost anything. And we got sick of watching her droopy form try to make it through the day.
I did everything I could to convince her to pull it. She didn’t listen. Normally I can cajole this child to do almost anything. But once in a while she’ll dig in her heels, and when she does nothing I do will make her move from her position.
The same thing happened in this situation. Finally her father threatened her with solitary confinement. She had to stay in our bedroom until she pulled the tooth.
She cried and hemmed and hawed and paced the room. And finally she took a deep breath, grabbed the tooth between two fingers, and gave it a gentle yank. It came out with minimal resistance. And Seven grinned reminding me of the labored efforts of a woman who has just given birth.
Her sister, however—the one I call my firecracker; the one who jumps into the challenges a five-year-old faces—this kid felt her tooth get loose, spent two days working it with her tongue, and just pulled it when it felt right.
It’s funny, isn’t it, the different personalities of our children. Not so funny is when I think about what else Five might jump into later in life.