Thursday, October 8, 2009

View from the Sidelines

I admit it. I took the coward's way out this morning. Just dropped my daughter off at school . . . with a dangling top front tooth. It won't make it through the day-unless she refuses to eat her snack (but she won't deny her mid-morning granola bar), and there is no way she'll not eat her mini pack of candy corns that she'll be surprised to find in her lunch bag. That sucker's gonna pop out at school sometime today after she bites into one of her tasty treats, I know it! That's the last card I had left to play.

I asked myself, am I a wimp? Have I lost my mothering edge? Why did my mighty power of persuasion not work? Why did I fail to convince her to get that tooth out before she went to school today? I don't get sick at the sight of blood. I don't have an aversion to wobbly, tiny tooth roots. Okay, I admit it! I didn't want to make her her cry about it again. So I gave up at the first hint of a lip quiver at 7:oo a.m.

Last night I tried it all. First, the loving approach. "You can do it sweetheart. Just one little tug and the tooth fairy will come tonight." To the supportive method. "You are amazing and brave. Just one tug, and you can do it!" To the logic angle. "It's going to fall out soon. Why not just pull the tooth now?" To a matter-of-fact explanation. "Sometimes things that are worthwhile might cause a little pain." To mild fear tactics. "You better get it out so you don't swallow it tonight in your sleep." And then of course, the tough love approach. "Come on, suck it up. It's just a tooth! You've done this before!"

After having the first five teeth basically fall out on their own, my daughter thinks this is how it's supposed to happen. Before going to sleep, she tells me that the loose tooth DECIDES when it's ready. We should not MAKE IT come out. Maybe she's right.

When I called her teacher this morning (praying to get her voice mail, which of course I did NOT), I had to explain to her live that I just couldn't do it this morning. I asked her to keep an eye out and see what she could do about the flopping fang. I swear I heard her snicker. After teaching so many children over the years (including her own), she's gotten this call more than once, I could tell. "We'll see what we can do." I felt like such a loser right then. The WE meant her and my child. I was out of the equation. I couldn't pull the trigger, so now another tougher, better player was going to start in my parenting position. Oh well . . . maybe next time.

Why do we hate to see our children cry? In this particular case, even when it doesn't seem like a really big deal? The tears would have been brief. She would have gotten over it. I don't know. Maybe it's because as parents we know that there is sadness and suffering out there. We want to protect our kids from that, but we know we cannot shield them from the many disappointments and pain life brings. We know our kids are going to cry many, many times in their lives. Today I guess I just wanted to see it happen one less.

As the day has gone along, my feelings of failure and frustration have turned to hope and excitement. I can't wait to pick up my daughter from school today. I can already picture her happy, tear-free face, holding her tooth in a special baggy provided by her understanding teacher, my temporary replacement. I should just count myself blessed that there's another loving, experienced grown-up who is willing to help me dry my daughter's tears and take one for the team.


  1. I'm smiling broadly as I type this. This really brings back memories. I was the tough guy who got stuck doing the dirty work of teeth pulling. Suzanne simply refused. So, I truly understand your feelings. Despite the tough guy exterior, I am a big teddy bear when it comes to Virginia. I didn't want to cause her any pain whatsoever. Any signs of tears welling up in her eyes caused me to melt. And we tried everything: my fingers, her fingers, dental floss. Sometimes we just had a tooth that hung there in grotesque suspension.

    In this case, your daughter is absolutely correct. The tooth will eventually come out. And chances are, she'll have a great story to tell you about how it happened when it does.

    Another wonderful piece of writing, by the way!

  2. I hear y'all. But I kindly present u with an alternative to "sheltering". Hurt is part of life and crying is one way to deal with it. When our kids get hurt whether physical or emotional they generally cry. Then they stop. Then quickly they move on. We r the ones who dwell on their hurt. Therefore by sheltering them from hurt we do two things: take away an opportunity for us to show them how to deal with pain, and (2) avoid facing guilt And grief. Another way is to help them learn to navigate through situations. My challenge to all of us is to embrace the bumps and smoothe them out: I guarantee you'll feel much more fullfilled and accoplished rather than confused and disheartened at the end of the day.