The whole tooth
Recently Little Pea lost both of his two front baby teeth. An event that happens every day all around the world. Nothing to worry about, I thought when the first one began to wobble. We will big up the Tooth Fairy and it will all be okay.
Except it wasn’t.
As a mother with older children I have been through this a few times. The kids were excited about having ‘grown up’ teeth and the visit from the tooth fairy. Yes, there was a little bit of pain and apprehension as those little pearly whites were first wobbled but no drama.
But Little Pea didn’t act like the other kids. You could see the worry in his eyes and the panic in his voice about how much it would hurt. No amount of bigging up the tooth fairy could allay his fears.
Then came the blood. I hadn’t really mentioned that his gums might bleed a bit when he brushed the wobbler. Stupid mistake. There was horror, tears and lots of muttering in the bathroom of “Why is this happening to me!” (Little Pea has a flair for the dramatic). Every. Single. Time.
Oh no! Not again!
Then the tooth next to it became wobbly. I have to be honest by this point I was getting close to trying the old ‘piece of string and a door’ trick my mother jokingly suggested. There was so much drama, so many tears, a lot of recoiling and crying “don’t touch it “every time I asked to have a look that I really wanted Mr Pea to pull it out.
When it finally fell out I think there were sighs of relief from us all. For such a tiny object there was a lot of hysteria. So after a few tears and a day of showing teachers, the tooth was put under his pillow for magical collection. Cue excitement about the cost of a tooth.
Little Pea is 6 and doesn’t understand currency denominations. To him items he wants are free, okay, too ‘expensie’ or get delivered by Father Christmas (Amazon). I’m also not sure of the going rate for a tooth, so we settled on £1.
To be honest I wasn’t sure who was more excited about the tooth fairy visiting, Little Pea or us. Losing the first tooth is a rite of passage. A sure sign of your baby growing up so it deserves a bit of fanfare and celebration.
The next morning Little Pea was so excited to see the Tooth Fairy had been but then he did something none of the other kids did. He cried.
He was crying because he wanted his tooth back. Seriously sometimes I can’t fathom this boy out.
Here we go again
You would think that now that one had fallen out the next one would be less traumatic. Uh-uh, not on your nelly. The second tooth was very wobbly but he refused to wobble it out. One night he ended up in my bed (which is pretty much most nights) got up the next morning and went downstairs.
Next thing I know he is muttering to himself and coming back up. His tooth had fallen out in the night. We searched under my pillows, the panic rising in him a sinking feeling in me. We both thought the same thing but he voiced it
“I’ve swallowed it. It’s in my belly” I can’t begin to tell you how fast my mind was racing. How the hell are we going to get through this without scarring him for life??
To calm him a bit and give me thinking space I sent him off to his room to search his bed. It was there in all its minuteness hiding under his pillow. The next night the Tooth Fairy came and the following morning all was good. He was pleased he could eat apples again. Drama over.
Growing up and holding on
But it got me thinking about how sometimes we forget how big these childhood transitions can be for some children. For Little Pea he hadn’t seen his older brothers and sister lose their teeth, so he had no understanding of what happens. He didn’t get to see the excitement that would later lessen his fears when it came to his turn.
I mean as an adult if bits of your body started falling off you would be in a complete panic. It can be pretty scary to lose a tooth if you have no experience. It seems to be quite common for children losing their first tooth to be scared of blood and swallowing it (which is quite rare). There are even books you can read to your child to help them understand what is happening.
It isn’t only the fear of the physical side of losing a tooth but it is also the psychological side that can make losing a tooth frightening. As I said it’s a rite of passage, for parents it’s about their baby growing up and “where did all that time go?” moment. We are proud. For a child it can be a terrifying thought that they are growing up, that they are no longer a baby. Just because your child’s body is at a certain developmental stage it doesn’t mean their emotions are on the same level.
Little Pea’s wail of I want my tooth back just shows he doesn’t feel quite ready to grow up. He is attached to that tooth, it’s a symbol of being looked after, loved and dependant. It’s his childhood he that held in his hand, a physical realisation that no-one stays little forever.
What can we do?
Some children are worriers and as parents their fears may seem irrational. All we can do is normalise these stages in life and be understanding. It’s a bit like monsters under the bed; we know they aren’t there but it doesn’t mean we don’t do a monster check before our child goes to sleep. Children need to feel safe and secure to face these stages in life. As parents we shouldn’t palm them off as being silly or ignore their fears. The more we accept our child’s emotions the less scary some of their future transitions will be.
I promise to try
So for now if Little Pea has a drama over every tooth, so be it. I will do my best to help him work through it in the hope that he learns to pacify his fears himself. You may still find me rolling my eyes, giggling with Mr P about the unfolding drama or asking divine intervention for strength. It will just be behind closed doors.
So as I put Little Pea’s teeth with the others I’ve collected over the years, I realised that he isn’t the only one to want to hold onto his childhood. It may seem macabre to some but I have teeth from all my children. I don’t know whose is who’s but that they are my last grasp at holding onto my babies as they grow up.