Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
Bub: Mama, click on the one you want! Cheerios...
Or a glass of milk!
Me: Um, Cheerios?
Bub: (encouragingly) Try again. Click on another picture.
Me: A glass of milk.
Bub: Try again. Better luck next time!
Me: How about some Special K?
Bub: Correct! You got the right answer!
Tuesday, July 07, 2009
Occasionally, I have that dream where suddenly my teeth start falling out. I clutch my mouth, trying to catch them and force them back in, horrified by the sudden, unexpected loss of so necessary and useful a part of my body. I've been told this is a common nightmare, and I've always assumed that it is a haunting reminder of our mortality, our sheer helplessness in the face of our bodies' slow and inevitable decay.
This, roughly, has been Bub's reaction to his first loose tooth. He was morose and subdued all day Sunday, but our first hint of the reason for his mood came during dinner, when he bit into a pickle and suddenly let out a wail of anguish. His bottom middle tooth was tilting wildly back and forth, and Bub was grief-stricken at the news that it was going to come out.
"I love my teeth!" he wailed. "I need my teeth! I just want them to go back to normal!"
Adult attempts at reassurance proved to make matters worse. "I lost my teeth when I was your age," hubby assured him. "And look what I've got now!" Bub took one look at his giant grin and let out another shriek of despair.
"You know what's worse than losing your teeth?" my father-in-law asked. "Losing your hair!" Bub quickly raised a hand to his head and tugged on his hair to make sure it was still firmly rooted, tears tumbling down his cheeks. It was a half hour at least before he could be calmed sufficiently to choke down a bit of applesauce for his supper.
Like everything about Bub, this reaction seems both unusual and eminently reasonable. He is concerned less about the pain or inconvenience of the missing tooth than about the broader implications. His comfortable, friendly body, so apparently stable and unchanging, has betrayed him. He does not fully grasp the meaning of death, but he is glimpsing its hideous visage every time he wobbles that tooth with his tongue. Mutability and change are his enemies already, but now they are hitting closer to home, an invasion that is deeply unsettling. When I look at his tear-stained face I find myself thinking of cultures without dentistry where the loss of one's teeth (in old age rather than youth) means bidding a final farewell to food.
This most ordinary childhood rite of passage would be comical and endearing if it weren't so sad. After one joyful week of summer vacation, Bub is depressed. "It's a no good, very bad day," he announced this morning before dragging his feet to the breakfast table.
At swimming lessons, though, we finally caught a break. Less than forty-eight hours after the first wobble, Bub's tooth came out in the pool. Bub was thrown but cheerful, especially when we explained that the tooth fairy will still come, even though the tooth itself is somewhere at the bottom of the pool. The wobbly tooth gone, Bub's spirit is rising to the task of embracing the new, big-boy reality that these bodies aren't ours for keeps.