Forget about Advent. Here in Cottontail Cottage, it’s shaping up to be Teeth Season.
Pippin got another wiggler, his third, and then gave it a real crack when he absentmindedly chewed on a toy (because he will cheerfully eat LEGOs, but not human food). He’d refused to pull his first two teeth, instead opting to let nature take its course until they bid him adieu in his sleep. I tried to counsel him on the pride and satisfaction of pulling one’s own tooth but as it would turn out it’s all pretty theoretical for me, since my dumb teeth never got loose and eventually my dad and then my orthodontist pulled them for me. But lo, three is a lucky number and this time Pippin reached deep into his manly little soul for courage and plucked that sucker out.
Meanwhile, Roo is Teething. She is my first Violent Teether, and until her I thought grumpy, sleepless, snotty teethers were a myth. Let me tell you, I have had ample opportunity, most of it at 2 a.m., to revise my opinion. At one point earlier this fall I actually took her to the doctor to investigate her intermittent misery, only to learn it was teething. Teething!! A rooky mom mistake, just when I dare to think I’m a veteran.
Scout plods along as usual, cheerful as a little spacy bumblebee, clad in three tutus, too often lost in the clamor of her needier siblings. Her teeth are small, sweet, white, smooshed together. She is my dental inheritor, and will almost certainly need braces. But just now she’s golden.
At co-op, I become aware of teeth. Heaps of teeth. Teeth coming and going and fenced behind wire. Teeth needing fillings and teeth needing scrimping. Some of these families have seven children. Think of all the teeth!
Maybe your baby has five teeth. Maybe your three-year-old has 20. Maybe your teenager is getting wisdom teeth pulled or your ten-year-old is popping out teeth and you’re setting an alarm to remember tooth fairy duty. But for every tooth on your smiling Christmas card photo, mama, I bet you have wept, lost sleep, scraped the dregs of the bank account.
That’s a parent’s work: sacrifice that adds up to a smile. The natural cyclical giving of generations. My dad wincingly pulling out my baby teeth to make room for the future in all its permanent tooth glory, and me wearily rocking a fitful, sleepless teething girlie in a dark bedroom. In this season perhaps more than any other we can feel our deficits as parents: not enough crafting, not nice enough presents, not enough patience as semester and shopping days race to a close. But, even if we are forgetting to make people floss everyday, even if we are letting our people indulge in way too many Christmas sweets, their teeth speak out our good, inglorious work as parents. Our teeth will be left when nothing else is left — aside from that baby tooth Pippin lost someplace in the house while showcasing it to his friends, that is. Visible pearly evidence of the love and care others have given us. Everyday proof that we, as parents, are more than enough.