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Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Missing Teeth and Mommy Expectations

About a month ago I posted about Coryn's first lost tooth. At the end of that post I explained that the tooth-fairy would be delaying things because Coryn wanted to save her tooth to show her friends, so we put the tooth in a box and left it on the desk over night. The next morning she comes to me, upset, because she had lost it. Yes, she lost it. When she woke up she had been so excited about her tooth that she had to get up and look at it, and somehow in the process she lost it. We combed the carpet (not literally, but close to it) in the  den. I emptied the canister on the canister vacuum, vacuumed the area, and then combed through the dirt and pet dander I vacuumed up looking for that little white tooth. We never found it.

I was torn at this point. We had had some issues with her being careless and losing things which had resulted in lost privileges, her crying because she couldn't find whatever item it was that she had lost that I insisted she find before she went out to play, stuff like that. I kind of wanted her to live with the consequences of the lost tooth. It seemed the perfect lesson. . .Still, this was her first lost tooth. It was supposed to be a special time.

So I left her a note from the tooth-fairy explaining that she had found the tooth using her magic, but please be more careful next time, and put it in a little box with a dollar coin. She was so excited about the coin that I was glad I had relented, and about a week ago it looked as if we were going to have our chance at a do-over. The tooth adjacent to the lost one was good and loose.

it is weird how her new teeth start to grow in before the old ones fall out 


Today we went to the library and I found a couple of loose tooth themed books for Coryn (They didn't have One Morning in Maine; I was disappointed), and on the way home she started moaning in the back. I thought she was playing a game but then she started saying, "My mouth is bleeding! My mouth is bleeding!" I guess she had decided to start wriggling the tooth and had finally dislodged it. I  passed her back a napkin to stop the bleeding and she held onto her tooth all the way home.

Of course, the first thing she wanted to do was to show it to her friends across the street, so she ran over there to show them. 

That's when the trouble began anew. 

When she returned to our house and opened the door (she says) Caen scared her and she dropped the tooth. Now why Caen, who she generally rolls around on the floor with, suddenly turned into a scary monster right when she opened the door with her dislodged tooth, I may never know, but I do know that, five minutes of tearful  searching later, the tooth was no where to be found. I started to get frustrated with the whole situation at this point. I told her that this time the tooth-fairy wasn't going to come. She got upset and said she thought the tooth-fairy could use her magic to find the tooth again. I reminded her that this was the second time this had happened. That I had told her, repeatedly, not to lose this tooth. That she had just been asking for trouble carrying around a tiny tooth. 

Caen was jumping all over me at this point so I shoved the whole group inside and, on my own, got down on my hands and knees in front of the door to scan for anything that looked small and white. 

I was angry at this point. This was something that was supposed to be fun and memorable that was turning into tears and awfulness simply because she couldn't be bothered to be careful. I couldn't keep letting the tooth-fairy bail her out of these predicaments. How would she ever learn? Why couldn't she have kept hold of the silly little tooth? Oh please, God, please make that tooth reappear, please, for my sake, even though my daughter messed up, give me that tooth. 

It was about this point that I realized that I was mad at Coryn for ruining my idealized loose tooth scenario. To me that tooth shouldn't matter. I know there isn't a tooth-fairy, believe it or not. Whether or not I chose to let her live with the consequences or not wasn't the issue at hand. The issue was that, instead of forgiving and moving on or gently reminding her about being careful and allowing her to deal with her mistake, I was angry. I was using my harsh voice. I was stewing inside. Why? Because she had ruined my perfect moment that I was supposed to photograph. Because I felt she had stolen something from me.

I remember years ago hearing a woman give a talk that involved her reaction to her son getting kicked out of school before graduation for drug use. At the time I didn't understand it at all. She spoke of how angry she was at him, not for endangering his life and future, but for stealing that moment, that high school graduation she had been looking forward to attending, and about how it had been hard for her to let go of that anger. At the time I thought, well, that's a self-centered way to look at your son's problems. . . But now, in this smaller scale test, I was feeling exactly the same way. I wanted that moment she had squandered by  losing that perfect little pearly tooth. I wanted the box of baby teeth. I wanted the memory and the photograph and the cute story. I was unable to distance myself from the loss of the ideal to deal with the reality of the moment. 

Anger started to dissipate and I said one more, sincere prayer, asking for the tooth's return, though at this point I doubted that either Coryn or myself merited the return.  

But in His infinite grace, there it was. Sitting on the grout between two bricks in our walk way. It hadn't fallen into the grass or down one of the cracks. It was just sitting there, waiting for  me.

Coryn was delighted to put it back. I told her to bring a box to put it in and she went and fetched a full sized shoe box. This was a bit much so I got her an empty McCormick spice container (I am still hording these things), and crisis averted. The tooth is sitting in the kitchen, waiting to be placed for tonight's exchange. The moment will be achieved, but I also got a little bit of clarity today. Sometimes parenting is about letting go of the wonderful things we want for our children and showing them the grace that God has given all of His children. It is about accepting the imperfection. It is about using moments to teach and not to shame.  It is a dang lot of hard work, actually, but okay. It's all worth it.




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