Barely Hanging On

465 days of loving more all together, 36 days year 2

“But mommy, alllll my friends have lost a tooth, why haven’t I? It’s not fair. It’s so not fair. The tooth fairy will never come. I am so unlucky.”

This has been the standard statement shared passionately with me by my six and a half year old every night at bedtime for the past oh, I don’t know, eighteen months? Needless to say, the question has been getting old. But I get it. He wants to feel like a big kid like his friends. He wants to let go of his baby teeth. Okay, maybe I don’t totally get it because I don’t really want him to loose his baby teeth. I don’t really want him to be a big kid, but oh, I can’t deny his strong desire to grow up. I can’t deny the truth in his emotions; I can’t deny that growing up is going to happen; I can’t deny him the excitement of looking forward to loosing his first tooth just because I am not ready for the tooth fairy to be part of my life.

So every night for the past eighteen months or so, I have shared my somewhat standard statement,

“Oh buddy, I know. It is hard. But your teeth will come out when they are ready. Everyone is a little different and does things at different times and that’s okay. It doesn’t mean you aren’t a big kid just because you haven’t lost a tooth. It will happen soon. I promise, it will.”

And it did. One promise I made finally came true. Last Saturday, out of the blue #1 came running up to me and said,

“Mommy, mommy, I finally have a loose tooth!!! See, see?!!”

I looked. And I looked.  And I even wiggled it with him. And I have to admit. I jumped up and down with excitement with him like I was a six year old losing my first tooth. I was so happy for him. Seeing the sparkle in his eyes, the pride on his face, the joy emanating from every aspect of him, it was, well, contagious. My baby was so happy. No, my big boy was so happy. A little bit of my heart cried, but mostly it felt the happiness.

It’s been a fun week, being on tooth watch and all. Everyday at school pick-up I’d ask,

“And, and? Do we still have all our teeth?”

He would joke and say, “Nope! I lost it! Just kidding mom, fooled ya!”

Today was no different except this time he asked me,

“Mommy, when is it ever going to fall out?”

“When it is ready. That tooth is teaching you patience. It is teaching you how to stay calm when super excited!”

“ARGH!” he grumbled and curdled up into his car seat.

Fast-forward three hours. All four boys and myself are hanging out in the doctor’s office waiting to check #4’s lungs. I use the term hanging out loosely; really we were all trying to not bump into each other and bother each other in the cramped space! The only thing hanging out was #1’s tooth. As he sat there, I said,

“Hey, let’s check out that tooth. Maybe we could have Dr. K pull it out while we are here?” I then looked at it, touched it ever so gently and changed my statement, “Hey #1, that tooth is going to fall out any moment. It is barely hanging on!!!”

The nurse came in and started doing stats and everything. #1 sat patiently on his chair; his tongue not so patient as it pushed the loose tooth back and forth, giving me the heebee jeebez.

“Hey Nurse L, I have a loose…”


“What was that?” asked Nurse L.

“MY TOOTH! MY TOOTH! Don’t move it is next to your foot!” he screeched as blood oozed out of his mouth.

And sure enough, this perfect little white tooth lay on the floor. We scooped up the tooth and carefully wrapped it in a homemade gauze pocket.

“#1, yes, you may hold your tooth in your pocket. BUT do not take it out. You are a big boy with big teeth coming in and this is a big responsibility.”

“I got it mommy,” he said.

I knew it was risky but he was so happy, proud, and excited. I just couldn’t deny him of that by holding the tooth. And besides, I have to let him grow up and learn. Well, I must say I think he grew up a lot today, and not just because he lost his tooth, but because he lost it twice. Driving home from the doctor, I heard a very feeble,

“Mommy, I didn’t listen. I took my pocket out of my pocket. And I dropped it in the worst place possible.”

I didn’t think that was possible. I mean I did, but really, REALLY?!!

“Did you take the tooth out of the pocket?” I asked nervously.

“What do you think?” he cried.

“Where is it?”

“In the worst place possible, I already told you.”

Trust me when I say, this is one hole in the car you don’t want to have to put your hand in. It collects EVERYTHING. Gross! The things we do for love….

And that my friends, was the truth. There was no denying it. You know that small, dark hole that is folds and folds of fabric where the seat belt recesses into? The dark hole that collects cheerios and spilled milk and dust and grossness over the years, and in this case, three years? The hole that you can barely get a finger in to scoop things out? Yeah, that hole. That is where the tooth fell.

I got home and immediately started trying to get it out. #1 sat on the driveway crying. I felt so incredibly bad for him I felt the loss too. My heart ached with him.

“Will you find it mommy? I can’t believe I lost my favorite tooth. Now the tooth fairy will never ever come! I’m so stupid!” he whaled.

Meanwhile, three other children climbed all over the back seat and me as I tried desperately to get the small tooth. Every time they moved, the tooth fell deeper into the hole. Every time I thought I had it, I pulled out a blooming Cheerio. Every time someone moved closer to me, I moved closer to yelling. Every time #1 whaled, I thought, “yeah, I told you to listen.” Every time I thought that, my heart ached because #1 is struggling right now with impulse control. Struggling. While this taught him a valuable lesson about controlling his impulses, it was the worst way to learn.

Again, my heart ached with his. And instead of being empathetic, I let all my sadness and stress about not being able to find his tooth get to me. I was barely hanging on to calm. His not listening to me in the first place, my struggle with the reality of his struggling with impulse control, my not being able to make his heart happy, well it all led me to say rather snapfully,

“You know #1, I told you this would happen. You didn’t listen.”

I didn’t yell, but my words were full of shame and I could tell that I only worsened his wound. I didn’t like the taste of my tone one bit; I didn’t like that I separated us at a moment when we both needed a hug. This was such a big milestone for both of us; we both wanted it to be all sweet and perfect and yet, I was anything but sweet. Given the situation, I could have, no should have, been a lot more loving. And I feel awful. I can’t take back what I said. I can just apologize, which I did, and forgive myself, which I am working on.

At the end of the day, I am not perfect and nor do I need to be. I just want more good moments than bad moments. And at the end of the day, I am grateful that I was there when he lost his tooth and that we shared a not good, but an incredible moment together. And I am grateful that I didn’t totally lose it and starting screaming (as I totally would have done pre-Orange Rhino Challenge) because in keeping my quasi-cool I was able to do some awesome mini-van surgery with my neighbor. Together, we figured out how to take apart the mini-van and shake that tooth lose.

Yes, we found that tooth.
Yes, my son and I cried together.
And yes, we were both barely hanging on today for different reasons, both individually and with each other, but ultimately we found each other and that, despite the momentary gory details, made it a great day.

Munchkin fell asleep dreaming of the tooth fairy. Can’t help but wonder if he would have fallen asleep as happy if I had completely yelled and screamed at him over his mistake?

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18 thoughts on “Barely Hanging On

  1. Your son is going to remember these heroics all his life. This is a story he will tell his wife when he first meets her to relay how awesome you are. How his mom took the minivan apart so he could put his first tooth under the pillow for the tooth fairy. Bravo mama. You are my new hero. I’m taking the challenge. God bless you.

  2. I know you already found the tooth, so this is a day late, dollar short, BUT: I just saw this on Facebook, and it would have been so useful to you!

    You take an old pair of pantyhose and cut the leg off. Then, put the leg of the pantyhose over the extender/crevice thingy on a vacuum and secure it with a rubber band. Voila! Now, you can vacuum up stuff without it going into the vacuum. You would have also picked up all those cheerios, but it’s a little easier than sticking your hand down there.

  3. I’m biting my tongue these days. I told you so is so so rough. But it’s too easy to fall into when we did tell them. Deep breath.

    Oh, my #1 year old lost her first tooth twice too, but in the mess of the car and the heat of the summer, I couldn’t find it. Gone.

    So, I improvised- you know what, I bet if we write a note to the tooth fairy, she can find it in the car. And I guess from the quarter under the pillow she did.

  4. LOVE that he is wearing an orange shirt in the picture. What a great Mom you are to have found the tooth. I would have thought it impossible. Way to go Orange Rhino! As a side note I had my very frist FULL day with no yelling. So proud of me. Thanks for your example that inspires me daily to be better and do better and not yell. Your amazing!

  5. I’ve been in a very similar situation, but I (unfortunately) handled it very differently. My oldest lost his 2nd tooth at school, then wouldn’t leave it alone in his tooth necklace the school provided and lost it. Somewhere at school. I was very irritated, and this was before I was learning to control my temper. I actually yelled at him and belittled him for losing it and not leaving it alone inside it’s safe holder. I realized at that moment, when he started crying (because of me, not because of the missing tooth) that I needed to get help. I did talk to my doctor and was prescribed some medication to help get me leveled out. It has helped tremendously, but I’m still working on my yelling every day. I have apologized to him multiple times, even though it happened a couple years ago, but I know I can never take away the hurt that I caused in that moment. I don’t ever want to do that to either of my boys again. My heart will always ache for knowing I did it, and I strive to use the memory of how I felt afterward as how I never want either of us to feel again. Doing my best to learn from my mistakes.

  6. Orange Rhino, I rain shame like that on my poor kids every day. I don’t want to, I really really don’t want to. I was raised on shame and the shame monster is the LOUDEST voice in my head and it almost never shuts up. Lately I’ve found myself weeping into the sleeping bundles of my children late at night over my shortcomings, apologizing to their rhythmic breaths and silently and sometimes not-silently begging forgiveness for the angry words I’ve said. I will tell you though, I am getting much more aware of when it’s baiting me. And of situations that push my buttons in general. Reading one of your posts about triggers helped me do that. And while I fully support your efforts, it is a little bit of a relief to hear that even though you are a serene, scream-free mama, you are still human and that you were not always this in control. It gives me hope that I can improve too. Congratulations on not screaming in that pressure cooker moment! I hope you give yourself credit EVERY SINGLE TIME you beat the scream impulse, because you totally deserve it.

  7. WOW! You are amazing! Way to keep your cool. I know you said you were a little snappy, but under the circumstances and stress! Holy smokes! AMAZING! You are my hero! I’m striving to be more in control of my emotions every day, but it is trying! My hope is that I can be where you are in a year, too, but it seems so far away. I guess my take away for today is that like with all things you have to keep practicing and trying to be your best. One day it will be second nature. Thank you for all your inspiration! <3

  8. I just found your blog and I’m so happy I did. I have a 5 year old boy and have struggled with controlling myself and I’ve yelled a lot. So of course, he also has the same struggles because he’s learned from my bad example. I’m sure you know the guilt I carry. I’ve been working on it though and things have gotten so much better over the past year. I’m going to take your challenge. It will make such an improvement in our lives. This blog post was great. Beautifully told. I’m happy you found the tooth!

  9. I cried with you when I read this. So often I find myself saying those exact same words. I told you that if you __________ that this would happen, but you didn’t listen. Because you didn’t listen ______________ happened. SOME times when I say it, it’s full of compassion & sadness that my child had to learn the lesson the hard way AGAIN, but other times that voice coming out of me sounds so condescending, so careless to the heartache of my child. Thank you for reminding me that in those Oh-So-Heartbreaking moments when my child is learning a lesson the hard way, the LAST thing he or she needs is an unsympathetic parent responding in a way that is snide or snotty!

  10. My daughter was the same way…except she actually did lose hers in the worst place possible….she unknowingly swallowed it while playing with her cousins. We wrote a note to the tooth fairy (amidst huge tears) and she left a conciliatory note. She even let my daughter keep her next tooth in a special box since the first one was so traumatic for her. It is so hard when those firsts don’t go quite right.

  11. My 6 yr old is also eager to lose a tooth. He has one that is sort of loose. It moves the tiniest bit and he’s excited! He can’t wait. He is growing up too fast for me. Today was his last day of Kindergarten. Mixed feelings for me!

  12. lol – when i read “the worst place possible” i immediately thought the toilet……….hahaha – glad it was somewhere you could actually retrieve it. and don’t feel too bad for speaking sternly to him, part of growing up means taking responsibility for your own actions, which i am sure he learnt from this. hope he is always this excited about loosing a tooth. My 8 year old cries for about a week every time she loses one, won’t eat, gets ridiculous about it. Drives me absolutely nuts!!!

  13. That is certainly the worst place possible. I am shuddering and my stomach is churning just thinking about sticking my hand in “that place”. Way to go though! I am very new in the challenge, and I think I would have lost my cool big time. I don’t yell “that” much; I tend to use a very sarcastic and unkind tone of voice instead, and I HATE it. So for me, the Orange Rhino challenge is watching my tone in general.

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