September 13, 2010

The Whole Tooth

Posted in Life's Little Moments tagged , , , at 6:15 am by autismmommytherapist

It’s Monday Madness here, the day where I generally try to make up for slacking off in the laundry department over the weekend and desperately attempt to rectify the situation with what seems like a dozen loads or so. I’m working on freeing Justin’s bedsheets at the moment, am ripping rounded edges mercilessly off his mattress as quickly as possible so my eldest won’t decide to disembark from the potty and bound into his brother’s room, waking him an hour earlier than necessary. I figure if we’re both up before 6:30, which sadly still seems an ungodly early hour to me even after seven years of sunrise awakenings, I might as well accomplish a few things as we wait for Justin’s welcome chariot to whisk him off to school. With a few more tugs I’m on my last and most difficult corner, when something small catches my eye. I reach down quickly, albeit a bit warily, and carefully scoop up the tiny artifact resting gently in the cavity of a crease, a gleaming white object deposited in what appears to be the center of Rainbow Fish’s eye.

It appears my son has lost his first tooth.

I handle it gingerly, cradle it in my palm, and for one moment am struck by how miraculous it is that I have found this. It would have been so easy for this attrition to have occurred at school, or on the bus, or somewhere else in the house where Justin would have unceremoniously disposed of it. He is unbalanced when things are out-of-place, would have relished the release of what must have been an uncomfortable feeling within the confines of his mouth. I am not surprised that he has excavated the offending body part, because it is clear he has assisted in its flight for freedom, as there remain the roots that once bound this fragile form to its neighbors. I know time is of the essence, so I rouse myself from my reverie, and remind myself I still have a toothless child waiting for me in the bathroom. I stride quickly to his bureau to wrap my precious find in tissue, where it will wait patiently for me to celebrate its unique properties by embedding it permanently in a silver teddy bear receptacle given to my son at birth for this exact purpose. I have time to reflect that I never thought I’d fill this with Justin’s tooth, that instead it would be one more object passed down to Zachary, pristine and inviolate. I smile at the thought I will have to purchase something similar for my youngest when the time comes, so he can complete the tradition as well.

I had thought when this momentous milestone occurred with Justin that I’d be sad, regretful that the rituals of my youth would have no meaning for him, would in fact perhaps cause him dismay. I can easily recall the excitement I felt at six when my rite of passage occurred, can remember the overwhelming anticipation of what would assuredly be a gift from the tooth fairy, a coveted quarter that I would probably put aside to put toward the purchase of an ice cream cone or bubble gum. There was a day years ago, not long after Justin’s diagnosis, where I felt such a sense of loss at all the imaginary events which he would miss, the sittings with Santa, the embrace of the Easter Bunny, the Herculean effort required to summon the patience to await the periodic arrival of my ethereal friend, that I felt compelled to write them all down, acknowledge the loss, then destroy the list. As it turned out, we are still able to celebrate all these milestones, just with a different interpretation, as I have learned to redirect the emphasis on aspects of these holidays and events so that they have meaning to my son. Over the years I’ve had to view everything through Justin’s eyes, immerse myself in his world in order to give him pleasure at these staples of childhood. So far, since I’ve been able to release myself from the rigid boundaries of my own memories, he’s enjoyed himself immensely.

I rush back to the bathroom, now perilously close to risking the awakening of a child still possessing a full array of baby teeth, and remind myself that this triumph can still be celebrated, still rewarded, but it will have to be Justin-style. I will not be sneaking into his room at night to stealthily ensconce a shining obelisk under his pillow, would never be foolish enough to either leave him alone with money he could ingest, nor risk liberating him from the hard-won constraints of slumber. No, I’ll have to conjure up another treat, perhaps something as simple as a walk on the boardwalk, or perhaps a new DVD. He will not make the connection between the loss of a body part and the prize, and the fact is, that connection is irrelevant. He will be pleased, and I will know why. That is all that matters.

I cross the cold tile to kneel down in front of my son on his throne. As I encourage him to dress himself he smiles, revealing the missing front tooth that I must have been blind or too wrapped in the fog of my morning fatigue to notice before. There it is, the rough-worn edges, the gap, the empty space waiting to be filled with permanence. I return his smile, for I know that once again I have won that ongoing battle in my head, reconjured my scenario of what should be and replaced it with what instead will transpire, what will turn out to be enough.

And as he reaches for my hand to ease the ache of loss, I can only acknowledge the gain for both of us.



  1. Jess said,

    He will be pleased, and I will know why. That is all that matters.


  2. Mom said,

    As always, bring tears to my eyes–the remembering of all those “first” teeth of yours so long ago. Now I have so much pride in how you have made these memories special opportunities for Justin as well. Love you.

  3. LZ said,

    There is oh so much packed into “what will turn out to be enough”…

    I watched my boy the other day, at soccer practice in the pouring rain. He was unsure at first, but after I told him he got to play in the rain, and it was going to be fun, he went right out there and had a great time. They were soaked to the bone, dripping wet, and every parent out there would rather have been anywhere else, but he didn’t flinch. Yes, he was off on the side doing his own thing, and no, he wasn’t really able to keep up with all of the exercises and skill drills. But he stayed out there. I sat on the sidelines with a few tears in my eyes as I watched my son doing something I would never have believed possible even a year ago. And that was enough.

  4. This goes right to the heart of all I believe and hold sacred as a mom and a coach. Your blogs are touching, funny, inspirational and a gift to us all. Thank you Kim for seeing the gifts that are there and for celebrating life’s little moments in a new and creative way!

    • Thanks Babette! Hope all went well Wednesday and you had a great trip, can’t wait to get together!

  5. Cathy M said,

    My son has lost 8 teeth (he’s 9) and only one of them have I ever found! 5 of them came out during his school day at various points, but his teachers and aides never noticed. I do treasure the one tooth that he spit out and handed me one morning as he ate breakfast!

  6. misifusa said,

    Great story…so glad you found it!

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