Lost Teeth and Growing Boys


I’ve read that some babies are just born with whole sets of teeth—molars and everything, just waiting to be used.

My children had no such luck. Declan began teething on the eight hour car ride home after Thanksgiving. (Yes, I swear to you I can narrow it down to a single car ride.) He wailed the whole time, tiny little tyrannical fist shoved into his mouth, which was impressive but, on the whole, not very helpful.

He worked on that thing for months. His cheeks flushed with the strain of it, rosy splotches bringing out burgeoning dimples. We found use for the millions of bibs we’d been gifted, because there was no stopping the drool, only containing it.

And there was middle of the night rocking. While Declan has never slept well, before teething he was content to take a bottle and go back to sleep. After teething I clutched him to my chest for hours, brushing back the soft hair on his forehead and beating back the pain in his jaw. He was content enough to doze there, clutching my shirt and hair and whatever piece of me he could cram into his little hand. It was exhausting and I complained, but it was the first of many times my boy needed me, and I learned to let myself be needed.

I remember exactly which tooth it was that sprouted first, in large part because Declan had worked so hard for it. I can still feel that little spasm of wonder as I realized a) we weren’t crazy—he had actually been teething and b) time was catapulting my best boy forward. And if we were lucky, time would keep doing that.

Exactly one week ago I panicked, just a bit, when I felt an unusual give against Declan’s mouth as I brushed his teeth. Tentatively I pressed against his first ever tooth—the one that both took and gave us months of our lives—and sure enough it was loose. I did my best to reassure my ever-worried child that loose teeth were normal and no big deal, and he believed me, which is crazy because I was lying, of course.

This was not no big deal. He was six. Six! Six years gone—no, not gone, had—and yet that first little tooth bud erupted just yesterday, didn’t it?

Today, over lunch at day camp, Declan told me nonchalantly “Hey, my tooth came out.”

Sometimes there is no pomp and circumstance in growing up.