Of Lost Teeth and Last Firsts

(My husband informed me that all these years I thought the Tooth Fairy was Black, I was wrong. This one’s for you, babe).

My big girl lost a tooth this weekend.

Happens all the time, I know.

Babies grow into toddlers and toddlers grow into “big boys and girls” and then teenagers (Lord, help) and then adults. It’s a miracle, a gift we sometimes take for granted, a blessing to see our children grow before us.

We’ve been anxious about this stage. Just brushing her teeth is a project. What will we do about loose teeth? Will she swallow them? Will it be a sensory nightmare? How will she react to such a change?

I was working on a puzzle with her when I noticed a large bloody space where her bottom front tooth used to be.

I shrieked.

Rhema lost a tooth! Woohoo!!!

And then,

Rhema lost a tooth. Boohoo. 

A host of emotions hit me at once.

First, I chided myself – brushing her teeth has been extra difficult lately. She and I have had some battles in the morning with her fighting me any time I come near her mouth. I’d resorted to wrapping her arms in a towel, laying her on the floor and straddling her to get the job done. Duh! Poor girl had a loose tooth. Rhema is a saint for putting up with her clueless mama.

She’s not a baby anymore. I mean, the lost baby tooth represents lost babyhood. (Sniff). It’s like the last “baby” thing to go. I remember exactly when that little tooth first popped through her gooey baby gums. And now it’s gone forever. And now, she’s going to get a permanent tooth that will be there… well… permanently.

Watching a child grow up is poignant for any parent, but for a special needs parent it’s particularly bittersweet. For with every little milestone, every last “first”, you feel a bit of panic and fear. You watch her body grow tall and change and mature in a hundred different ways… while her cognitive, social and emotional development lags far behind. You stand by helplessly as time marches on; she gets older and the gaps get larger. You feel “The End of Cute” looming – people often excuse the outbursts or strange behaviors of a toddler; they are less forgiving of an older child. You are aware that you cannot protect her like you once could. 

Her Daddy missed another “first.” He was not there when she was born, his first child. He was then, as he is now, serving our country in Iraq. He missed her first breath, her first smile, her first bath, her first crawl, her first Christmas. Not a big deal, I say. But you know these are the moments you never get back. These are things I call tell you about, but, well, you just had to be there. (B, click here for my favorite Daddy post about losing teeth.)

Rhema was completely unfazed by losing a tooth. True to form, she didn’t miss a beat. But for once, I wish she had. I wanted this to be a big event. I wanted her to show some emotion – excitement, distress, curiosity – anything! Like mothers and fathers before me, I wanted to do the Tooth Fairy thing.

But she has no knowledge or understanding of the Tooth Fairy process, and she could care less.

I read a short article that ruffled my feathers – it said that if you have a nonverbal child with autism don’t even bother with the tooth fairy. Ohhh, that got me. Just because she has autism doesn’t mean her mama can’t put on some wings and fly, sprinkle a little fairy dust, make a little magic! I decided. My girl lost her first tooth, dagnabbit, and we’re going to celebrate!

“So, girls. I know it’s been a couple days, but don’t worry, the Tooth Fairy is on the job! She told me she’s narrowed the whereabouts of the tooth down to Rhema’s belly or the tub drain! I bet she’s going to leave a special treat under her pillow tonight!” (I know. I know. WAY too many words, but just go with me).

There will be cheers in the morning when the girls find under Rhema’s pillow a brand new puzzle.


Oh, my big girl, how I wish I could hold on to you somehow, keep you with me forever. In this life, you will lose things – baby teeth, time, treasured things, people dear to you, maybe sometimes even your way. But you will never ever lose my love.

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