I was brushing the still tiny, baby pearls that fill his giggling, sweet talking mouth. I brush them every night of his life. And, just like that, one of his two front teeth basically fell out right in front of me. I was shocked.
Then I wiggled the other front tooth, the one that had been sticking out at a strange angle for weeks, loose but not quite loose enough to pull yet, and I could tell that it too was about to go. Chad came in and pulled it out while Sawyer cried and screamed in protest.
It’s okay, Chad consoled. When we get this one out you can sing “All I Want For Christmas is My Two Front Teeth.”
The tears kept coming. But, I don’t even want to sing that! Sawyer hollered.
The tooth came out, cradled like baby Jesus inside a blood-stained paper towel. Chad handed Sawyer the two teeth that had been attached to his person just moments before. He stood there at the bathroom sink, crying, rinsing his mouth, obviously traumatized by the loss. It feels weird! It’s gonna look weird! The tears streamed down smooth cheeks, past the emptiness of a toothless mouth. I felt the emptiness in my Mama heart. The never-ending change. The growing up that will never just leave us alone.
And, all I could think to do was to walk him to the rocking chair and pull him in my lap. He laid there with his head on my chest, still sobbing, clutching a precious baby tooth in each hand, staring at them in disbelief.
I rocked and patted and kissed and felt like I was clutching something, too. I was holding onto Sawyer’s littleness with both hands. And, I could feel my grip loosening.
He looks precious. His sweet little toothless gap is wonderful. This Christmas I’ll snap a hundred pictures of that gaping grin, and I’ll love it. And he will never have to know that after his tears were dried that night and he went to bed with Tooth Fairy hopes, I sat down in this rocking chair and cried those sweet and bitter tears that come with the inevitable milestones, the good-things-that-break-a-mama’s-heart-just-a-little.
Motherhood is an ache like no other. There is great joy and happiness in the growth.
And great pain in the growing.
Tonight we had an old fashioned Christmas pageant at church. Sawyer was a dove at the manger. He was feeling self-conscious about his role and his missing front teeth. On the drive to the church he smiled that toothless grin and said, Hey, everyone loves a Christmas pageant! Unless you just lost your two front teeth and you’re wearing a dove costume.
When I got him dressed, he walked out into the room filled with his friends, and they laughed, obviously loving the craziness of kids dressing up as animals. He sat down in a chair on the front row, and surprisingly he burst into tears. He buried his head in my shoulder and I sat whispering reassurances while I watched the salty drops gather like dew on the white feathers of his costume.
The kids were so sweet. They came to him and patted him and told him how much they loved his outfit. His tear-stained cheeks were pink. I gave him a pep talk in the hallway and in just a few minutes that precious gap in his mouth had reappeared, and his freckled dimples shined like the star above the manger.
He was gonna make it. He was going to forge on with his missing teeth and his feathered outfit, and he was going to be the dove at the manger because it was his job, and he wanted to do it well, even if he couldn’t say Sister Sally Sittin’ on a Thistle.
When I saw that little grin on his face, I loved him for it. He is growing. More teeth will fall out. More will come in. He will learn to be tough. He will still need his mama sometimes. And, as he grows he will help me grow, too.
We both have our growing pains.
Tomorrow he will be able to head to school and show his teacher whom he loves so much that empty spot where his teeth once were. She will smile and hug him tight and the day will go on, just another toothless boy in a sea of toothless first graders.
He is growing. And, so am I. I can live with the ache if I can have the boy. Baby Jesus was well guarded tonight by a host of heavenly angels in silver tinsel halos, shepherds with jeans and tennis shoes poking out of the bottom of their robes, and one little toothless dove, enjoying the Christmas pageant after all, growing before my very eyes.