Going Dental

Last week, Gabrielle made an alarming discovery. “My tooth!” she shrieked. “My tooth is loose! It might even . . . it might even fall out!” 

Somehow, in the midst of princess ponies and soccer practice, grocery runs and laundry piles, I had neglected to tell my six-year-old daughter about the Tooth Fairy.

Not that we tell our kids the Tooth Fairy is real. But a little heads up about the fact that it’s normal, natural, and yes, even desirable for a first grader’s teeth to fall out would have been helpful. One of the perils of being the sixth child in a family of eight siblings, I suppose, is that there are some things your parents figure “everyone knows” by now — but you might have missed the memo.

It took a bit of talking, but I eventually calmed Gabby down and got her into bed that night. (What if it comes out while I’m sleeping and I swallow it, Mama? Will it bleed? How much? I think it might be hurting a little bit . . . is it supposed to hurt?)

But the next day, and the next, and the next, were a sorry story. Gabby ate only soft bananas and bread and she panicked anytime someone came even a little bit close to her mouth. 

What if someone knocked out her tooth after all?

Gabby also wondered and worried about all things dental. (Will I lose all my baby teeth? Will new ones grow in every time? Are there really a whole bunch of teeth just waiting inside my gums? And when those come in, will I lose them too?)

On the fifth night of this ongoing anxiety, when I served pizza for dinner and Gabrielle backed away from the table with one hand covering her mouth and her eyes welling with tears, I grew frustrated.

“It’s just a tooth!” I told her. “It’s supposed to come out — God designed it to come out — and it will come out!”

Later that evening, I convinced Gabby to let me give her tooth a wiggle and found that it was seriously loose. As in it might very well fall out and slip down her throat while she slept that night. Not that any of us were worried about that.

Working hard to keep a casual expression, I gripped the tooth suddenly and gave it a little twist. Unbelievably, it did not come out.

“Mama!” Gabby gasped as she covered her mouth with both hands and backed away.

I encouraged her to work at it on her own, but she assured me she would not, she could not, pull it out herself. It was then, I suppose, that she set about finding a man for the job.

A short while later, I happened upon her in the living room with older brother Ambrose poised near her open mouth with a Kleenex in hand.

“Steady now,” he commanded. Her eyes wild with fear, she steadied. 

He reached in quickly, grabbed the tooth, and pulled the Kleenex away . . . victorious!

“It’s out!” he rejoiced. We all did.

Gabby raced to the bathroom mirror to gape at her gap and returned a moment later to present me with her prize. I held the tooth and turned it over in my hand. This bit of bone was a very small thing to have caused so much six-year-old stress for the past several days. 

Gabby looked at it, too. “It’s very small,” she observed, poking at it with one finger. “It felt a whole lot bigger in my mouth.”

I thought of the kinds of worries I sometimes bring to our Heavenly Father. When my prayers are filled with working woes, school dilemmas, and toddler trials, He surely sees their smallness. 

Only once we are on the other side of our trials can we hold them and see them for what they really are. Sometimes they turn out to be tiny troubles in our hands — surprisingly small for the worry they caused.

Big in the mouth, small in the hand. 

When I tucked Gabby into bed that night, the tooth securely wrapped and placed under her pillow, she grinned at me over the covers. There was a glimpse of God in the small space I saw in her smile.

He who sees all and knows all is with us even in our tiny trials. He has an all-knowing patience with the process even as we struggle through it. With God, even our biggest worries will one day be small enough to hold in our hands.


Danielle Bean, a mother of eight, is Editorial Director of Faith & Family. She is also author of My Cup of Tea: Musings of a Catholic Mom (Pauline 2005) and Mom to Mom, Day to Day: Advice and Support for Catholic Living (Pauline 2007). Her blog is a source of inspiration, encouragement, and support for Catholic women of all ages and life stages.

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