the smell of my desperation has become a stench

All she wants for Christmas

Last night my oldest child lost her first tooth.

I’m not sure Christmas is going to live up to the celebration that occurred when it happened, not unless we have Cinderella arrive on the back of a flying unicorn carrying a bag stuffed with four tons of chocolate ice cream. And even then that princess had better know how to tap dance.

I know a lot of kids have lost a multitude of teeth by this age, but both Jon and I were late bloomers in every aspect of our lives. I mean, I didn’t get boobs until a bakery in England gave them to me my senior year in college, so technically she’s ahead of her inherited curve!

It was her bottom left front tooth, and it had been loose for what seems like weeks now, slowly inching toward its inevitable demise. We hoped it might just magically fall out. Why not? Nothing with Leta has been easy, not a single thing in her almost seven years on earth, why couldn’t the easy part start now? Eating, sleeping, potty training, drop-offs and pick-ups from school, transitioning between anything… you know, the Mercedes and Porsches of childhood, none of them easy. I was just asking the Universe for an easy tooth! Throw me the yellow Chevy Vega Sedan you’ve had sitting on your lot since 1982, the one that’s missing a passenger side door. I’ll happily ride the shit out of that thing.

No, we had to yank on this tooth, an activity that I would happily turn down if given the choice between that and going through a natural childbirth again, I am not even kidding. There is just something about the tug of a tooth root and the idea of it tearing out of someone else’s gum that makes the food in my stomach want to turn right around and get all impressionistic with the walls.

Eeeeyuuuuuuck. Eww. I know I’m supposed to be grown up about this, but when Jon asked me to feel her tooth to see how loose it was, I was all I TRUST YOUR JUDGMENT. You’re in charge of this one, Jon! You do whatever you feel is right! As long as it involves putting a pillow over my head and letting me hide behind the couch.

How about we tie a string to that tooth, give the other end to Marlo and let nature takes its course?

But I knew I’d regret it if I wasn’t a part of this occasion, so I held her hands (and bit my lip and repeated CALM BLUE OCEAN in my head) as Jon wiggled the tooth back and forth. At first it seemed like it wasn’t time, maybe it needed a few more days to loosen up a bit more. That’s when Jon suggested we search YouTube for some suggestions, and I suddenly popped out of my meditation to cuss in front of my child: Are you out of your goddamn mind?

Do you have any idea what you’re going to find if you google TEETH PULLING? It’s the Internet. We’re not talking about an encyclopedia at the elementary school library where you’ll get some sort of friendly illustration of the tooth fairy. You go ahead and google that phrase and next thing you know your kid is asking why that woman is shooting ping pong balls out of her vagina.

We waited to see if dinner would move things along, and twenty minutes after her usual bedtime we were all on the couch — me, Leta sitting on Jon’s lap, McKenzie there as our cheering squad. Leta winced and grimaced and my dinner danced in my throat as Jon feverishly twisted and pushed and pulled and coaxed. Finally, one last tug… BOOM! A tiny bottom front tooth sat in Jon’s hand. It was over! And Leta ran to the bathroom in disbelief. When I caught up with her she was out of breath, her mouth full of blood. Her breathing was heavy, as if she were on the verge of crying.

“Leta, are you okay?” I asked, worried she was freaking out at the sight of blood.

She didn’t answer me for a few seconds, then finally turned her head to look at me as if my presence had startled her. “What? Me? HAH! I’m totally fine, Mom!” Like, what did you do today, MOM. I just lost a tooth AND I’M STILL STANDING, BRAH.

She gets to be on the tooth chart at school today, in case you didn’t get that from the seven hundred times she mentioned it before going to bed. Also, I was thinking… would it be tacky to collect all her teeth so that eventually I could arrange them in a neat little pattern and then glue them to a mirror like seashells? Because think how many more people would be convinced to have children if they knew they had something like that to look forward to.

  • Stacy4855

    2010/12/07 at 1:38 pm

    No tooth pulling for me either — my kids are 15, 13 and 4 (no lost teeth yet) – and my sister-in-law pulled most of their teeth! No WAY could I do it…

  • melw32

    2010/12/07 at 1:43 pm

    My brother and sister-in-law took my niece’s first tooth and used some sort of craft goop to ‘memorialize’ it in hardened rubber. She was told the tooth fairy left it for her as a present. She showed everyone that tooth for weeks!

  • Becky Cochrane

    2010/12/07 at 1:44 pm

    Yay, Leta! One more rite of passage down, one million to go.

    My sister knocked out my first baby teeth lost. It was an accident, but still…

  • acm

    2010/12/07 at 1:48 pm

    holy cow, just *reading* that made me feel a bit faint. I think I once waited one out (through threats of string and doorknobs) until it actually blackened in my mouth… yeow!

    congrats to all, for tooth and survival.

  • Failjolesfail

    2010/12/07 at 1:50 pm

    I recommend *pushing.*

    It’d better be on its last string. Finger on top of tooth (cutting surface), push in and down. Points for hard and swift.

    Much less nauseating than pulling. My dad had to push all mine out (and yes, Mom still has them, in a little compartment of her jewelry box).

  • ladyphlogiston

    2010/12/07 at 1:51 pm

    SALT WATER TAFFY! We always pulled teeth that way – pop a piece in your mouth, give it a couple of chews, then bite down with the loose tooth. It usually came right out. If it didn’t, we’d wait a few days and try again.

  • dooce

    2010/12/07 at 1:54 pm

    Ooh, good thinking @ladyphlogiston ! There’s plenty of that around here.

  • napangel

    2010/12/07 at 1:57 pm

    Oh, my gosh. Now I know I must really like you people, ’cause I read all the way through to the end even though I felt like puking myself.

    Congratulations, Leta!

  • Just Jill

    2010/12/07 at 1:57 pm

    “How about we tie a string to that tooth, give the other end to Marlo and let nature takes its course?

    BWAHAHAHAHAHA!! Love that one. I can totally see it.

    And yay Leta for getting be be on the tooth chart today!

  • Dharma

    2010/12/07 at 1:59 pm

    Bahahaha….I have hidden behind the couch before! Boy#1 was wiggling his teeth at me and sucking in and then blowing out enough air to make the ugly little yellowing tooth wave emphatically at me like a prom queen on the back of a Cadillac 🙁 Only after a game of chase-the-screaming-6-year-old did I get him to sit long enough for Dad to help the tooth along. Me? Head between my knees wishing I had paper lunchbags in the house.

    I liked Boy#2 better….he walked up to me in the garden at 7 and presented me with the tooth he yanked out his-damn-self. I love that child.

  • TxSuzyQ

    2010/12/07 at 2:01 pm

    OhhhhhhOhhhhhhhhSsssshitNooooo! I can’t have any part of tooth pulling. I had 2 of my teeth knocked out during a front porch swing incident around age 6 or 7 and oooooooohhhellllllnoooooooo!!!!! I still have dreams about my teeth falling out! NoNONooooo I don’t want to read about the pulling out of anyones teeth again kthanksbye.

  • rspell

    2010/12/07 at 2:02 pm

    I still have all of my baby teeth in a little bag. Glueing them to a picture frame might actually be *less* creepy.

    Our Tooth Fairy gives money and leaves the tooth behind. Maybe she can come up with a creepy craft all her own!

  • Kaff627

    2010/12/07 at 2:07 pm

    J lost the same tooth just a couple weeks ago! It was her first as well. I can’t do the whole wiggle and pull thing either so I left it up to her and Daddy. In the end as we were climbing in the car to drive 300 miles to a funeral she pulled it. Well the tooth, the root was still in her gum! But it worked it’s way out. And now her other front teeth are all loose and I have strict orders for her to wiggle them regularly b/c her permanent teeth are starting to cut through on the bottom already. So she needs to lose that other bottom tooth to make room! My mother still has all of my baby teeth as well as my sisters. I have J’s in my wallet still. I need to put it in my jewelry box.

  • @suburbanhaiku

    2010/12/07 at 2:11 pm

    If you think that’s gross,
    just wait till your teenager
    pulls out a molar!

  • Dani

    2010/12/07 at 2:13 pm

    My Mom still has all my baby teeth in a box in her dresser. I discovered this by accident as a teenager when I was looking for a hair twisty or something.

    I get that she couldn’t just throw them out but I fear the day when she’s gone and I have to decide what to do with them along with all her other crap.

  • Mrs.Mommy02

    2010/12/07 at 2:13 pm

    Wow. You really got lucky. My daughter, after being hog tied, came out sweating and crying like she had gone through natural childbirth. Thats not the worst of it, the tooth fairy is currently handing out IOUs because the entire front of my daughter’s mouth bankrupted her in a matter of two months. When she opens her tiny mouth, it looks like a game of mahjong, every tooth battling to be the first one out.

  • Girassol

    2010/12/07 at 2:14 pm

    Congrats, Leta!

    My grandfather came over to our house with a pair of needle-nose pliers to pull out my first tooth. It was actually the least traumatic thing we tried, because it was over and done with in a second.

    My mom kept all our baby teeth. I found them once in a little ceramic box on her dresser. I was expecting the box to contain earrings or something, so that was kind of a morbid discovery. She now uses those teeth to do science experiments with her third-graders… total scare-tactic science, like dropping a tooth in a glass of Coke and having the kids chart how long it takes before the tooth is completely disintegrated.

  • austin_fan

    2010/12/07 at 2:14 pm

    Save the teeth for a science project, she can put her baby teeth into sugar, water, and soda and then report on how long they lasted.

  • jan001

    2010/12/07 at 2:15 pm

    I lost my first baby teeth when, at the age of 6 and not possessed of much foresight, I jumped backward into a swimming pool, while grinning, while both my top front teeth were loose, and caught said teeth on the rope that went around the inside of the pool. PLOINK! Splip, splip, two teeth gone.

    It didn’t hurt and the only reason I was freaking out was because I couldn’t find one of them in the pool and how was the Tooth Fairy going to know it was a twofer if I didn’t find the other one?!?

    My mom, bless her, finally found a 10-year-old kid running around the pool with a swim mask and paid him the princely sum of 25 cents to find the other tooth, which he did, at the bottom of the deep end, perilously close to the drain. Oh, the drama!

    She later took me to the dentist to be sure nothing was broken off up in the gums and it was all good.

    So, if Leta’s up for it in warmer weather, there’s another method!

  • jan001

    2010/12/07 at 2:17 pm

    PS: Mrs.Mom02 – LOL at “When she opens her tiny mouth, it looks like a game of mahjong…”

  • Fanannie

    2010/12/07 at 2:17 pm

    I am a nurse and while I can stand puke, poop, pee and pretty much EVERY body fluid that comes out of a person, I CANNOT stand the sound or sight of a loose tooth. It is my achilles heel!

    ICK! So I guess what I’m saying is: I can relate.

  • bogus36

    2010/12/07 at 2:20 pm

    I am right there with you. Teeth pulling gives me the hibby gibbies!

    My little one – who is so much like Leta – lost her first one this summer. She was 7 years and 3 months when it finally happened. She just lost her 2nd one a few weeks ago.

    I too was a late bloomer. Lost my last tooth when I was in 10th grade!

  • kah825

    2010/12/07 at 2:23 pm

    Oh my GOD! I am cringing. Vomit! I just had flashbacks to having teeth pulled before I could get braces…20 years ago and I’m still haunted. Can’t you just wait and let them fall out on their own?

    Funny side story…my nephew had all of his baby teeth pulled at about age 3. They made him this hilarious looking fake set of teeth. He looked like Guy Smiley from Sesame Street. Well he was sleeping over at my sister-in-laws and woke up and his teeth were gone! Um, did you lose a tooth last night? or maybe a SET of teeth? and then nobody could find them! now the story is moving away from teeth and entering the poop zone.

    I hope the tooth fairy is good to Leta!

  • KatieMama

    2010/12/07 at 2:23 pm

    I hate tooth pulling, it grosses me out! I just watch whenever my husband helps my son pull his teeth. I’m also weird about keeping them…I keep them. I don’t know if I have all of them, but I know I have the first one. I just couldn’t throw it out!

  • AmyC83

    2010/12/07 at 2:26 pm

    My husband’s family has a weird tooth thing:

    His mom paints glass Christmas ornaments for all the kids in the family each year. She paints the kid on the front in their favorite clothes and writes all the year’s milestones on the back. She also makes ornaments for the teeth each kid has lost. She puts the kid’s name on the front and all the teeth inside the ornament, then hangs said tooth-filled ornament on the tree. She even does it for the dogs in the family!!

  • mommioandretti

    2010/12/07 at 2:44 pm

    i’m with you heather. gross!

    and, i’m going to be laughing all night over “why that woman is shooting ping pong balls out of her vagina.” good one!

  • poopinginpeace

    2010/12/07 at 2:46 pm

    My oldest also lost the SAME tooth about a month and a half ago. Is that the universal first tooth to lose?? My question to you is what did the tooth fairy bring? Here in L.A. the tooth fairy has big expectations, that we weren’t about to try and live up to. You can read about what we did here-

    There was no way I was giving her what some of her friends got. I have three kids! We’d have no money left by the time we got to the last one.

  • romesick

    2010/12/07 at 2:50 pm

    My first grade teacher, against my protestations, forcibly pulled my loose tooth. Roughly five minutes later, I fainted into the middle of reading circle. I woke up to find the school nurse running down the hallway with me limp in her arms, the teacher running alongside. They had to call my mother to come to the school and take me home.

    I’ll bet my teacher never pulled another kid’s tooth. 😉

    And I hated pulling my own daughter’s loose teeth, too. *shiver*

  • lekika

    2010/12/07 at 2:51 pm

    For some reason, every time I lost a baby tooth it was really painful (maybe I’m just a pansy), so now I can’t stand even looking at a kid wiggling a loose tooth. But of course I read this whole post, with my hand protectively covering my mouth the whole time.

    Yay Leta!

  • chasethefirefly

    2010/12/07 at 2:55 pm

    Congrats Leta!!!

    I have such a hard time with the teeth. My oldest (8) is so much like Leta, our first tooth was really tough to get through. It’s gotten much better now, except for one tooth that somehow flipped backwards and wedged itself into the roof of my daughter’s mouth. That was pure drama.

    We have saved all of the teeth so far, but I don’t remember where I hid them. No teethy craft project for me, boohoo.

  • EvilJulie

    2010/12/07 at 2:58 pm

    I don’t know about gluing them to a mirror, but I like the idea of keeping them. My mother had no such idea, but something made me keep the last tooth I lost, one of my canines. I still have it, and I like having that connection with my past.

  • BellyGirl

    2010/12/07 at 3:04 pm

    What a great milestone. I swallowed my first lost tooth with a slice of pizza.

    And isn’t this the perfect time to re-watch the best kid/tooth video EVER?!

  • hoosiergirl1962

    2010/12/07 at 3:21 pm

    Congratulations,Leta, on making it to the tooth chart!
    Heather, you deserve a nice big Scotch..
    BTW I have all my dog’s baby teeth, so I don’t think its so crazy to make crafts out of your kid’s baby teeth
    Jon- all I have to say to you is…”please don’t look up zit popping on YouTube for Leta’s puberty!

  • MelissaJ

    2010/12/07 at 3:26 pm

    oh Leta, YES!

    what a milestone.

  • Truthful Mommy

    2010/12/07 at 3:32 pm

    You are tough!My 5 year old just lost her first tooth right around Halloween, & it did just magically fall out int he middle of the night. It was wobbl for 2 days, we were planing on Daddy puling it out when he got home that weekend & the little sonofabitch just jumped right out of her mouth.Thank God she didnt swallow it.There is NO way I can pull it out, it creeps the crap outta me.It send me right back to my childhood & the taste of blood in my mouth & that gross piece of gum missing its tooth:( EWWW!LOL But it was a big moment in our house,It just makes me realize how fast my babies are growing up.Not sure I like it.Of course, after much debate of what the tooth fairy would leave for the first tooth ( actually the very same one your Leta lost), my Bella informed me that she wouldn’t be leaving the tooth for the fairy.Apparently,she thinks its a little creepy for a fairy to come into her room & buy her teeth while she is sleeping.I think her exact words were “my teeth are not for sale”LOL

    You did good Mama!Thank God you stopped John from youtube or googling it, it could have been a disaster of epic proportions!

  • Shana in Texas

    2010/12/07 at 3:33 pm

    I am loving the tooth-filled ornament! How creepy is that!

  • amandancer05

    2010/12/07 at 3:35 pm

    Almost seven seems a relatively young to average time to lose a tooth. I was well into second grade when i lost my first tooth. I have had 16 teeth pulled by the dentist 4 of which were adult teeth. I’ve had a tooth “exposed” because it was taking it’s sweet time coming in. I also had braces for 2.5 years (which isn’t all that unusual) all in all you have much to look forward to (or away from)

  • Darleya

    2010/12/07 at 3:49 pm

    Thanks for sharing Leta’s tooth story. My dad used to do the whole string thing. I hated it. My big teeth were growing on top of my baby teeth which didn’t want to fall out. My mouth was a big mess that ended up in braces. Glad that Leta handled it so well!

  • jennisdrinking

    2010/12/07 at 4:13 pm

    YAY!! Pulling a tooth is NO FUN at all. But- hey, look at the bright side. My daughter’s tooth is loose, it’s been loose for several weeks, she’s guarding that thing like the freakin Hope diamond. Then….we went to the dentist for a cleaning. Turns out, that loose tooth isn’t moving fast enough and the new tooth is now not pushing it out anymore but rather it’s growing in behind it like a shark’s tooth. No shit- bet you didn’t know that was an option.

    So….we have until Christmas break to get it out on our own, or they’re going to pull it at the dentist. The moral of this story: if you have a loose tooth, wiggle the shit out of it!

  • afreking

    2010/12/07 at 4:14 pm

    I am a 4th year dental student, and even though I pull teeth all the time at school, the sight of a wiggly tooth outside of the office sends a primordial shudder throughout my body before I catch myself and remember I’ve dug those things out of 75 year old bone before.

  • loquaciousmusic

    2010/12/07 at 4:20 pm

    Alternative rock band Crash Test Dummies (remember them?) released a song in 1996 called “He Liked to Feel It.” The song is about a boy who likes to get his teeth pulled out, and the video stars that dude from the movie “Kids.” It’s a catchy little number, although the video is pretty brutal!

    Congratulations, Leta!

  • Wombat Central

    2010/12/07 at 4:38 pm

    Yay, Leta! My Girly recently lost her two front teeth just in time to ask for them for Christmas! The final one dangled there like a swinging doggy door and drove us all nuts. She wouldn’t let anyone pull that mother out. Finally just fell out while she was chatting away.

    Love the hippos!

  • mercedesmom

    2010/12/07 at 4:40 pm

    I must say from the perspective of a dental hygienist, you are all being way too dramatic about this natural occurence. The deciduous (meaning those to be lost) teeth will eventually fall out in food, during toothbrushing, etc. The best solution is to let the child do it by themselves. Otherwise, swallowing might take place and then
    NO TOOTH FAIRY VISIT! You are transmitting your fear to your child–not a good idea for future dental appointments.

  • eatingcookies

    2010/12/07 at 4:58 pm

    Awesome. Yeah, I haven’t really thought out the whole “yanking out my kid’s tooth” scenario, but that does sound like something that would make me squeamish.

    My kiddo’s turning three – we’ve got a ways to go for this rite of passage, but I’m sure I’ll deal with it someday…

  • Petra

    2010/12/07 at 5:32 pm

    OMG, I’m so glad I’m not the only one creeped out by loose teeth. My 5 year old daughter waved that disgusting loose tooth at me for weeks before it finally came out. Every time I saw it my stomach did a flip. How did I manage to loose all my own teeth without passing out? I kept my daughters tooth, although I have no idea what I’m going to do with it. But I remember the drama of that damn thing coming in, it seemed a waste to just toss it.

    Congratulations to all of you 🙂

  • colallison

    2010/12/07 at 5:56 pm

    I love the little celebrations that happen with each tooth falling out. We were lucky enough to catch my son’s first tooth falling out while we were taping my two kids dancing in their underwear:

    My most important tip is to stay sober on the evenings when the tooth fairy is supposed to visit. We’ve had to do some mad scrambling on a few mornings.

  • birdylegs

    2010/12/07 at 6:26 pm

    Tooth charts are evil! My daughter didn’t lose her first tooth until she was 7 years, 7 months old. I was so glad her school didn’t use a tooth chart. She already felt like she was the only kid on earth who hadn’t lost one. And then when she did it was summer vacation. I see her future and it looks a lot like my past. She will be the last kid to get her period and I will have to tell her that it really isn’t something she wants anyway and she won’t care to hear it.

  • Mrs. Q.

    2010/12/07 at 6:44 pm

    oh, bluuuuurgh.

    Wiggling teeth make me very uneasy.

    I would have given her a whole apple on which to gnaw.

  • allergic to cats

    2010/12/07 at 6:50 pm

    This is a great way to pull a tooth…tie the tooth to a rocket!

  • freckleface

    2010/12/07 at 7:00 pm

    There are 4 kids in my family, and my Dad kept every tooth. Wrap your mind around that.

    Of course, he didn’t have that many of mine to keep; out of all the teeth I lost over the years, I literally was only able to put 4 or 5 under the pillow. The other 30 or so I either swallowed, planted in the ground (to grow a tooth tree, naturally. So I would have unlimited dollars), gave to my neighbor in exchange for something, lost down the sink, threw it over the fence behind my house (WHY??), or did something else with it that was crazy.

    All that said.. you lost me with the car metaphor. Wut?

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Heather B. Armstrong

Hi. I’m Heather B. Armstrong, and this used to be called mommy blogging. But then they started calling it Influencer Marketing: hashtag ad, hashtag sponsored, hashtag you know you want me to slap your product on my kid and exploit her for millions and millions of dollars. That’s how this shit works. Now? Well… sit back, buckle up, and enjoy the ride.

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