The other day, as we were sitting down to lunch, Benjamin was complaining that there was something stuck behind his tooth. I took a look, and indeed there was — behind his lower front tooth, another new tooth is growing in. Upon closer inspection, I also found that the baby tooth it will replace is loose, though B hadn’t yet noticed that. There’s no denying it — my little guy continues to grow up.
Of course he does. The milestones have been flying by lately — just last week he had his preschool graduation, and he’ll start first grade (!) in August. He’ll be 6 in just over a month, so of course there have been many changes along the way — solid foods, walking, talking, potty training, writing, riding a pedal bike. I would have thought I’d be getting used to the idea of him growing up and changing by now, but I was surprised at how much this one got to me.
Discovering that little sliver of permanent tooth poking through his gum line really did surprise me. First, it’s legitimately a little ahead of schedule. But, more significantly, it feels like the training wheels are coming off — for him, for us. He’s getting his grown up teeth. The same ones that will be smiling in his high school graduation pictures, in his wedding pictures, maybe even in pictures of him as a dad one day. Practice time for teeth is over. If he doesn’t take good care of his permanent teeth, it could lead to lifelong problems, so now it’s show time for great dental hygiene.
It’s also a reminder that all of that is getting to be true for more than just his teeth. As parents we (thankfully) get a bit of a trial period — a phase where it’s likely that our kids won’t remember every mistake, every bad moment, every time our tempers are lost. But they get bigger, and the practice period ends, and we get into that part of parenting that goes on our permanent mental report card. If we drop the ball now, they’ll remember. We’ll still be talking about it in 30 years at Christmas dinner. (And that freaks me out, too, because I’m still making plenty of mistakes and having more than enough bad days.)
Even Dan, who is usually sympathetic but uncomprehending in the face of my wistful moments of Mommy sadness as the boys grow up, was more than a little shocked and emotional about the loose tooth. Getting that first big tooth is a big day, and I’m not sure that either Dan or I was really ready for it.
But B is just so excited. He can’t wait for it to come out so the Tooth Fairy will come and bring a coin. He feels big and proud and grown up. I feel those things, too … but I also feel shocked and sad and freaked out that time passes so quickly and nothing ever stays the same. I like my kids just as they are. And though I know that I’ll continue to like them as they grow up, I do miss each stage that they pass through as we leave it behind. It’s hard to let go of where they were as they move on.
What I said though, was, “Wow! That is so great!!! I’m excited, too.” Because I am. But I’m still in disbelief that he’s big enough for grown up teeth. He’s still my little boy. But, truly, he is leaving babyhood behind him and becoming, without question, a big boy … who isn’t really so little anymore. My guy is growing up. Finding that tooth made me take a step back and look at him in a way that I haven’t before, and it made me realize that he actually stepped out of babyhood a while ago. I just wasn’t ready to see it.