My son lost his first tooth last week, outside in the very green grass, and when it fell from his mouth, blood dripped into his hand, and he laughed. The leaves on the tree behind his head, canary yellow and amber, seemed to signal to me that while this is the first tooth he’s lost, like the leaves falling from the tree, the rest of his teeth will soon follow. And just like that, as winter will surely follow this fall: change is happening despite my best efforts to stall it, and soon, I will say goodbye to a stage of my baby boy’s life. But, there is an awakening in that change for me; there is beauty in the change.
For over a month, he wiggled the tooth many times a day and made sure to show me every night just how loose it was. We inspected it prior to school and as soon as we got home, he yelled for me to come see how loose his tooth was. We joked about when it would finally fall out, and he was worried he would swallow it.
After a rough game of catch in the school yard after school, the tooth fell out. When it finally fell from his mouth, he was both surprised and elated. The blood dripping from his mouth looked gruesome and at first, he was confused. I ran to his side, but he wasn’t crying. Instead, he grinned when he realized he had finally lost his tooth. And we both giggled and laughed. He was so proud, and I was proud, even though I had nothing to do with it.
Soon, an adult tooth will poke its way into the space his tiny baby tooth was in. And, in an action that seemed to take months but really only took one second, the tooth broke free, starting the process of his baby teeth falling out. Just like that, my baby boy has become a big boy. Even though that change came long ago and in various phases, there was something about his first baby tooth falling out that made me realize he really isn’t a baby at all.
Looking at him that night, I noticed his pants are too short—the ones I just bought for the beginning of the school year. His neck is thinner and while his cheeks are still there (they aren’t, are they?), his face is taking the shape of a man I will know someday. His eyes, once very gray, have a hint of amber in them—just right around the pupil. When did these changes happen? I stare at him every day, but they literally happened right before my very eyes.
My son losing his first baby tooth caused me to inspect my baby girl’s mouth. I brush her teeth every day, but I realized I really hadn’t looked closely at her gum line. Upon inspection, I noticed her eleventh tooth breaking through her gum line. My thoughts raced. She has eleven teeth. Eleven. I type baby, but she’s really not a baby. She’s now a toddler who is running, and just this week, she said her first complete sentence. She is getting her baby teeth as my son is losing them, and as one child’s baby teeth are falling out, another child’s baby teeth are breaking through. There is nothing as constant as change.
We wait for change and we watch for it. We anticipate its movements. We plan and act accordingly and mostly, we don’t like to be taken by surprise. The leaves fall from the trees in October and we watch in adoration at the process of the passing of time. October is just so beautiful in Pennsylvania and the colors of the trees, really showing that they are dying, is celebrated and embraced. But, one day, we look out at the trees and all the leaves are gone. The branches are now simply sticks as they move in the breeze.
We watch for the change, but it still sneaks up on us. Like the tree, blowing in the wind, gladly giving up its leaves to the passing of another season and the inevitable passing of time, this mother is trying to embrace and celebrate the changes that come along with raising children.
Teeth will fall out and I hope to be there with a tissue to wipe the blood from the smiling face of the child I’m blessed to have. Teeth will break through the gum line and I will hold the baby and rock her as they do. Change, while hard sometimes, is always giving us a gift: the smile on the face of my son or the clinging arms of my daughter’s around my neck. There is beauty in the change and the fall season is the perfect time to see it.