Last night I did something to one of my children that I feel terribly guilty about. It was something I SWORE I’d never do, no matter the circumstances, but I caved and did it anyway. I couldn’t even follow through with it completely, which makes me feel even worse for needlessly inflicting such trauma.
I am a horrible, horrible person. I deserve whatever Karma comes my way. *
What could she have done? you ask. I’ll whisper it to you. Come here. Closer. (No, I’m not hiding anything behind my back. Certainly nothing from my tool kit.) Are you ready? Sitting down? Okay.
I tried to pull out Hannah’s barely-wiggly tooth… with a pair of needle-nosed pliers.
Oh, the shame!
See, when I was a little girl, my teeth were horribly stubborn, and while I loved the idea of losing teeth and getting money (money!) for them, I wasn’t terribly motivated to wiggle them and make them fall out. And my permanent teeth, possibly hoping to avoid the power struggle, chose to come in around those stalwart baby teeth, making it necessary for my
sadistic poor (I get this now) parents to chase me around the house with pliers, hold me down, and yank them out. I feel it necessary to point out that NONE of these teeth were even the slightest bit wiggly, even with crazy permanent teeth growing in around them. (I was like a shark, with rows and rows of unevenly-spaced white teeth, the better to bite your finger with if you try to stick it in my mouth, thankyouverymuch.) I still remember the taste of the cold metal, the painful twisting from side to side, the sharp crack of roots, and the triumphant final yank that filled my mouth with blood and made my parents shout thinly-veiled threats encouragements about wiggling the baby teeth next time, in order to avoid the pliers.
A child loses something like 20 baby teeth, right? Guess how many I had to have pulled? Go on… guess. If you said 19, you’d be correct! NINETEEN TEETH. No, wait. Twenty-three. THERE WERE TWENTY-THREE. The dentist took pity on me after hearing how many times my parents used the pliers, and pulled a few quickly and (mostly) painlessly each time I went in for a cleaning. Then I had an orthodontist who rivaled Steve Martin’s character on Little Shop of Horrors, and he was HAPPY to inflict great pain. He even did something that I’ve tried to block out, so horrible a procedure it was, that involved cutting up into my gumline in order to make a path for the permanent teeth to, I don’t know, FALL DOWN INTO? It was horrifying and extremely painful, is my point. Novocaine didn’t even begin to take the edge off. And how could I have forgotten the wisdom teeth that were extracted (also under Novocaine) in my dentist’s chair? I remember passing out at some point, because I could see the gaping holes reflected in the dentist’s protective goggles, and when he had to put his foot on the chair by my head in order to get enough leverage to yank out the (impacted) tooth, the pressure was so great that I was certain he’d extracted my soul, as well.
(Pardon me… something seems to have unsettled my stomach.)
Okay, so after all of this history, which came back in startling clarity after last night’s “experience” **, can you believe that I tried to pull the same stunt on my adorable little daughter? I mean, who could do something so terrible to this face?
It all started on Sunday, during a particularly boring High Council Sacrament Meeting (add one more offense to the Karma list). Hannah showed me how well her first permanent tooth was growing in, and I started wiggling some of her other teeth, to see if any more were loose. The other bottom tooth was just a little bit wiggly, so I looked to see if I could see another tooth coming in. We found it behind her baby tooth, ready to break through her gums (not the gumLINE, mind you) at an angle that would suggest it was trying to jump down her throat. “You have until Tuesday,” I said. “Wiggle it lots and lots. If you get it out right now, your big tooth may decide to come through the baby tooth hole, instead of through the back of your gums.”
She wiggled half-heartedly on Monday, and by Tuesday, it had tightened back up. There were two white points behind (and under) her baby tooth. I sent her to school on Wednesday with the admonition to play with it ALL DAY LONG (I know… her poor teacher just LOVES me) so that it would be easy to pull out when she got home. Can you guess what happened? No wiggling. None. Tight tooth, and now three points were visible behind it. “Okay,” I said. “The tooth has to come out. I’m going to go get my pliers.”
I’m not sure what she said in response. It was too hard to tell through all the tearful screaming. (Hell. I am going to dental Hell.)
Long story short (too late!): The tooth was too tiny to get a firm grip with the pliers, so after a few jabs into her gumline and some bleeding I HOPE was due to cracking roots, I put them away and tried some tweezers. Then I tried my fingers. Tears dripped down her cheeks and onto her shirt, and I found myself shouting helpful things like “Stop squirming! Do you WANT your new tooth to point back, instead of up?” and “Do you know how many teeth I had to have pulled? Do you?” and “Move that tongue back before I pinch it in the pliers.” In the end, I gave up. Kenny promised me he’d take over if I couldn’t do it, but in a move that was either sheer cowardice or pure brilliance, he suddenly remembered that his car needed gas for tomorrow, and there was just one more Christmas gift he had to pick up before the store closed. Hannah changed out of her tear-soaked shirt and into pajamas, and softly cried herself to sleep, while I fought the urge to pull one of my own teeth in penance.
We see the dentist on Wednesday.
*(Broken jaw, perhaps? Wired shut for six months?)
**(if not a broken jaw, then probably a mouth full of broken teeth that can’t be repaired, and thus will have to be pulled and replaced with dentures)