Recently Hannah lost a baby tooth for the first time. Wait, let me back up a little.
For many months six-year-old Hannah has lamented that her perfect rows of teeth were
stubbornly set in place while all of her friends merrily acquired gappy mouths and extra tooth fairy money to spend at the school canteen.
“I’m never going to get a visit from the tooth fairy,” she complained, stomping her foot, while I brushed her hair one morning. “None of my teeth are ever wobbly. But this one at the bottom is a bit sore.”
“That’s how it starts. First it gets sore, then it starts to get loose,” her older and wiser sister volunteered.
Thus began the countdown. That tooth on the front bottom row was conscientiously examined and its progress reported on at least seven or eight times a day.
It took weeks until it was loose enough to be pushed back and forth with her tongue or finger, which she did with great delight for the benefit of anybody whether or not he or she showed an appropriate level of interest.
Finally, I had to admit that it was ready to come out. “Maybe today or tomorrow,” I said, and she hopped from one foot to the other with excitement.
“My first baby tooth!” she crowed. “Finally! I wonder if I’ll see a tooth fairy? How big do you think they are? Where do they live?”
One Saturday morning when I went to pick the girls up from their dancing class I was surprised to see her outside of the hall already, heading towards the car park. I was about to scold her, and then saw she was sobbing, tears streaming.
“I flushed my tooth down the toilet accidentally. I just want to go home.”
We have never seen that little girl so heartbroken. We were all sad for her. It had come out during her tap class and she’d carefully placed it into one of the tissues in her pocket. Then accidentally disposed of the wrong tissue with its so-precious contents.
She was too sad to get out of the car at home, too sad to eat her lunch. She kept breaking out into fresh bouts of tears.
After more than an hour of this Peter and I had kind of had enough. I offered to take her to bed with me for an afternoon nap. “Yes mummy,” and she curled up beside me like a little newborn, face buried deeply into my side.
I drifted off to sleep until I heard her voice and felt her move away. “I’m hungry.”
Later again I was woken by a scream. “Naaaaa-eeeee-heeee! Ha ha! I hid it under your bed! Joachim!” Then running, and more shrieking. It was her, back to her normal self. What a relief! A sad Hannah is such a strange thing.
She’d written a note with her dad’s help: “Dear Tooth Fairy, I lost my first baby tooth but unfortunately flushed it down the toilet. I was so excited when I had a wobbly tooth and so sad when I flushed it. I’m sorry I can’t give it to you. PS what is your name? Love from Hannah.”
And this is what I love, that she could be so, so, passionately sad and then recover so completely.
She remembers the whole incident now with a smile.
And I would wish this for myself always, to have this ability to put something sad completely behind me. No baggage left behind, no residual resentment or self-blame or over-compensating behaviour next time. She’s completely forgiven herself and forgotten, which I think is a great grace to have and one worth asking the Holy Spirit for.