Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Last Baby Tooth

My oldest child just turned eleven.

I still remember her as the beautiful baby she was over a decade ago.  Aden was the perfect training baby.  She was patient, seeming to forgive all our bumbling as we taught ourselves what to do as new parents.  She ate well and was sleeping through the night at about four months.  She was bald for a long time and her eyes were (are) incredibly blue.  And I don't care what any expert says about when children develop empathy because in Aden's case she was sensitive to the feelings of others from very early on.  Anytime she saw me cry she would cry too.  She's my tenderhearted girl.

Ready to decorate!
We had a sleepover party for her this past weekend that included the girls making their own pizzas for dinner, a couple of games of Aden's own invention, and our own version of Cupcake Wars.  That was fun.  We baked a gabillion mini cupcakes and set out frosting and marshmallows and fruit and sprinkles and sugar paper and modeling chocolate and then set a timer for different decorating challenges.  (One round was 'the ocean', then 'zombies', then the holiday of their choice....)  They had a five minute time limit on each round and the judges were me, Mona, Quinn, and our dog Chipper (who gave everyone a ten each time which we assumed was correct based on the level of tail wagging he exhibited when we held him up to look at the cupcakes).  Ian got to judge the final round of displays.  The winners got to eat their cupcakes.  The losers had to eat their cupcakes. 

I was impressed at Aden's party how inclusive she was of her siblings.  Mona and Quinn did not get pushed off to the side just because friends were over.  She's a good big sister, and she may not be the best example for getting her chores or homework done without prompting, but she's wonderful about leading her little pack of siblings in a harmonious way.

Earlier this week on Aden's actual birthday she lost her final baby tooth. 
She's had reservations about turning eleven and she had mixed feelings about losing her last tooth as well.  Aden's not in a hurry to grow up.  She hears tales of moody teenagers and tells me she never wants to become one if that means she'll stop loving me.  (I tell her if she finds herself needing to go through an obnoxious phase that I will love her no matter what and meet her on the other side, not to worry.)  It was 44 hours from the time my water broke when I was pregnant with Aden to the time they finally had to cut her out of me because she had no intention of leaving, so it doesn't surprise me that currently she insists that she never wants to move away from home.  (And I tell her I believe one day she will change her mind but if she wants to live with us this is always her home and I'd love to have her with me forever, not to worry.)

The tooth fairy in our house leaves a little toy under the pillow.  Aden figured out I was the tooth fairy last year when she lost a tooth and left it under her pillow without telling anyone and, of course, it was still there in the morning.  She asked me quietly if the tooth fairy was really me and I admitted it was and she was sad about it.  She knew better and had probably known better for a while, but she's reluctant to give up any magic.

Since this was her last baby tooth I wanted to get her an extra special prize, and I told her since she already knew it was me picking out the prizes I wanted her help finding something she would really like.  I had Ian drop just the two of us off at Target on the way home from taking her out for a birthday dinner and we had a nice time walking the aisles, just me and my little girl who now comes up to my nose.  We picked up some conditioner and a mattress pad and a shirt for Quinn that he needs for an upcoming school concert.  Then we headed toward the toy section.

I've been stocking up on little tooth fairy prizes for so many years now.  I keep them in a bag in my closet, and it struck me when we were in Target how out of date they are.  When Aden lost her first tooth she was intensely into Pokemon.  I would leave her little Pokemon key chains and figures and she loved them.  By the time Mona started losing teeth too they were into Littlest Petshop toys.  The last time Aden found one of those under her pillow she was disappointed and I realized she had outgrown them and it was time to find something new.  The past few teeth were traded for Club Penguin trading cards of some kind that I don't really understand.  This time walking among the toys the only thing Aden gravitated toward were Hex Bugs and hula hoops.

But Aden is straddling that line of growing up and being a little girl.  She's tall and looks a bit older than she is, but at heart she still wants to inhabit a world where hopscotch and dollhouses are fun and hugging your mom is not uncool.  I remember being in that place, and the thing that defined the shift for me was when I stopped getting stuffed animals as gifts.  I loved stuffed animals and used to find them under the Christmas tree every year until at some point, probably around age eleven, that was over.  So when Aden's eye caught a stuffed dog that looked a bit like our actual dog I knew we'd found her final tooth fairy gift.  She still wanted to be surprised in the morning so after showing me all the toys she liked I sent her out past the checkout lanes so I could buy her something without her seeing it.

We had a nice walk home, holding hands and talking about the day she was born.  I thanked her for making me a mom.  She asked if being a mom was worth all the trouble.  I told her it was the greatest thing in my life and that I can't imagine it not being part of who I am anymore.  I told her I'm proud of her for being a kind person and a good big sister and that I love her more than she will ever know.  She asked if she had to give up her tooth in order to get her prize.  I said please, sweetie, keep the tooth.  (My underwear drawer is full of little baggies with baby teeth in them that gross me out but I can't bring myself to throw away.)

Aden went to bed that night, still uncertain about the merits of being eleven, and woke up to a stuffed dog by her pillow that her dad actually mistook for Chipper when he came in to get her up for breakfast.  (This says more about how much our dog looks like a throw pillow than it does about the craftsmanship that went into the toy.)  She's been toting that stuffed dog with her around the house like she would have when she was in kindergarten.  She looks happy, and a little relieved.

I hope the stuffed dog signaled that just because her last baby tooth is gone doesn't mean she has to suddenly be all grown up.  Eleven is still young.  We expect her to be responsible about many things, but I think she should stick with the games and toys and clothes that make her comfortable.  I want her to move on when she's ready, not when outside sources think it's time.  The next eleven years will probably go by in a blink like the last eleven did, and she'll be plenty grown up by then.  (Even if she is still living at home.)
Eleven year old Aden with one last gap in her smile


  1. Darn it you've got me crying at work. I haven't finished your post yet but this got me: "She asked if being a mom was worth all the trouble." I hope Guajolotita #1 is as kind and loving with her sibling-to-be as Aden is with hers.

    1. P.S. as the oldest of 4, I have to confess that I was NOT. Not as mean as some, but certainly not to be described as kind and loving.

  2. This had me in tears. Growing up can be rough, she's lucky she has such a great mom to help her through it.

  3. Oh, that's beautiful. Definitely choking up. What a sweet and perceptive young lady...and waht an awkward, changing time of life. I remember some pictures of me at that age, and I look as awkward as I felt. (Aden does not, btw, look as awkward as she may feel--she's just beautiful.)

  4. I love this post, and I love Aden, even though I've never met her. But you know that teenagers can be really sweet too (tell her!) My sixteen year old is nicer to me than my ten year old, in this particular stage of things. The ten year old is kind of uptight and sulky. We tease him about it and he stomps off. Ten is the new teen.