Every night it's the same. We send the kids to floss and get their toothbrush ready. We do the brushing and check the flossing in the evenings because of some cavities that appeared when they were left to themselves. Mornings are when they brush their own teeth and get the practice for this all important life skill.
Lately the Baby has been trying to get in on this part of big kid life too. She will haul her little body up onto the stool, clutching at the edge of the sink for balance, and grin expectantly. She is so proud of her new found ability. I brush her four little teeth with exaggerated care and then hand her the toothbrush to chew on while I attend to everyone else's teeth.
Tonight while I am brushing the Girl's teeth the Baby squeezes in between us and climbs atop the stool. I have a knit poncho on and her laughing face peeks out from just beneath the fringe, her chin just barely clears the counter top. She laughs her I'm a big girl look what I did laugh and the Girl turns to see. In the mirror I see the three of us, the Girl and I laughing as the Baby's mischievous face appears to float near to my waste. I want to take this picture, so I try to memorize the details instead.
Then it's the Boy's turn. Just before I brush I notice a strange movement inside his mouth. I lean closer to inspect it. The left front tooth on the bottom is moving. He has a loose tooth. His first.
I want to cry. I swallow hard and explain that a grown up tooth is pushing his baby tooth out to make room, and soon he will have grown up teeth.
I stare hard at the half moon of white as I brush. Why does it have to change? Why does he have to keep growing up? I only have a few more days before the smile I know and have come to love will change, forever. I only have a few more years before the little boy I know and love will change, forever. He'll be a big boy, then an adolescent, then a man. This impending gap in his smile is just so final. There really is no going back. He continues to abandon round baby softness for straight angles, harder muscles, longer limbs, louder noises, stinkier smells and the awkwardness of the transition from boy to man. And I don't know how to love a loud stinky angular boy yet. I've not learned how. Why ever was I in such a hurry to get past babyhood and on to the next thing? What a curse impatience is.
As I tuck him into bed he keeps fiddling with his tooth, pushing it in and out with his tongue. He asks if Daddy will be gone in the morning before he wakes up, further evidence of his growing maturity, this planning ahead. He tells me his plans to show Daddy his new loose tooth and as I walk out the door he says, "Mom, I'm going to be a grown-up real soon huh?"
I do not start sobbing. Instead I manage to smile brightly as I agree that someday he will be a man, but don't be in a hurry to stop being a little boy just yet. There's time enough for that later on.
Someday my boy, someday sooner than I am ready for, you will be a man. Please don't be in too big of a hurry. I know I'm not.