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First Lost Tooth: Not All Good Things Take Work

Jamie Sumner
Special needs mom, author and blogger
03/24/20  11:34 AM PST
First Lost Tooth

First Lost Tooth: Not All Good Things Take Work

Yesterday, my son, Charlie, who has cerebral palsy, lost his first tooth. You’re probably thinking, “Big deal. Wahoo.” But I’d like to stop right here and say, yes…big deal and wahoo. He’s been wiggling that thing with his tongue for weeks and I watched and waited and wondered if he would swallow it. I tried to pull it myself when it was still hanging on by the merest shred. I gripped it between a folded paper towel and jiggled. When he laughed, I jumped back. I couldn’t do it. It was simultaneously too hard and squishy. Luckily, we had an appointment with his dentist. He took care of it in one swift yank. I was so stunned that it was over and elated that Charlie had finally lost his first tooth that I didn’t think to ask about keeping it until we were in reception, checking out.

“Could I have the tooth?” I asked.

“Of course!” the dental hygienist said and scurried back to our exam room while another one handed Charlie a second toy from the treasure box. He ignored her and calmly blew his brand-new pinwheel.

It turned out that the room had already been cleaned. We almost went home without it. But then they dug in the trash and found that tiny tooth the size of an apple seed stuck in a wad of gauze. They cleaned it and brought it out to me in a little green tooth-shaped box. Those women are heroes.First Lost Tooth

I have a running list of the parts of Charlie’s body that don’t work as they should: Tightness in the ankles and calves and hamstrings. Weakness in the torso. Enlarged tongue.  Difficulty eating and speaking. Cysts in the kidneys. Strong left-hand preference. Nystagmus in the eyes when tired. The list makes me more proactive. We stretch together on the floor. I tap on his speaking device and then hand it over and we cobble together a conversation. I keep him hydrated. I hold his right hand on the wheel of his wheelchair and help him push so he is not always spinning in circles with that over-zealous left hand. I give thanks that the eye patches are now far behind us and it’s only occasionally that I see his deep green eyes shake. And when they do, we rest our eyes together.

None of the physical symptoms in the list are a surprise by now. Instead, what I find myself surprised by are the things that work so seamlessly well. He and I are used to fighting for every inch of flexibility and strength and each word and bite of food. Sometimes I forget to notice and praise what comes so easily. It’s why I made a big deal out of the tooth. I celebrate so he can see that not all good things take work.

Here’s another list: Beautiful dark blond hair that curls at the back. Two giant dimples in an extra-wide smile. An immune system that earned him perfect attendance last year in kindergarten. Perfect posture when riding his horse in hippotherapy. He came by all this naturally—and for that I give thanks and we take extra trips to Sonic for soft serve. He deserves to feel special for these simple things.

If I’m honest, I’m talking to myself here too. I don’t take enough time to appreciate the little things that I get right as a parent and a wife and a daughter, as a human being. I’m always looking for how I can push harder to do better and be better. But life doesn’t always have to be a herculean effort—sometimes it can be wonderfully easy and you come out on the other side with a pinwheel. It’s worth it to take a second and revel in it.

child with special needs

Jamie Sumner is a special needs mom and author.

Discover her new book, Roll with It.

Follow her on Facebook.

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