Riley’s fervent adherence to school rules has been a bit of a surprise this year. Given the two extremes, I’d much rather deal with a kid who is maybe a little too rigid about school than one who’s constantly getting in trouble, but his attitude hasn’t been without its challenges. At a recent parent teacher conference, his teacher confessed that she worried about him a little — he did just fine in the classroom, but in less structured environments (like the playground) he’s sometimes a little … lost at sea. He worries about whether other kids are doing the right thing, and has on occasion tattled on another kid for doing something he perceives as wrong — for instance, there was a blowup a couple weeks ago when a boy wasn’t “letting girls go first” on the tetherball, and being mean to one girl in the process, and Riley told on him. That all erupted in a giant freakout from the other kid, screaming he didn’t want to be Riley’s friend any more, and his teacher — bless her heart — actually ended up telling the other kid that she’d already known, to save Riley the trauma of being The One Who Got Him in Trouble, and …
Well. Anyway, so we’ve been talking a lot about problem solving (and it’s all so difficult, because he gets teary-eyed and comes back with “But the teachers say to tell when there’s a problem!”) but my point here is that Riley’s oddly serious about certain things, and one of those things is brushing his teeth. There was a program at the beginning of the school year, I guess it involved a film and other things, and ever since he’s been so, so diligent about brushing and flossing. “I don’t want to get cavities,” he says. “I don’t want to have to get that drill.”
Given this newfound focus on oral hygiene, it seems particularly awful that what I thought was going to be a routine dental checkup yesterday turned into Riley’s First Tooth Extraction.
He had this shark-row thing going on his lower front teeth — two loose but stubborn baby teeth, with the permanents crowding right behind — and while one finally fell out, the other was just hanging in there. We set up the appointment to have it looked at, and I told him that’s all they were going to do, but I was suuuuuuuuuper wrong.
JB took him to the appointment (he’s always taken the boys to their dental cleanings, because, I can’t lie, I’ve always been too terrified of their reactions). I got a few extremely tense text updates during the two-hour process, but the real story was in how he looked when they got home: white-faced, with a sort of ‘Nam thousand-yard-stare in his eyes. (I’m talking about JB, here. Riley was tear-streaked but already ready to show me his tooth.)
They’d decided that since the tooth definitely needed to come out, it’d be best to just get it over with, and as soon as Riley got wind of what was happening he completely lost his shit. There are times when my sensitive boy reacts to something (a scraped knee, say) with so much drama that I have zero patience for it, but a tooth being pulled? Yeah, that legitimately sucks a whole lot. I can’t even imagine what all went on in that room — the screaming, the panicking, the entire team trying to calm him, JB having to physically hold him down, the failed nitrous, the fact that some of the cherry-scented stuff they put in the nitrous managed to get in Riley’s EYE — but it took so much out of JB he said it was the hardest thing he’d ever done as a parent.
“When it was finally all over, I just … I don’t know, I hugged the dentist,” he told me. “I just really needed a hug from someone right then.”
Poor Riley. Poor JB. God, when you have a tiny baby and your entire being is dedicated to keeping them safe from harm, no one ever tells you that someday you will have to restrain their terrified bodies while someone pulls a tooth out of their jaw. PARENTHOOD, MAN.
PS: Here’s a picture Riley drew of some of the instruments they used. According to JB, the team tried to tell him one device was a “tooth hugger.” Riley shot back, sobbing: “THOSE ARE PLIERS!!!!”
The Tooth Fairy was woefully unprepared last night, but she rush-ordered this, because 1) he loves How to Train Your Dragon, and 2) c’mon. TOOTHLESS.