Last weekend I was lying in bed, like I often do on Sunday mornings, trying to catch up on a few minutes of the hours of sleep I lose during the week due to various reasons (work, Ophelia’s 6am rendition of “Puff the Magic Dragon,” cat throwing up in the middle of the night, etc…). Emerson–also tired, also a victim of the early morning singing routine–was next to me, quietly finger knitting the yarn attached to her stuffed kitty’s neck (her leash, apparently), when I felt her body become completely still.
Usually I get annoyed when Emerson breaks the Sunday morning no talking (and no wiggling) rule, but this wasn’t a usual voice. It wasn’t the begging or whispering or whining or crying I get from a child who is restless, hungry, tired or bored. And it wasn’t an exclamation either…not a shout…although there seemed to be a hint of excitement beneath the surface. It was just Emerson’s regular voice, but stronger, clearer, as if she had something really important to say.
“My tooth just came out.”
After a week of wiggling and jiggling, chewing crunchy foods, and playing rough, Emerson has lost her first tooth. Not on the playground or at gymnastics, but in bed on a quiet Sunday morning.
Exciting stuff, I tell you…a six-year-old and her first tooth, (Emerson and Matt made a little felt pouch yesterday to put her tooth in under her pillow, and she spent a good portion of the morning pulling the tooth in and out of it) although truth be told, I’m not sure who is more excited, Emerson or me. At various intervals during the day I would look at Emerson and ask her to smile, which she did willingly, but by the end of the day she was wondering out loud about my seeming obsession with her changing grin.
I suppose I could ever be more excited than Emerson about the loss of her first tooth, but in some ways I think I am equally as excited. Equally…but for completely different reasons and expressed in a very different way. As Emerson dreamt upstairs, giddy at the thought that a fairy will fly into her bedroom and leave a surprise, I sat downstairs, remembering the day six years ago when, to my surprise, I found a small, white nub in my nearly one-year-old’s mouth.
That is part of the excitement for me–the nostalgic remembrances of when that tooth, that very tooth I am able to now hold in my hand, first showed itself to us. How for three months her sweet smile was a one-toothed-grin, and how wonderful and pure that time was.
But there is another important aspect as well–the one concerning the “nearly one-year-old” part. Important because the average child sprouts teeth at around six months, and all the babies around me at the time had plenty of teeth…except Emerson. Yet I was still surprised to see it there. Not expecting it, not waiting, not calling the doctor every chance I got, or stuffing fluoride into her mouth. We were just playing in the grass when I happened to look at her a certain way in a certain light, and there it was. A change. A sign of growing.
I can remember worrying about many things when Emerson was a tiny infant–that she would stop breathing in her sleep (I used to check on her just about every minute when she was a newborn. True story.), that she had autism because of her expressionless stare, that she was going to be overweight, stupid and buck-toothed because I was unable to breastfeed, the list went on and on… By the time Emerson was around four months old, however, I came to realization that most of those concerns weren’t sprouting from maternal instinct, but from the plethora of parenting information available today, so I took action. I got rid of all the parenting books, took everything I heard with a grain of salt, and did something mothers all over the world have been doing for years–I trusted the process. By the time that first little tooth showed up, I was wading in calm waters.
The surety that everything will turn out as it was meant to was relatively easy when it was just Me vs. The World of Parenting Advice. It has become a bit more difficult now that it is Me vs. Teachers, Educational Specialists, Administrators, and Legislators (who somewhat randomly decide age cut-off dates for school). Mother Nature is easy to trust…but these people?
Over the past few months I have been wondering–again–if Emerson should really be in the first grade this year, or if she should have spent this past year in kindergarten. Should she move on to second grade next year or take a year off? These wonderings came in the midst of some difficulties this winter: Emerson sobbing herself to sleep and being scared of some of the fairy tales being told at school, me visiting the classroom for her half-birthday and finding Emerson looking tiny and afraid, having her teacher tell us (in a manner that was merely informative, completely free of worry) that Emerson is having trouble with recall–the retelling of stories he has told in class–and of her timidness in general…including singing (oh how she has belted out the words to her favorite songs in the past!), having him also report that she has been expressing nervous tendencies at school–biting her hands, trembling…
Slowly, my mind took over again. I started looking at the kindergartners a little more closely, wondering if Emerson would feel more comfortable in this peer group. I spoke with the parents of every youngest child in every grade of the elementary school. I started daydreaming about possible plans for our “year off”–unschooling, travel, late mornings, lazy days…
…and then Emerson sat down one day and read me a book. In disbelief (it was a book we had read before, and I thought she had memorized it), I immediately presented her with a book she had never seen before. And she read that too. Now in order to fully understand this, you need to take into consideration the fact that Emerson goes to a Waldorf School, where connecting printed words and living concepts is taught gradually and subtly. Emerson was not being pumped on phonics, but here she was demonstrating the cognitive, linguistic and social skills necessary to read. Like…well…a first-grader.
And other things starting happening too. She stopped crying herself to sleep and began to be her content self again, she became more assertive in social gatherings, she made some new best friends in her class (boys…those people she has overlooked for the past few years),
and she lost her tooth–the last one in her class to do so. Right on time.
This last week was a big one for the first grade, with their lengthy (and toothless) production of The Three Golden Hairs. There were three showings, the last of which coincided with the May Fair. As I sat in the audience, I was nervous for Emerson, expecting her to come into the room like a deer in headlights, but my fears couldn’t have been more unfounded. Emerson (and the rest of the class) came into the room smiling, playing their flutes, and proceeded to perform for close to an hour, reciting the lines on cue (all the children said all the lines in the entire play), managing numerous costume and set changes, and working together in a way that was both hilarious and awe inspiring. As a group, the children were emboldened. They supported each other at every turn, they accomplished something fantastic, and together they were proud.
Now when I look at the current kindergartners they look so incredibly tiny to me. The first graders seem to have each grown a foot since spring weather arrived. Sometime between the first day of school and now these fifteen children have become a collective unit–a family. And even though Emerson may march to her own personal drummer,
she is still and integral, valued, and loved part of the whole.
(And if I wasn’t sure enough that Emerson was in the right place, I could just ask her. When I mentioned her being in class with the current kindergarten girls, she said “nah…all they do all day is try and look at each other’s underwear…”)