It was one of those phone calls every parent dreads. It came from the grade school. My eight year old son was hurt. Tripped and fell on the playground, banged his head against a pole, and chipped his front teeth. Not one tooth. Both.
The phone call came as I was just about to go into a seminar by one of my colleagues. Needless to say, I did not go. Normally I play the role of taxi driver with my children, schlepping them from one activity to another. I played that role again, and this time I threw in a little ambulance driver.
In person it was better than it seemed on the phone. My son had left the nurse’s office by the time I got to school. He had rejoined his second-grade class. It could not hurt too much, if he had rejoined his class, I concluded. Then he showed me his teeth, and told me he did not want to talk. It seems he had not entirely come to terms with less of each tooth, but the urge to participate with his class won out. No law says that an eight year old has to stay in the grade-school nurse’s office until the parent arrives, after all.
The dentist said it was a remarkable chip, and dentists see this sort of thing frequently. She had never seen one so perfectly symmetrical. She looked several times just to be sure it was symmetrical. No bloody nose. No scrape on the chin. A perfectly symmetrical chip of the two front teeth. My son had to hit the pole just right, she concluded. (See the picture and try not to squirm).
Modern dentistry is amazing. An instant x-ray found no internal damage. The dentist finished up her last case and came back to us, just fitting in our little emergency. New materials. New methods for construction. Just a half hour later and my son had two new chip-less front teeth. (See picture).
Adults say encouraging things to eight year old boys. The dentist, the staff, and I repeatedly called him brave. Most of the time this sort of chatter is unconvincing, more hope than actuality. Even when all the evidence in front of us suggests the contrary, we want the boy to be brave, to act brave, or to even fake it just for a brief moment.
But the evidence did suggest it. He did deserve the praise. He did not shed a tear in the dentist’s office through the ENTIRE procedure. Is this my eight year old son? Not a tear. Who is this child? I did not recognize him.
And then it happened. The dentist was done, and declared that he could not eat carrots or salami sticks or crackers or apples or anything hard for two weeks. That one got the eyes all teary. Just goes to show that a chipped tooth does not hurt at all unless it gets to the stomach.
When we got home he looked in the mirror and smiled. He went away and came back to the mirror several times. Tried the mirror in the hallway, then the one in the bathroom.
I offered him a Sundae, which is a special treat for a week night, and appropriate in light of the circumstances. The trauma of chipped teeth seemed to call for vanilla ice cream with strawberries and bananas and whipped cream and a cherry on top.
He said maybe tomorrow. Poor boy. Filled up on too many noodles. He has had a rough day.