Post by Karen Charlton
Louis has lost two baby teeth in the past month, and I’ve found myself feeling strangely sentimental about it. One part of me registers that they are just teeth. They grow, they fall out, and then a new set grows. So why can’t I just throw them away like a Bandaid or a used tissue?
I suspect my attachment is that they are his baby teeth. They grew from buds that formed in his gums since even before he was born. Those teeth grew inside me, and now they’re out of his body – small like rabbit’s teeth – and perfect, I find it impossible to know what to do with them.
My friend’s mum kept all of her baby teeth; in fact, she kept all four of her children’s teeth, as well as all of their artwork, certificates, schoolwork, ribbons, medals and trophies. Now that she has retired from her job as a science teacher and vice principal, perhaps she will open up a museum in her children’s honour? My friend laughs about her mum’s collection, vowing not to keep her own daughter’s teeth. For me though the jury is out. Until I decide, they are safe in a heart shaped box in my office, artefacts of his babyhood, a time that is now very much behind me as he rounds out his prep year and prepares for grade one. (Grade one?)
As his mum, I wonder where do I draw the line between him and me? When does his body – and his story, while we’re on the subject – become a separate concern? Right now I feel like a signatory, overseeing a life that is unfolding out of view, important only in the sense that I do have some authority but for most of his day, he comes under the authority of a teacher, or a principal. In our family universe, we are no longer planet and moon circling each other, but discreet planetary bodies that exist in the same space. And he will spend the next 12 years slowly but surely spinning away from me.
They say in parenting the days are long and the years are short. The teeth? They are small and perfect.
What do people generally do with lost baby teeth?