The Grossest Part Of Parenting That No One Prepared Me For

by Victoria Fedden
Originally Published: 
A close-up of a child's side profile who's showing his teeth

“Don’t worry, sweetie. When it’s your own child, you won’t think it’s gross.”

I’ll never forget my mother giving me those words of reassurance. We were at my baby shower, and I’d outlawed that terrible game where they melt candy bars in diapers and everyone tries to guess what they are. It was disgusting! But then I thought, if melted chocolate in a diaper makes me want to hurl, then how will I react to the real deal? I would never be able to be a mom.

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Luckily, my mom was right. I sailed through diaper changes, which weren’t nearly as traumatic as I’d imagined. By some miracle, I even got over my epic case of puke-a-phobia. My baby spit up constantly and grew into a child who still yaks at the drop of a hat. She’s like my own personal immersion therapy specialist, so vomit barely even registers on my panic radar anymore. We’ve been through sinus infections, stitches, and strep. You name it — if it’s a body fluid, I’ve had it on me, and I’ve definitely cleaned it up.

The woman who once shuddered in horror at a microwaved Baby Ruth now has an iron stomach. I could work triage on a battlefield, I’m so desensitized.

Except…there was one gross part of parenting that I wasn’t exactly prepared for. It was the one thing no one mentions.

It turns out my tragic downfall is loose teeth. Bee stings, snotty noses, infected, oozing scrapes — I got it handled. But let a tooth fall out near me, and I need some smelling salts stat.

I didn’t know that dangling teeth were my kryptonite because pre-parenthood this wasn’t something I encountered very often, if ever. I tried to look back on my own experiences as a kid, and mysteriously, I have zero recollection. I can’t even bring to mind a single visit from the tooth fairy, so the only logical explanation is that I repressed those memories. They must have been too terrible.

For years, I’ve had disturbing, recurring nightmares where my teeth drop out of my head one by one. It’s a common, pretty unoriginal bad dream, apparently. However, that does little to soothe my nerves when I wake up in a cold sweat believing I’m going to have to gum mashed potatoes for the rest of my life or end up with a set of clacking dentures like my grandfather used to chase me around with when I was little.

But then my daughter turned 6, and my nightmares became a reality. Luckily, my teeth are all in place. It was hers that were falling out left and right, which is obviously a totally normal and healthy childhood milestone, but one that I can’t stomach.

The first time my daughter wiggled an incisor at me, I literally shuddered. I had to take several deep breaths to keep from reversing my breakfast. She thought my reaction was hilarious.

For weeks, that baby tooth hung by a repulsive thread. What held it in place, I have no idea, but I could barely be in the same room with my kid because she wouldn’t stop taunting me with it. Finally, she got sick of having the wiggly tooth in her mouth, and in an act of unrivaled heroism, she yanked it out and came running to me, ecstatic, with blood pouring down her chin. She looked like an extra from the set of True Blood, and I’m pretty sure I turned as white as Casper the Friendly Ghost. I had to get my husband to deal with cleanup while I recovered on the fainting couch like a Victorian noblewoman with consumption.

That night, we received our first visit from the tooth fairy, and can I just tell you? Our tooth fairy is clearly an amateur. She didn’t have change for a ten and was too tired to run down to the convenience store to break the bill, so she unwittingly set a dangerous precedent and left a ten under my kid’s pillow. She is going to go broke before my daughter’s grown-up teeth come in if she keeps up like this.

My kindergartener, a budding entrepreneur, seized upon this valuable moneymaking opportunity and began, I kid you not, ripping her own teeth straight out of her head the second they were detectably loose.

“Mommy! This is amazing. I can just pull my teeth out and then we’ll have enough money to go on a cruise!” she declared with glee.

“Uh, I don’t really think it works that way, sweetie,” I told her, and then I immediately removed all the pliers from the house.

After that, in an effort to spare me the agony, she only pulled her teeth at school. Apparently, it’s quite the parlor trick. She’s going to be a hoot at parties someday, or perhaps some kind of terrifying performance artist. Better yet, I like to think of her as an aspiring medical professional with a budding interest in oral anatomy. Who knows, maybe in 20 years she’ll end up as a periodontist. Things could be worse, I suppose.

The good news is that our tooth fairy is finally getting her act together. I hear she now keeps a secret stash of small bills on her at all times so she doesn’t drain her savings account by giving away all those tens. Progress is being made.

As parents, we all have our weaknesses — the gruesome, nasty, ugly parts of raising a kid that we dread or didn’t feel prepared for. While my own mom was right about some things not bothering me, she was definitely wrong when it came to loose teeth. I’m working on being stronger when confronted by a baby canine tooth hanging from a bloody socket, but as of now, loose teeth are still the cobras to my Indiana Jones. I could wax philosophical about this some more, but…I think I heard my daughter tying a string to a doorknob.

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