oh man

My Kid's First Lost Tooth Feels Like The End Of An Era

I'm finally ready to admit that yeah, I'm gonna miss some of this.

Written by Laura Onstot
Woman holding son's milk teeth in hand
freemixer/E+/Getty Images

I'm not a sentimental parent. I didn't cry when my daughter took her first steps, and I celebrated when she went off to kindergarten. Sure, my daughters were adorable when they were little, but I enjoyed the freedom that came when they became more independent. So it took me by surprise when I got teary after my youngest lost her first tooth.

The tooth that fell out was the same one that popped through her gums after what felt like a year of teething. All I could think was: “Remember how excited you were for this tooth to come in? Well, now it’s gone. Forever.”

The new gap in her smile is a sign of what's to come: Oversized adult teeth that don't quite fit her face; the hormones, god help us; and the independence. Most of all, for me, it's the sign that an era is over: nap time, the hand-print artwork, mispronounced words, the ability to carry her without losing my breath after 10 seconds.

We’re out of the T-sized clothing, so I no longer have any reason to walk through the baby section of Target (my husband reports we have saved a sh*tload of money on this alone). Our cabinets no longer house puffs or those weird wafer things that were apparently impossible to choke on (and also impossible to remove from the surface of your kitchen table once they become paste). The Paw Patrol characters sit in a dusty bag on a shelf, and the board books I couldn’t bear to part with are stockpiled for my future grandchildren.

“How is this possible?” I wonder. When my daughters were babies, my brain somehow convinced me that they would be young forever. It seemed we would be permanently stuck in the phase where tantrums were commonplace and long car rides were nearly impossible.

I always got mad when people told me I'd miss it. The old ladies who came up to me after church — a long-ass hour of trying to convince my baby not to act like a baby — would look longingly at me. Like I, in my sweaty, post-baby-battle state, had something worth longing for. “Do you actually remember?” I wanted to shout.

In my brain I’d convene a full-blown court case, arguing why this was a phase of life I’d never want back. I told the jury I wouldn't miss the isolation of motherhood, nor would I miss struggling to do it all. I wouldn’t miss the diaper blowouts, the billion pediatrician visits during cold and flu season, and the sleepless nights. My closing argument was that anyone who wished this phase of life back was deeply out of touch with reality.

And I certainly wasn’t entirely wrong: There are parts of mothering young children that I will never miss. I won’t miss spending hours on hold for the nurse line when our daughter had her sixth ear infection in six months. I won’t miss the way I was judged for my decision to use formula to supplement my low milk supply, the endless opinions people had about how I should raise my baby (without offering to help, of course). I won’t miss pumping in a literal closet at work, or returning to work when I was still bleeding, deep in the depths of postpartum depression.

Motherhood is nearly impossible, especially in the beginning. When people told me to savor the moments, I felt anger and shame. I assumed I must be a bad mom for hating parts of motherhood as much as I did. Yeah, I had an adorable baby, and also, I had horrible intrusive thoughts about stabbing my baby to death. I was so scared I was going to murder her, I hid the knives. (I later learned this was postpartum OCD.) When people told me I’d miss it, I wanted to scream, “Do you really understand what you are telling me I should miss?” Being a new mother was terrifying and lonely, something I would never wish upon anyone else.

But now that my kids are getting a little older, with seasons of life already behind them, I’m beginning to understand the looks of longing. I will miss having little humans with dimpled hands who give the best hugs; I already miss holding a warm, sleeping newborn on my chest, and the sweet three-year-old voices my daughters had. It's the gray zone, a zone I forgot existed in motherhood: There are parts of motherhood I can’t stand, and there are parts I wouldn't trade for the world.

So when I stared at the gap in my daughter’s smile, I had a brief encounter with that “Oh my gosh, I’m gonna miss it” feeling, which quickly turned into a “Holy f*ck, maybe they were onto something and I was wrong” feeling. And then the other day, I stood in line behind a young mother holding a 2-year-old sucking on a paci. The words started bubbling up and I wanted to word-vomit, “You’re gonna miss this one day.” And then her two-year-old started screaming and the toddler by her side made a mad dash for the exit and the bubble of nostalgia burst.

Everything came full circle. It’s not just, “I miss it,” it’s, “I miss it, and there are also things I never want to experience again.” Or, “I miss it, but I won’t implore you to feel like you should miss it, because your experience as a mother could be completely different from mine.” I have some lovely memories of mothering littles, and maybe, one day, I’ll wish to go back. But for now, I’m content looking at old pictures and revisiting the memories while I enjoy full nights of sleep.

Laura Onstot writes to maintain her sanity after transitioning from a career as a research nurse to stay-at-home motherhood. In her spare time, she can be found sleeping on the couch while she lets her kids binge-watch TV. She blogs at Nomad’s Land, or you can follow her on Twitter @LauraOnstot.