On Not Pulling Teeth

Last night, I was lying in Pearl’s bed, snuggling with her as she fell asleep. (I have halfheartedly attempted to “break” this habit of hers, but lately have had to acknowledge the reality that it is my habit, too. And it’s so damn cozy.) I was drifting off, imagining subtitles for my book-to-be. Aviva, who had jumped up to grab a notebook and marker, was now writing like mad. I could hear the soft whispers of the marker on the paper, the way the ocean sounds in a shell against your ear.

She ripped piece after piece out of the notebook as she wrote – she was making a little book for her kindergarten teacher from last year, who is expecting. “I like your belly,” it began, with a picture of a belly. She went on to suggest multiple girl and boy names for the baby-to-be. Later, after I had come downstairs and was sitting on the couch with Greg, V ran down to staple all the pages together, excitedly showing us her completed book.

“Remember how nice it was to just make books?” Greg asked me after she went back up to bed. “No worrying about editors or agents or publishing…” And I nodded.

Yes, I remembered. From the time I was her age or younger, that’s what I did. I wrote, and I made little books. When I got a little older – high school and college – I made copies of these little books at Kinko’s, distributing them to friends and family. That was all. Simple. Do-able. No fuss, nothing fancy, no hurdles or barriers or insurmountable odds or doom-and-gloom about the publishing industry or risk of failure or online software or isbn numbers. Just cutting and pasting and asembling little books, freely made, freely given away. Aahhh.

As she made her little book for Mrs. Quinn, Aviva didn’t have any sense of pressure, no urgency to push things along, no fear that it wouldn’t turn out the way she wanted. She was just in it, doing her thing, unconsciously trusting the process.

However, she was feeling antsy about one thing: Her latest loose tooth, the one she felt so hopeless about a few days ago. She slipped this note under her pillow, a kind a “Dear Abby” for the Tooth Fairy (she showed us this one, too, running up and down at least twice more before finally going to sleep).

Greg and I stayed up to watch a movie called Blindsight, about a group of blind Tibetan students who go on a mountaineering expedition. I actually want to watch it again with Aviva (and highly recommend it, by the way). We went up to bed around 11:00, stopping in the girls’ room to look at them sleeping. (Will this get old when they get older? I kind of doubt it.) I had forgotten about this note, but luckly Greg remembered.

“How are we going to write her back?” I asked. In the past, I’ve both disguised my handwriting and used stamps to channel morning fairy messages back to her, but I had a feeling she would recognize both of those. “We could do it like a ransom note,” Greg suggested. “Ooh! Great idea!” I said. We went back downstairs. I grabbed a copy of Tricycle magazine from my office and began cutting out letters from its thick, glossy pages. Greg got the glue. When we finished making the note, I slipped it under Aviva’s pillow, stealthily replacing her note with the Tooth Fairy’s.

Patience. Trust. These mantras we pass down, inviting a little magic as we go. Aviva came down holding the note this morning – thrusting it at me with an expression on her face that said, “I think you made this but am choosing to believe it’s from the Tooth Fairy.”

She had already written a response on the back.

I know you want it to come out, sweet girl. I know you are eager for the moment of change, the excitement, the newness. I know you want to stick your tongue out between that brand-new gap between teeth old and new. I know you don’t want to wait for nature to take its course. I know the future seems impossibly wonderful and you can’t wait for it to get here, can’t wait to get there. I love that we get to make it playful, get to have fun with it.

But this occurs to me, too: What things am I eager for, in effect wishing away? What gain will actually be a loss? What process could I trust more fully, what fruit will ripen on this tree of mine and fall when it’s ready – rather than my yanking it from the branch before its time? What imagined future am I getting lost in rather than staying present to my own wiggly pursuits? It’s a fine line between excitement and impatience, between moving forward and pushing.

Here’s to not pulling teeth, then. To patience, just as the Tooth Fairy advises. We can wiggle them, sure, and twist them a little, and play with them, and wonder what it will be like when they’re gone, dream about what will grow in their place. We meet the Universe halfway, and then we wait. I love the notion that whatever we’re moving towards is also moving towards us. We don’t have to be perfect or push things along, we just have to show up. Make little books, make a little magic, savor the way things are rather than wishing them away so soon.

7 thoughts on “On Not Pulling Teeth

  1. Janice says:

    Here’s to not pulling, and not pushing. Reminded me of the moment in Katie’s birth when I realized I needed to rest, stop pushing. After a few minutes I started to think I should start pushing again – was keeping Chip, midwife, nurse waiting – but I wasn’t ready. So I took a little more time to luxuriate in the quiet and to breathe. And Katie waited til I was ready, then one last push and there she was. All in good time. Thanks for the reminder :-)


  2. Lisa says:

    I love this all the way around! So many things on which to comment.

    I love your daughter’s passion to write, the thoughts on writing freely (ah, I miss that too), the note (I’m waiting for my son’s first to fall out and see how he reacts!), your response and hers.

    Patience for it all…so tricky in the midst of the energy of a new year. May it be a lovely one for us all!


  3. GailNHB says:

    Once again, you nailed me. I’ve gotta stop pushing and pulling and writing notes to the Life Fairy hoping She will do my will exactly when I want her to.

    What I really need is trust.
    What I need to practice is patience.
    What I need to appropriate is grace.
    What I need to embrace is peace.

    And waiting.



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