Having a degree in biology means I’ve spent a combined total of about twenty years of my life voluntarily doing really gross stuff. I once spent three weeks shaving a dead wet cat, and if its facial expression was any indication, it did not die in its sleep. I’ve dissected somewhere in the ballpark of fifty oversized frogs, and once had to anesthetize a hefty turtle, cut its shell off with a saw, and mess with its innards before finishing it off mostly humanely. I don’t even need to describe the required coursework in microbiology and having to stir Petri dishes containing every manner of itty-bitty organism, down to E. coli. It is the end of drinking tap water after you look at flesh-eating bacteria under a microscope for weeks at a time.
So I’ve always considered myself to have a strong stomach, but I have to admit that I have one, true heebeejeebee reaction to a commonplace biological occurrence: I cannot pull teeth.
I admit that’s weird. If we’re on a plane that goes down in the Alaskan wilderness, I can catch a squirrel, use its intestines to make twine, whittle a needle from some bark, then use both of those to stitch up any life threatening injuries you may have. But if a six-year-old plants himself in front of me and shows me a wiggly tooth, I’m going to vomit.
Ordinarily, tooth pulling isn’t considered a life skill. But when you have children, you sometimes find yourself reaching into a tiny mouth to finally snap the little piece of meat holding the corner of pearly baby tooth in place. There is always screaming involved, and sometimes the child cries, too.
I discovered early that I don’t have to have much to do with teeth. I can manage to brush our kids’ teeth before school, but that’s about all. I often had to send our kids and their ejecting body parts to other family members, friends, even school teachers, to get the disgustingness over with.
One horrible tooth pulling involved sending our firstborn next door to her grandfather to have one of her front teeth pulled. She cried when we announced it was time, but went with her daddy while I stayed comfortably inside our house with the window blinds shut.
Forty-five minutes later, they hadn’t returned, with or without the tooth. I went to investigate and was met with hysterical screaming at the door. Fortunately, my need to get away from what was a re-enactment of a Saw movie was overridden but my maternal instincts. Shut up, I do, too, have maternal instincts.
I tiptoed to the back room where I found my husband, my father-in-law, my wide-eyed and runny-nosed daughter, and a long piece of string tied to a doorknob. Those losers had actually spent most of an hour slamming a door with the string tied to my daughter’s tooth. With every slam, the string slid right off her little tooth, but not before scaring the crap out of her every time. Somebody alert the CIA, because repeatedly convincing someone that you’re about to rip a tooth out then not doing it is way more effective than waterboarding as a form of torture.
The end result was I had to pin my baby in my lap and let someone who supposedly loves her just rip the damn thing out by hand. But when it came time for a visit from the Tooth Fairy, there was a very brief argument before this mamma grizzly won out; at the time the Tooth Fairy only had a five and a twenty on him, and that much abuse warrants a heck of a lot more than five bucks. Yup, our baby girl got twenty bucks from the Tooth Fairy and we became the most hated parents at our church when she told all of the other kids.