As some of you may already know, our oldest son Max has been shedding teeth like a shark. By the time one tooth comes out another one or two start getting wiggly. He lost another one last night, but . . . well, let's just say the tooth fairy got one a little earlier than she expected.
I was sitting at the computer sorting through our Blockbuster Online queue when I heard a big thud. No big deal. I've heard thuds before. Only after this thud Max started crying. Nearly any cry merits parental attention, but this one was different. There was a decidedly hysterical sound to this cry, and not in the humorous sense. This wasn't a bonk on the head or a banged shin. This was real pain.
I shot up from my chair and hurried to Max processing an amazing number of potential problems in the seven feet from the computer desk to the ottoman where my son lay. Broken arm/hand/finger(s)? His arm was positioned awkwardly, but it didn't look broken. And as I said before, the cry was too powerful for a simple head bonk. I didn't see a pool of blood, no evidence of puncture wounds . . . what was it? Then I picked Max up and looked him in the face.
"Oh gosh, buddy!!"
Yes, my exclamation at the sight of my son's bloodied mouth was really that G-rated, but 'unprofane' as it was, it was also that unhelpful. My boy needed calm, and I was not providing it. He stood there crying, and I could see the blood in his mouth. Finally my eyes fixed on the gap where his incisor used to be. It was a baby tooth, thankfully, and it was already getting loose before Max's face-first collision with the armchair, but it was far from being ready to come out. I got him to the bathroom, Mary Ann brought a wet wash cloth, and we got him settled in.
Max was still freaking out a bit at this point, which was understandable. Mary Ann continued to try and stem the bleeding, so I went out to get a cup of saltwater. I can still remember that when I lost one of my teeth when I was a kid my Dad sent me out to the front porch with a cup of saltwater in hand. The instructions were to swish, spit, and repeat. So I did what my Dad did.
I went into the bathroom and handed Max the cup of water. The biggest struggle at that point was keeping him from 1)freaking out over how bloody his spit was in the sink, and 2)freaking himself out even more by looking at himself in the mirror.
Soon the cup of saltwater was gone, we were out of the bathroom and in front of the TV. By the time Aang vanquished Fire Lord Ozai the psychological trauma was, for the most part, over. Max's psychological trauma, that is. Mine is still going. Every time I look at him and see his purpled gums and that raw toothless gap, I'm reminded that I can't always protect my boys.
Max's tooth will grow back, and we'll probably laugh about this story one day. Heck, if he's anything like me Max will milk this story for every laugh, wince, and gasp it's worth. But I'll always remember the heartsick feeling that, even though it happened in a small way this time, life can change irreversibly in a heartbeat.
I must confess I feel foolish, having such a strong reaction to such a small event, but I guess that's because I've lead a pretty easy life to this point. God has been merciful to me and mine. Still, even small traumas can help gain a little perspective.
I can't go through my life expecting every detail to work out, even where my kids are concerned. We were never promised that. God never said, "be faithful to me and you'll raise a quiver full of healthy kids, live comfortably, and die surrounded by loving grandchildren." We get trials like everyone else. In fact, as Christians we have a target on our backs from Satan as well as human enemies of the Gospel. They hated Jesus, and they'll hate us.
So instead of falling into the 'comfort' mindset that is so common for Americans, I want to use last night's drama as a wake up call. Ladies and gents, we are not guaranteed comfort, but we are truly in God's hands. And uncomfortable as that may seem, it's the best place you'll ever be.