Today I am leaving for Santa Fe for a week, so I’m posting some of my favorite photos of my little loves from yesterday.
First up, Henry and Eleanor got some new t-shirts from Old Navy. They were extremely excited to see each other because Henry is wearing Grover, who is Eleanor’s favorite, and Eleanor is wearing Elmo, who is Henry’s favorite. Tell me that’s not genius. Notice how when they look into the forward-facing camera in their individual shots they both are looking at and touching the character.
And here was a series I caught of Henry yawning during a post-nap snuggle. He woke up before Eleanor so we cuddled and played with an alphabet app called Endless Alphabet (I really like it) and then he insisted on some selfies. He started out smiling very big for the camera, but it morphed into a yawn almost right away. My favorite is his look of smug satisfaction immediately after the yawn. A good yawn will do that for you.
I’m going to miss my family.
Parenting is going to utterly crush you.
It’s going to distill you into the very essence of who you are, at which point – when you haven’t slept in what feels like 8 weeks, and can’t remember what you last ate or when and you may not have showered since you left the hospital – you will rise again. But better.
I would know – I’ve been a parent for a year and a half. This makes me an expert. Only a year and a half, you say? Well wait for it: that’s to TWO kids, so their combined age is 3. And that’s TWO kids, mind you, which is 6. Six years of parenting experience! That’s basically ten years right there.*
Before kids, you don’t really have your shit together. You might think you do, and you might be partly right, but really – having a baby or two will teach you how unprepared you are for life. You’re like Bruce Wayne when he’s just cruising around looking for fights because ? Your beard is straggly and you’re always getting rained on because umbrellas are hard, man.
That’s when the tyrant/s enter your life. Everything changes. Your perspective, your willingness to live in a house and not in a jail in Thailand or what have you. Your focus begins to change from “Justice failed me, so I’m going to waste my life and that will teach everyone!” (aka: emo)
At some point, you sit down and do a lot of thinking. You probably forget your umbrella again because you can’t remember stuff like that when you have kids. Your focus begins to change to “I gotta do stuff because other people need me to do this.” (aka: responsible adult)
You accept that you will wear clothes you would have NEVER otherwise considered, because you’re going to get snot/pee/poop/vomit on you, so might as well wear something that cleans up easily.
Finally, you come up for air at some point, and boom. You’ve done it. You’re better at being you. You thank the little people in your life. You are the parent they need, not the parent they deserve.
When you become a parent, you take on a responsibility that is unlike any other. It is a stressor that laughs directly in the face of any other stressor, flicks them in the throat, and pantses them before stealing their girl and peeing on their dog. It’s no joke, in other words and kind of impossible to reason with.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t mean babies are unreasonable tyrants (except that they are, they just grow out of it), I mean that this is the kind of stress that is unrelenting (day and night, for the rest of your life). It will never end, because you love these babies with a kind of love that is utterly overwhelming and without restraint. Like the kind of intense love a toddler lavishes upon a favored book, that results in the complete annihilation of the book. This love is going to stick with you until everyone involved is dust.**
And you eventually adjust to the level of stress. It won’t ever get less, but you’re able to handle it better. Because you’re better at existing in general. It doesn’t always feel that way, but I’m here to tell you that it’s true.
It irrevocably changes you. It is not for everyone. Your primary purpose goes from keeping yourself alive to keeping them alive. Let me repeat that, because it is not a small thing. If it came down to it, you would make sure they lived even if it meant you died. Also, you get used to being vomited on.
Things start coming out of your mouth that, in a previous life, you could never have imagined uttering in any kind of serious sense.
“Is that poop or banana?”
“Please don’t eat that shoe.”
“Is that cheese in your ear?”
And so on. Most involve some untenable combination of eating and poop.
You reach a new level of being. As F. Scott Fitzgerald said, “The test of a first rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.” You can utterly and totally fear for these small beings’ lives, and yet feel nothing but a zen-like calm as they dive headfirst off the couch; then you make pancakes. You relish the time you spend with your children, celebrate TGIM, and get the laundry done.
You spend more of your time less in control, while solidifying your role as the most powerful person on earth (kind of, only for certain people). It’s both heady and terrifying. The power is almost guaranteed to go to your head. You’ll forget yourself. You’ll start making ridiculous pronouncements, like, “My kids will never love Elmo! They will read by age one!”***
Then you’ll get a day or a couple of days where everything comes together and sort of falls into place, like that time a hurricane made a jumbo jet out of ten larger jumbo jets.****
And you start to think, “Let’s have more!”
This is the most clear sign that you have not been distilled enough, and need to repeat the process.
*Parenting might make you insane.
**Props to Caroline for the book analogy
***These are ridiculous for our life, not everyone’s. My kids love Elmo, despite my ridiculous pronouncements, and they like to look at the pictures but can’t read. In other words: they’re really normal. Your ridiculous pronouncements will vary depending on you and your particular lack of sleep.
****I clearly don’t remember this stupid analogy, but I do remember it was stupid.
Teeth. My teeth, specifically. Not teeth in general, and certainly not your teeth.*
Although I only have one tooth in mind, which has been on my mind a lot, this story starts with the whole mouth.
In November 2012, I had an abscess. Actually, let’s back up. In the summer of 2002, I got a couple bad cavities. Actually, let’s back up. When I was about 14, my orthodontist decided to “make more room in my mouth” by filing between all of my teeth. I don’t know how this was going to help me, but I ended up with all the cavities. One area in particular was the spacing around my right maxillary lateral incisor – which is the tooth next to your front tooth (on my right side). The three teeth from my front tooth (right maxillary central incisor) through the first premolar tooth was pretty tight, so that area got a LOT of filing. Have you ever had your teeth filed? I can’t speak for every experience, but there was pain and blood and enough enamel dust that I can still remember the taste.
So fast forward 7 years, and I’m home at my parents’ house in Houston for the summer and need to go to the dentist. I don’t know if they hadn’t been able to get me an appointment with their dentist (who was – and probably still is – awesome) or what, but my appointment ended up being at this dental group place whose logo was a butterfly, for some reason, and had an intensely transitory feeling (not the building, the dentists themselves).
They want to take x-rays, so we take x-rays. This was before you could have x-rays done in the office and then see them on the TV by the chair approximately 1 second later (my current dentist is also awesome, btw). So we had to come back for another appointment to see the x-rays and talk about the disaster in my mouth. The dentist said exactly this:
This is really cool! Your right maxillary central incisor and your right maxillary canine, here and here, have cavities in the sides so bad they have given the middle tooth, your maxillary lateral incisor, a cavity almost straight through! I don’t think we can save it.
Real cool, man.
They told me I needed a crown, and basically started work without much more than going into the waiting room and telling my mom. First, they took a mold of the tooth, which they made out of porcelain on-site (but x-rays they couldn’t handle…). They put a topical numbing ointment on my gum and then the dentist cruised off for about 45 minutes. The numbing ointment wore off fully after about 10. When he came back with two large plunger-style syringes full of novocaine, I did try to tell him the numbing stuff had worn off, but his only concession was using my paper bib to wipe away some of my tears (half-assed job, honestly). The first syringe went into my gum on the right side of the tooth, and the second one went in on the left side of my tooth. And then they filed down my tooth to a nub that stuck out of my gum. This is the root post that they were going to cement the crown to. Which they then did, while explaining to me that despite it being “the best material” and “the best kind of crown,” it wouldn’t last me more than five years, and then I would have to have this whole misery inflicted again.
Mom took me home.
Later that same summer, I got in with the good dentist (who, I may have mentioned, is/was awesome). He told me that all my fillings were the bad kind (you know. mercury.) and had to go. Over two weeks, I had multiple appointments and twelve filled cavities drilled out, cleaned, and re-filled. The nice part is that this is the white filling stuff, so I no longer have a silvery mouth (kind of a downside, too, I guess). That was also painful. Not the work itself – I have never before nor since had someone inject novocaine painlessly like this guy could – but the aftermath. And he had plenty of opportunities to inject novocaine – I had two shots in the back of my mouth, near where my tongue starts, two in the roof of my mouth, and a bunch in the gums themselves. You know that dull, throbbing ache that comes with the pressure applied for dental work? That. Times 14 days and 10 teeth. And from this point, the sound of the drill makes me taste tooth enamel. Thinking of the sound of the drill, even.
So where were we? April 27 2003 I had my wisdom teeth out. Nothing extraordinary there. I asked them to put me under; I didn’t think I could manage. I woke up, and they told me I was a model patient – which means nothing – and wouldn’t let me see my teeth. They were all broken. Later, dry sockets. But I don’t recall that recovery as being particularly arduous.
So November 2012. Tail end of October, actually. My tooth hurt to the touch. There was a deep and shatteringly insistent pain if I was careless enough to let anything at all touch the crowned tooth. Eating was a chore. Doing anything that required me to close my mouth was nerve-wracking (in several senses). I looked on the internet and then called my dentist. They had me in and saw that I had an abscess. When I looked it up online, I looked at some really horrible cases, but mine wasn’t visually apparent – you could see a thin dark line on the x-ray next to my tooth, where the gum wasn’t touching my tooth because of the bacteria. I can’t imagine how painful it would be to get an extreme case.
My abscess happened because of my crown. The inside of the tooth that was left had a hairline crack in it from the pulp to the gum. It was probably caused when I had the crown put on, but hadn’t “opened up” yet, but did over time/wear/tear. Bacteria managed to get into this infinitesimal crack and all hell broke loose. Because the crack was below the gumline, there was no way that I could have prevented it. The crack in question is actually about two millimeters above the gumline. I can see the spot, now.
I was really worried going in to get the pus drained from my gum (disgusting but true), because I am gun shy when it comes to the dentist. I was going to get this thing drained, and then I would come back the following week (after a course of antibiotics) to get the tooth closed back up and sealed. Because I had a crown that was solid porcelain, my dentist injected the novocaine (same spots as the original crown application, as it turns out, unsurprisingly, really), and then drilled into the back of the crown. The plan was to drill in and up, to get to the root, where the pus was partying, and then let it drain out. Even though the affected area was numbed, it was painful, and I had to get more novocaine. Ultimately, the pressure is what got to me. It was too much. There wasn’t room in my mouth for a tooth and a bunch of pus and some bacteria and this drill. The draining was supposed to relieve all the pressure and it wouldn’t hurt. The dentist cleaned out my tooth with varying widths of this little brushy things. If you’ve never felt the inside of your tooth tickled, it feels like your sinuses getting tickled by a toothbrush. It’s weird and I don’t recommend. This is basically what a root canal is. Then I went home. The pain for the next few hours was the worst it had ever been. And then it was gone. I took my antibiotics and incessantly tongued the millimeter-wide hole in my tooth. I had made the dentist show it to me (no mean feat, considering where it was), and he told me it was no bigger than a beebee. I was nervous about food getting in there and exacerbating the problem, so I kept applying pressure against it, hoping to pull out anything that might have gotten stuck in there. A week later, I went back – and we were under deadline at this point because I had to go to Hawaii three days later. The dentist re-cleaned out the tooth with the brushes and couldn’t help but notice that my attempts at keeping snacks and other particles out of my tooth had caused a hole in the front of my gum – where the hairline crack in my tooth is. He filled the tooth in with gutta percha, which is a kind of natural stuff that hardens up and sort of gets absorbed by your body, or maybe subsumed, so that it’s like solid tooth again. Anyway, he really packed the gutta percha in there, since there can’t be any air or gaps or holes, and it started oozing out the front of my gum, right where the hairline crack is. It was a nub at first, but now it’s just a scar.
He told me that eventually he’d like to put a proper post in the center of the tooth, since the original post for the crown was made out of tooth, and that’s now just a shell. That eventually, I’d start to feel the tooth wiggling. That eventually, it could snap.
So I went back last week and had the post put in. He told me, rather optimistically, that I wouldn’t need novocaine since the tooth had no root. He drilled into the back of the tooth, into the now-hardened gutta percha, inserted the post, and then filled everything back in. He was right, I didn’t need novocaine, but that is still a lot of pressure.
And I notice now: it’s a lot better. I have forgotten that this tooth is a problem tooth (again, for now). Before, I could sense the wiggliness of the tooth; not anymore. It is solid and secure. I marvel at it. Sometimes in the bathroom mirror, but more usually just quietly in my head. Or here. Incidentally, I have never had to have the crown replaced; it’s better than my real teeth. I got a bit panicky last week and wondered how my tooth was staying in my mouth if the root was gone. Periodontal ligament. Nothing to do with the root. If you were wondering.
*I feel like it should go without saying, but I have good-to-excellent dental hygiene. I don’t floss as much as I “should” but my dentist told me recently that I had the best teeth he’d seen all day, and I know he meant it. Also, I brush too much, and it’s making my gums recede, which is a special kind of anxiety.