My kids have mouths full of politicians

Tue, Jan 15, 2013, 00:00

A DAD'S LIFE:My kids have long-life baby teeth: they refuse to go. Like itty bitty stained ceramics, they sit atop their gums long after their sell-by date, wearing away on all sides but resolutely staying in the face of all encouragement to move on. My kids have mouths full of politicians.

The poor younger one. The rest of her class march around with their giant grown-up choppers, showing off how they can chew through iron bars and use their front molars as table tennis bats.

She keeps her mouth shut, her stumpy baby teeth still doing a job, but minuscule beside the kilos of brand new porcelain paraded by her peers.

The four on the bottom have departed and been replaced, but the topmost line is made of sterner stuff, although she has managed to loosen them somewhat, at tortoise pace.

Tooth fairy

I seem to remember that, back in the day, I’d get a hint of a tooth creaking and spend 24 hours crow-barring it before, with a mouthful of blood and shreds of gum, presenting my latest extraction to my mother for a valuation in advance of the tooth fairy’s visit.

With no time for hanging round, I worked that baby at the slightest suggestion of weakness.

There was currency in my head that could instead be in my pocket, currency in my head to buy what could rot that currency. Sugar to be had.

Not so the younger. Yeah, the sugar craving is strong in this one but impetuous she is not.

Her top two teeth have been at the “loose” stage for so long now, the rate of change can only be detected by the increasing angle she pushes them behind her large lower incisors while I read to her at night.

Jiggling the offenders

She plays with them as she concentrates, jiggling the offenders with her tongue in the consideration of a plot twist or ambiguous phrasing.

“So, is Fiver like magic or something?” dentistry dragged inward. “And Bigwig, he’s tough but kinda nice anyway, yeah?” now they’re forced forward. “But Hazel’s my favourite. He’s really nice and he takes care of all the rabbits,” they get a delighted jiggle, fore and aft.

Today I have her in the car outside the dentist. She is torn between excitement at having been taken from her class in the middle of the day and fear at what might happen inside the surgery.

“Why is it called Dental Surgery, Daddy? Am I getting surgery?”

“Not at all, you dope. You have a hole in your tooth because you keep stealing biscuits from the cupboard even though I tell you not to, and you know I know, but you also know I’m too bloody tired and lazy to chase you.

“Well, that little hole from chowing down on biscuits is causing the pain you’ve been crying about. No more stealing, no more biscuits. No more.”

Ice cream and crisps

She inspects me while tongue-jiggling her front babies. “Can I have an ice-cream after? Y’know, like, cos I’ll have been so brave and all, going to the dentist and things.”

I sit near her in the surgery, but not so near that she will read my fear. My buddy, Joe the Dentist, does his thing. He explains each step and instrument before he starts. She looks up at him, her face relaxed but hands as fists by her side.

Joe the Dentist says, “I’m going to rub a little gel on your gum to numb it first.”

I can’t help myself, I interject, “Brilliant. So they don’t feel the injection at all any more?” He looks over at me rolling his eyes.

“We don’t like to use that word, Dad, no need.” He says “Dad”; he means “moron”. Then continues to the younger, “Sometimes I have little girls come in here and they say, ‘So, am I gonna get an injection?’ and I say to them, ‘You already had one.’ You won’t feel it at all.”

I’m the dope. I see her fists tighten a little but she nods. He goes ahead, quietly assuring her all along that she’s doing well. Her eyes fixed on a point on the ceiling, those fists never unclench.

Finally, only minutes later, she runs her tongue over the tooth and confirms no jagged edges. We roll out the door.

Fat and numb

“We have to go to the shop, dad, and buy toothbrushes, mouthwash and floss.” I agree. We must renew our oral hygiene programme with increased vigour.

“But I want crisps too,” she says. “I can’t feel my lip, it’s all fat and numb, and I want to see what it’ll be like to chew crisps.”

I remember the fists. “No prob, ye big dope.”

abrophy@irishtimes.com