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Tree Rings

November 18, 2011

Lately, when Henry smiles, I’ve noticed that his lower teeth have more space between them. I’ve noticed this for weeks and deep down, I’ve known what is causing his square, white baby teeth to shift and move. But each time I thought about it, my stomach lurched. So I just didn’t think about it.

Until last night.


What, Henry?

My toof! It’s wiggly!

Come on over here and let me take a look.

Not only was his lower, left front baby tooth wiggly, but I spied the tooth-loosening culprit under his wet, pink gums. An adult tooth.

And I immediately started to cry.

And when I remembered this later that same night, I cried again. I started entertaining irrational thoughts–could I shove the adult tooth back from whence it came?


I had the pleasure of going to the gynecologist last week. While there, I saw a pregnant woman and her two-year-old daughter. Both her children were with her, one growing inside and one alternately attached to her lap, her hand, her belly. Five and a half years ago, That. Was. Me. I was pregnant with Henry, barely able to see Abby’s blond ringlets over my beach-ball belly. (For the record, I can say that I had a cute beach-ball belly while pregnant with Henry because when I was pregnant with Abby, I was more of a beached whale. Everything was pregnant. My nose. My thankles (no, not cankles, THANKLES. The swelling started at my thighs and went all the way down to my ankles). My feet, neck and fingers. It wasn’t pretty. So when I drew the pregnancy trump card with Henry, you’d better believe I celebrated. Apparently I still d0.)

I felt very wistful as I watched this young mother and her growing brood. I felt a pang of nostalgia because on this day, my only companions were my thoughts and my laptop. Both children were at school.

This thought grabbed my heart and echoed in my head:

I. Am. Done. Having. Babies.

I will never again be pregnant. Or pee on a stick. Or feel the first, butterfly-like flutters of my baby’s kicks. Or nurse a child and feel that euphoric, physical connection. I will never again fill drawers with Dreft-scented, minuscule onesies and impossibly small socks.

I am now the mother of children, not babies.


Three years ago, Abby lost her first tooth. Last week, she got a palette expander and braces.She looks much, much older. Her mouth aches and her teeth ache. I wonder if my heart aches as much as her mouth.


Last weekend, Abby, Henry, Hubby and I ran errands. While out, I stocked up on baby soap for the kids. Hubby raised a snarky eyebrow at me. I ignored him, placing the five bottles of Baby Magic on the check-out belt. Hubby, who is never, EVER, easily deterred, said,

How long are you going to try to make our kids smell like they’re still babies?

And I replied, somewhat light-heartedly,

You just back off. I’m going to do it as long as I can. 


I remember  learning about trees in elementary school. I specifically recall learning that you can gauge the age of a tree by analyzing a cross-section its trunk. Each year, a new ring forms from the collection of the tree’s xylem cells. By counting the alternating light and dark  rings of the cross-section, you can closely approximate the age of the tree. I remember being awed by this information–and thought it was pretty cool that trees came with age rulers.

Logically, I know that my children are growing. I even answer this frequent question from them, Am I growing right now?

With a hardy,

Yes–right now!

My mouth says these words but my heart misses their significance. I need the commencement of momentous events to remind me of time’s swift cadence.

Today, I give thanks for these xylem moments–my children’s personal tree rings. If I looked at their cross-sections,  I’d see lines of Big occasions marking their age, their growth and their steps away from me. Loose teeth, braces, first days of school. First door slams, first Geology projects, first sleep overs.

May these moments always force me to pause and savor. May they continue to reach up, grab me, and bring me to tears.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. November 19, 2011 10:36 am

    And I trust that they will, Denise. I am beginning to believe that life is all about the noticing, all about the events that make up our rings, about space being made for new things to come up and through.

    Thank you for shining your light on all of this.


  2. November 22, 2011 11:48 pm

    My daughter has lost six of her baby teeth and everytime I whimper inside. I know exactly what you mean. Time ticks on and this awareness makes me want to hold on tighter.

Give me your grit.

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