Yesterday, we had a play date with another set of twins, two boys who are six months older than my little monkeys. They played together really well, sharing, taking turns, making up games together. It was a delightful morning, but one thing happened that has me feeling a little sad for the end of an era, come too soon.
One of the little boys noticed that my daughter’s teeth are different. She is congenitally missing her top lateral incisors, just like I am. Those are the teeth just next to your two front teeth. If you look closely at my smile, you might notice that the teeth next to my front teeth are actually my pointy canine teeth, moved forward and slightly shaved down to look less vampirish. Or maybe you never noticed.
It mildly bothers me from time to time, like when the contestants on American Idol hold a big note and I see their perfect line of pearly whites close up, literally larger than life on our excessive TV. But in the scheme of things, this is so not something I spend time or energy worrying about. My parents made the decision to move all of my teeth forward rather than getting false teeth for the spaces. At the time, I didn’t like that decision because it meant 3 years of braces rather than 6 months, but after watching a friend of mine with the same teeth missing spend thousands of dollars dealing with false teeth, I am grateful for the simple solution my parents gave me.
Anyway, back to the play date. I honestly don’t think my daughter ever had any clue that her teeth were unusual, until yesterday when her friend pointed it out. I handled it as well as I could. I told her that she is beautiful and that her teeth are just like Mommy’s. I explained to her about braces, saying that when she is big like Mommy, a dentist will put special stickers on her teeth to make them look like Mommy’s, and that her brother would probably have special stickers on his teeth too.
She still just looked really thoughtful and sad. She said she wanted “lots of teeth” like her brother. It just about broke my heart.
And then her friend, innocently… these kids are all only four, remember… told her she looked like a beaver. At this point, I was so bummed about my daughter’s first body image issue that I didn’t even find it funny that she was chanting over and over “I am not a beaver.” I hugged her, told the other child not to call her a beaver, and reiterated her beauty. I didn’t know what else to do.
She was apparently talking about it again later with my sister. I can’t believe my child is not even quite four yet, and she has already lost the innocence of believing that her body is perfect in every way. I am hoping, with all my heart, that this is something that falls into the amnesia pits of childhood and she goes back to thinking that the sun rises and sets in her stunning smoke-colored eyes.
But whether or not she forgets, I will do all I can to remind her every day that she is the most gorgeous and amazing little girl I have ever seen in my life. That it is her differences that make her sparkle, her uniqueness that makes her who she is, the gaps in her teeth that give her the smile that lights up my life.
Someone loved each of us that way once. Breathe that in. And again. Your differences make you sparkle. Your uniqueness makes you who you are. Light up the world with your smile, gaps and all.