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Don’t Forget Those Teeth

November 18, 2011

Yesterday, Hope and Mercy visited the dentist.

Mercy turns eight in January and I was expecting him to announce she is ready for sealants on her newly-erupted first permanent molars. Not so. Although Mercy’s molars cut through her gum tissue a year ago, they still are not fully erupted.

Hope, however, since her last dentist visit, has fully erupted all four of her six-year molars. Six months ago, they were not visible; now they are fully in. And just to keep things interesting, another one of her permanent teeth is coming in through the gum behind her baby teeth instead of erupting into a hole left empty by a lost tooth.

While it was a surprise, this isn’t new. Last May I connected the dots in a post called It Wasn’t the Full Moon. (Which must resonate because when I searched my blog for “teething” I discovered others revisit that post, too.)

I can’t explain why it is true that teething is still so hard on us, although it makes sense. Is it related to the “emotional immaturity” FASD trait? Hope, although she just turned seven,  teeths more like a toddler –that inexplicably oversensitive, hyper-emotional, crabby season suddenly explained by the eruption of a new tooth.

Or more technically, it is neurological immaturity that results in the  emotional immaturity. While teething bothered Mercy as a baby, the past year’s eruption of molars would have passed without notice if I hadn’t seen the teeth coming in. Mercy is neurotypical. Her brain is better integrated at seven than it was at one. The extra sensory input from teething doesn’t phase her now.

Not so for Hope. Added sensory insults like teething belie the fact that her brain is working near the edge of its developmental capacity just holding things together to pass as typical on a ‘good’ day. Dump on the sensory static from teething (or a stubbed toe, or hurt feelings, or missing daddy, or whatever) and we get a lively demonstration of the fact that neurologically, she operates on a shoestring budget.

What to do? I am stumped. It is not unlike me, in the sixth day of a headache I can’t shake. (It hasn’t been a unusally hard week. Faith says there is a “headache virus” going around school. Who knows?) It doesn’t matter a lot that I can articulate that I feel worn out and not very capable of doing more than the basics. It doesn’t change the fact that my family needs me to be in much better form than I feel.

Neither does the insight that Hope has been teething for most of the past six months ameliorate the extra wear and tear on the family. It’s just the way it is.

But recognizing it makes me feel a little less crazy. And it refreshes my drooping compassion.

Both are blessings.

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