an autism journey

Today was another not so typical milestone. My son lost his first tooth. Don’t ask me exactly when it happened or where the tooth is, because I would have to honestly answer that I don’t know. I simply looked over at him this morning and there was a gap in his mouth. An unexplained rush of emotions came over me and I started crying. I cried because my baby is growing up, I cried because I missed it, I cried because I felt guilty that I didn’t even know it was loose, but mostly I cried because it was another important moment in his life and he couldn’t even talk to me about it. I wanted things to be “normal.”

I actually have been dreading this moment for the past year. The other kids I know that are the same age have already lost at least one tooth, so I knew it had to be coming soon. I had this image in my head of a little boy getting very upset over something being wrong with his tooth and wanting someone to “fix” it. I was afraid he would become so obsessed with it that he would eventually pull it out prematurely. I wondered how I was going to explain this. I had been periodically checking for loose teeth, but somehow I missed this one.

The problem is that he can’t tell me if he has a toothache or a belly ache. He can’t tell me if he is scared or confused. He can’t ask a question when he doesn’t understand something.  I am left to anticipate what his needs are, what questions he might want to ask, and how he might feel about something.

His father and I have to go ahead and explain things to him that a typical child would simply ask a question about if they wanted to know…. Only he is not typical, so we have to anticipate the not so typical questions a child might have as well. All the while, we have to keep in mind that he takes things very literal (a common problem with individuals with autism).  I remember when I first set out to potty train him. I gave him a lovely talk about how big boys  go pee pee IN the potty. A few days later, I found him standing in the toilet and very proudly exclaiming, “pee pee in potty!” I knew then that I would have to be much more careful how I worded things.

So, when I discovered the gap in his mouth this morning, I tried to remain calm, not knowing what he thought about it yet.

“Honey, you lost your first tooth!”

His finger immediately went to the open space. “Teeth?”

“Yes, your tooth came out.” He put his hand to my mouth for me to open so he could examine if this was a normal thing that happened to me too. “Mommy’s teeth already came out and were replaced with big teeth. The same thing happened with Daddy and Sissy too when they were your age. It happens to everyone.”

I went on to explain what happened and why and told him this was really special because it means he is a big boy. I told him that we were all really happy about him losing his first tooth. (I purposely left out the part about a woman with wings that sneaks into the bedrooms of children while they are sleeping and snatches up their teeth…. I thought perhaps he might never sleep again if I tried to explain that to him).

I waited for his response, hoping my explanation was good enough. He just looked at me, tongue in the gap, and said again…”teeth?”

“Yes, teeth.”

He then gave a great big smile showing that beautiful gap and hugged me as if to say….”I get it Mom” and off he went to play.

I think I’m good on this one. 🙂

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