Hell's a popping. Betsy lost her first tooth in more ways than one. First a rice crispy treat loosened her loose tooth to the "hanging by a thread" point and then Bets just yanked it out. This all happened in the car so naturally I had to pull over to the side of the road to cry and clean up all the blood.
What a lot of blood there is when a little tooth comes out.
And then Bets got excited about putting the tooth back in her mouth and pulling it out again and again until the little bloody thing slipped from her hand and got lost in the upholstery of the car. Gone forever or so it seemed.
Bets was surprisingly resilient. She cried about the lost lost tooth a bit but was distracted enough by the space in her mouth and how it felt with her tongue not to be sad for long. I left a dollar underneath her pillow anyway of course and figured we had 19 more chances to hang onto teeth.
The next morning Betsy woke up a different child. She was the freshest and rudest most sassy little girl she ever has been. Not only was she rude to me and her best friend Zoe, she was rude to her toys.
"I think that tooth was your nice tooth," I only half joked.
"Yeah," she agreed. "I'm so fresh now."
This went on for days, was not even alleviated when Lucy miraculously found the lost lost tooth. (I still don't know how she did it, first located the place in my car the tooth had fallen into and then actually retrieved the tooth.)
But even with the tooth safely stashed in a pink satin purse Betsy roared on. She said she hated school and after school. She announced she hated camp as well as Zoe. She refused to put her coat on and then refused to take her coat off. She said she wanted to hit me and then stormed off into her room. She learned to roll her eyes.
This is it, I told myself, adolescence is here early and this is what our life will be like for the next 12 years. It made me so sad. I felt lonely like I had lost my child and gained instead a raving lunatic. I half-expected her to go out and pierce her nipples.
Lucy tried to comfort me by saying it was just a perfect storm of developmental and social angst: she lost a tooth, spring vacation is coming, she's getting over a cold.
I blamed myself. For having separated two years ago, for not having a bigger home, for not having more energy, for not cooking better meals.
I took her rock-climbing and swimming. I bought her new pants and another rice crispy treat. I reasoned with her. I gave her time outs. I held her at times and others I walked out of the room.
"Maybe she should go to boarding school," I said to a friend. "I'll miss her but I think it's best."
"She's six," the friend reminded me.
"They don't take them that early?"
After four days of this it was my night of the week to go out overnight. In addition to dinner and bath a couple nights, one night a week Betsy's other mom Faith comes to the house and sleeps over and I go off to Lucy's to allow them space and make sure Faith and I don't kill each other. While Bets has come to like this arrangement, it's taken me two years not to feel guilty about it, to embrace this night out each week. Still usually I am torn to pieces.
Not this week. This week I would have gone straight to a bar if I were the drinking type. Bets and Faith had a fine time. She gave Faith some lip but not too much. And by the time I returned the following afternoon Bets was happy as a lark.
We all had dinner together as we do each week (this is divorce lesbo style, which is a boundary-challenged mish-mash that in some ways resembles childrearing from the stone age whereupon a group of women wind up raising a group of kids). Bets was charming and delightful.
Later after her bath, Bets and I set out her clothes for school the next morning. Bets tried on a pair of pants we had bought three months ago. They were three inches too long then and I had to hem them. Last week I swear they fit. This evening I had to pull out the hems and still they were too short.
Bets and I looked at each other equally aghast. She tried on two more pairs, same thing.
"I think I just grew," she said.
"I think you did."
I read her two books, told her a story about poop, and off she sailed into sleep.
From here on I'm going to stop analyzing and trying to fix everything and just chalk up all bad days or weeks to growth spurts, for myself as well.
The next time Lucy and I argue, "Growth spurt!" I'll say. I'm going to try it at work too. And who knows, I might even get a bit taller. Lord knows one day my teeth are going to fall out.