Have you ever thought about how some specific points of growing up are utterly disturbing in nature? And yet, we celebrate over them. Our parents told us these events were "special" and their parents told them the same thing. Who knows how far back this brainwashing really goes. I think humans do this so the freakishness of these events will not seem so alarming. Also, kids are wonderfully gullible, impressionable little suckers. For example:
So I am six years old, taking a bite out of an apple and one of my front teeth literally falls out. This. Is. FABULOUS!!! Some of my fellow classmates have also lost their tooth, and they have gotten immediate bragging rights. I get to give said tooth to the teacher, she announces it to the class and I am so excited. I take it home in an envelope. That night, the tooth fairy comes. She leaves me a note (my goodness, her handwriting is exactly like my mother's) and a dollar in quarters. From that day on, I am tooth-loss obsessed. I go so far as to let my friend Mandi play dentist and extract my teeth for me over lunch recesses (even when they are not completely ready to come out). I earn a whopping 4 dollars in 1st grade, alone! People on the street tell me I look cute and my parents tell me I look cute too. There is nothing better than this.
Really, Crystal? You weren't disturbed by this? Your teeth fall out and you are happy about it? I recently realized Sam is getting relatively close to the age I was when I lost my first tooth. As I often do to my son, I thought I would do a psychological experiment on him. I love getting to be the person who sees his face when he's told about things of this nature. I was not expecting a positive reaction. As predicted in my hypothesis, Sam was extremely weirded out by this revelation, and immediately covered his mouth with his hand, emphatically pointing out that he would like to keep his teeth.
God bless whoever came up with the idea of the tooth fairy, though. Now Sam is stoked. Like his mother in kindergarten, he has now heard of the joys of toothlessness from friends at school and family members and he is no longer afraid. I am glad of this, because I don't want him freaked out over something that can't be helped. He is blissfully unaware that it is highly likely that when he is 80, he will start losing his teeth again--this time with no replacements. And there will be no rejoicing. People will say, "Oh, poor Sam" and avert their eyes as he inserts his dentures.
Not only is the tooth fairy myth awesome for its calming properties, but also for the fact that it allows parents to dispose of (or at least hide away) the teeth their children have lost. Greg recently had a wisdom tooth pulled at the dentist. We took it home so Greg could show Sam. When we told Sam he couldn't keep Greg's tooth (we knew we'd find it around the house), and we were just showing it to him, he was heartbroken. Teeth are pretty icky--kind of like toenail clippings and hair from hairbrushes. It's not like any parent really wants to make a necklace out of their kids teeth or anything. That would be so completely culturally unacceptable. So, when you think about it, you realize the tooth fairy acts rather like a broker ("You give me your tooth, I'll give you a dollar!"). What a deal! Everybody wins.
We believe our parents when they tell us things are special. But once kids experience these things, sometimes there is no joy in mudville and there is no turning back.
I had surgery when I was 9. I got my adenoids out. In order to lessen the anxiety over undergoing the knife, the doctor and my parents both encouraged me by saying I would get to eat all the ice cream I wanted.
As I woke up from surgery, I started vomiting like I had been on an all-night drinking binge. Ice cream was the furthest thing from my mind. I was much wiser the second time I had to have the operation (my adenoids grew back) and nobody even bothered to try to calm my heart. We all knew what I was in for. This time, I got a bike instead.
The best example for me and a million others, though:
The whole collective experience of adolescence/puberty was SUCH a letdown. I went to public school. Toward the end of 4th grade, we were given a two-hour rundown of what we were about to experience in our "tween" years, as well as some of the things that would come further down the road. The girls stayed in Mrs. Carsten's room, and the boys went to talk to Mr. Harder. We watched a video starring an actress who had played Annie on Broadway, who told us all about our changing bodies, sex, getting pregnant, and periods and all of the extra hair we would be getting. The boy stuff pretty much remained a mystery (we were given a few disgusting details), which was fine with me at the time.
Sex didn't sound all that appealing to me (guh-ross), but for some reason, periods did (yay?). This became the equivalent to first grade's tooth loss, and we girls awaited our first cycles with the expectancy of a slumber party. We also got very competitive about it. Whoever got their periods first was obviously way more "mature" than anybody else and therefore way cooler. Periods came with "accessories", and you got to chose from a whole variety of options. My mom also promised we'd go out for ice cream whenever "it" happened. I couldn't wait.
Three years later-- oh wow, what a wakeup call. I will spare you the details, but I remember the bathroom, my mom standing in the doorway, me weeping, "I HATE this!". I also remember thinking, "Ice cream is so not worth this". Welcome to PMS, 12-year-old self..
Having boobs was not rewarding in any way, shape, or form (no pun intended) either. If boys noticed, I wasn't noticing them noticing--and I was still too gawky and awkward to know how to dress to make them look good (and my mom sure wasn't telling me). And bras were annoying beyond belief.
And my butt was suddenly really droopy. And I had cellulite (before you go and chew out my mother, nobody told me this. I noticed it on my own) And I constantly was cutting myself shaving my legs. And suddenly I was stinky and having to shower all...the...time if I didn't want to be stinky. And I ravenously liked boys even though I didn't want to. My friends and I were becoming cattier and more competitive than ever.
I didn't feel grown up.. I just felt miserable. I didn't like myself. I remember grieving because I literally felt childhood slipping away. It was extremely sad to me, and I missed that wonderment and innocence.
But I am sure that as my children continue to grow, I will tell them most of the same things my parents told me. If I had known how annoying and embarrassing and disgusting a lot of the things that were going to happen were, I probably would have closed myself up in my room and never have come out. I am glad I was able to live in some ignorance of what was to come. Life was a little bit more fun because of it.