This week the boy broke his arm. Broke it right at the elbow, which is hard to get healed up. He's in a cast. He got some signatures on it, and then novelty wore off pretty damn quick after that. Gradually it's dawning on him that breaking your arm sucks. It means 8 weeks of sitting on your ass. This entire fall soccer season? Yeah, that's over. No practices, no games. Swimming? Yeah, you can't do that either. He'd just tried waterskiing in the final weeks of summer, and was eager to do that with his cousins over Labor Day. But nope, absolutely no waterskiing. Hell, even the video games he likes require all five fingers of both hands, just to hit all those weird Nintendo buttons. Yep, those are out too.
Here's the bizarre thing: how it happened. He's spent the entire summer seemingly trying to shatter his arm. He and his friend have been building a "treehouse." It's in quotes because it isn't really a house at all. Instead it consists of a number of items hauled up into a tree with ropes and left there. Seemingly with the goal of fracturing at least a pelvis.
For example, they thought it would be a great idea to bring a sled up there, the sort that's kind of a bucket for toddlers, for you to pull them around in, the kind with a loop of rope on the front of it. Dana and his friend decided to hang that sled from a skinny limb of the tree, and then sit in it and dangle, about fifteen feet off the ground. Once I realized this, I put a stop to it. And there were no injuries, miraculously.
He's been to soccer camp, where he plays his heart out, usually winding up on his ass at some point, but emerging with little more than dirt on his face and maybe a couple of scrapes.
With his cousins, he's tried every water sport, skiing and tubing, usually showing off by standing on the tube and giving exaggerated yawns, daring the driver to go faster.
But where does he get hurt? None of these places. He gets hurt at art camp. Friggin art camp. Where he's intended to chill out, work on some Native American art, and hang with some mellow kids. But evidently part of the camp activities involved a game of tag in the gym. And that's what his elbow collided with: the gymnasium floor.
So he is officially bummed. It's his first broken bone. My wife has been saying how surprised she is that it took nine years for him to break something. It's not from a lack of trying. My wife broke her elbow when she was a kid, and she says it's a good lesson for him to learn: that he's not invincible, and that this is what it's like to have a disability, even if it's temporary. To learn to be grateful for his otherwise stellar health.
And how 'bout Tess? Our girl is walking her little ass off. I know, I know -- every time I talk about this, I say, "She's walking!!!" But now she actually is. Without braces, without shoes, mostly. She pulls away from our hands and sets off on her own. You turn your head for a second in our house, and then you look around and say, "Oh shit. Where is she?" And then you sprint around the main floor and find her, oh, in the bathroom, playing in the sink, or at the bottom of the steps, about to head up.
She's got another loose tooth. This is the cool thing about this one: she knows it's loose. And it's kinda creeping her out. Remember that feeling, where you can wiggle the tooth with your tongue, and it's clear that the thing is hanging on by almost nothing, and if you think about it enough, that feeling of how crazy loose it is, and about teeth in general, about how there's this opening in your body that grows these hard white things in them, and how they fall out from time to time, to make room for bigger ones, and my god, how weird are teeth, right? Well, we think Tess is feeling some of that. Often these days she grabs at the front of her jaw and wails a bit. She wants that freaky tooth out already.
She's growing up. She's getting to be a big girl. This fall she'll be six, and we're finally at the point where we can rely on her to wait for things. For so long, she appeared to have no concept of waiting. There was only the now. Yes, we'll be heading to school in a half hour, but let's be patient for now, we'd say. And she'd give us the finger, essentially. She wanted what she wanted. And she wanted it now. But this summer that all changed. We can bring her into the grocery store and manage her for a half hour while she rides in the cart. Or we can have her school end, her beloved preschool, toward the end of August, and then have a week of no school, and not have it be a complete mess.
Used to be, during vacation weeks, she'd make you pay. When 8:30am came around on those vaykay weekdays, the T-Bird would get bitey, grab at your cheeks with her nails, and generally just be kinda pissed at you. That pissed-offness has been replaced with an overall contentment. She relaxes. If I had one word to describe her this summer, it would be happy. She's such a happy little bean, wherever you are with her, and whatever you're doing.
I was just beginning to think that this could be the end of the terrible twos. The end of her saying no just to say no, or her going apeshit in the supermarket, with us pushing a full cart, just yards away from the checkout. Or fighting us when we try to put her in the carseat. You know, that particular sort of fuck you from your little one, the arching of the back, the gnashing of teeth as you curse and try to fasten those goddamn harness buckle things? Yes. Tess had largely stopped that kind of shit.
I know, it's weird. Terrible twos for an almost-six year old. My wife and I have spent a lot of nights lately, after the kids go to bed, talking about phases, and independence, and which phases we think our two are in. So Tess gets pissy when you hold her hand, and will shake you loose so she can walk on her own. It's almost like she's saying, "I can do it, Dad, geez." She's more independent. And that's the hard part about where we are with her. With Dana we know what comes next. Once he can reliably pour a bowl of cereal without coating the kitchen floor with milk and Cheerios, yep, it's time for Dana to make his own breakfast. And then, the next step of independence? Take that bowl and spoon, and put 'em in the dishwasher. These are the steps. We know the progressions. But Tess is a question mark. What are the next steps? What will she want to do independently? What will she be able to do? So far she's surprised us on a number of fronts, like with potty training. We're grateful and amazed. We hope this continues.
And then there we are, at the local pool. It's literally the last day of summer before Tess heads to school. Our town gives kindergarteners one extra day before they start, so Dane is already in school and I have T all to myself. I bring her to the pool to chill her out. It's dry and hot, the first day of September. I park and get her into the back of our car to change her into her bathing suit, and then, recognizing where we are, she smiles, and I see that loose tooth. It's sooooo close to coming out. It's sticking way up, like a single sabertooth jutting up from her jaw, clicking against her front teeth. I say, okay that's it, I gotta pull this thing out. So I reach in. Now, Tess is a biter. You put anything in her mouth, or near her mouth, she's gonna chomp down on it. I propose that diffusing a bomb is easier than pulling out her tooth without getting bitten by her other teeth. Ow ow ow, I'm saying, reaching in, then not, then nursing bite wounds on my thumb. She's on her back--since I was about to change her into her suit, remember--and she's bucking like in a rodeo. At last I get a grip on the tooth, between my thumb and index finger, and I pull. It comes out without a sound. She is completely still, like it was the tooth that was making her go bananas, like it was a splinter and I've extracted it. And she looks at me, the tooth in my palm, in a tiny bubbly pool of spit and blood. And she screams and kicks me with all her strength. Directly below the waist. I know before it happens what I'm going to do, and I can't stop it, and the hand holding the tooth drops, and then it's lost. She's wailing, and her chin is drenched in blood, and she picks up all her clothes and gnaws on them, to spread the blood around, of course. I look down on the ground to get the tooth. The ground is unfortunately, however, the type of asphalt that looks like six hundred teeth all glued together. If you open the dictionary to needle in a haystack, there's a picture of me, crouched in the shade under our rear bumper, muttering obscenities and combing the ground in vain. It's one of those moments, Tess screaming and covered with blood, me with one hand on her, under the car. A moment when a passerby could take one look and pretty much call the federales on me.
I gave up the search and took her swimming. She was mad the whole time. I think she was mad that I pulled the tooth. Her tongue kept finding the spot where the tooth was, and feeling that bizarre fleshy place. Probably felt worse to her than when the tooth was there. Then when we were done, I brought her back to the car, and put her in her carseat. And I looked again, as hard as I could.
And I found the tooth.