I broke my daughter. I know it’s inevitable that eventually, she was going to break or hurt or cut something open. It was inevitable that, eventually, there would be blood and tears and trips to the emergency room but I didn’t expect her damage to be so permanent, or so visible.
You see, when my daughter was 18 months old she tripped and landed on her front tooth. Amazingly, her reflexes were quick enough to avoid her smashing her entire face in, but not quick enough to avoid her chipping her perfectly white, perfectly formed baby tooth. We were in Bristol and we were devastated. We felt like terrible parents even though we’d been less than half a foot away from her when she tripped. It was just one of those things.
Turns out there was some luck on our side. Bristol is the only city in the country with a dedicated children’s dentist hospital and within 30 minutes we were sat in a room with a dental consultant. We were reassured that it was a small, clean break and unlikely to do any permanent damage. What was permanent however, was the chipped tooth. She was fine, there was no real harm but as a parent, I couldn’t look at that chipped tooth without feeling a bolt of painful guilt strike me to the core of my soul.
I was assured it would get easier. I was assured that, eventually, I would even forget all about it and they were right. Until she fell and hit her tooth again. And again. I don’t know what it is about my daughter, but either she’s catastrophically accident prone or she is actively trying to remove her teeth or she’s growing at such a rate of knots that she has no idea how long her legs her, how short her arms are and where her teeth are located at any given moment.
A fall at (not so) soft play broke the matching front tooth. Another trip at home involving the tiled fireplace caused such a bash to the same two teeth that one is now grey. If I thought that looking at a chipped tooth was a painful reminder of my incompetence at parenting, it’s nothing compared to the grey snaggle-toothed beauty that smiles at me a thousand times a day. Of course, she has no knowledge of her compromised dental situation – it’s simply a mirror reflecting bright sparks of mama-guilt at me every time I see her.
Would I feel better if it hadn’t been her teeth every time? If she’d broken a finger the second time instead of another tooth? There seems to be something so horribly careless about the pattern, about us constantly failing to protect that one part of her body. It’s left me with such anxiety that I can’t bear to see her run along the pavement for fear of her tripping and the inevitable waterfall of blood that would emerge from her mouth. I’m constantly telling her to be careful, to slow down, to not climb on that. She has no fear at all – despite her numerous bumps and bruises – it doesn’t seem to slow her down. The last thing I want to do is dampen her free, wild, exploratory spirit but I really, really, wish that sometimes she wouldn’t run teeth first at everything.
I am well aware that I’m not a perfect parent I just didn’t think that there would be a physical representation of it staring me in the face every day. She’ll lose those baby teeth and when her perfect big teeth come through I’m sure I’ll forget the guilt but until then, I’m so sad that I managed to break my daughter so irreparably.