Our youngest daughter, little Ella Boo, came up to me yesterday evening and confided, "Mama, I touched this tooth and it moves."
There was apprehension in those chocolate-hued eyes.
"That's good, Ella," I said, cheerfully. "That means it's loose - "
"And they're going to pull it out, and it's going to hurt and bleed a lot," interrupted my eldest boy, Berto, walking by on his way to the fridge.
I gave him a glare and waved a hand toward her sweet, scared little face.
"No, no," I said, bending down. "Just a little. And it comes out on it's own and then the tooth fairy brings you a two dollar bill....if the US government still makes two dollar bills. If not, she'll bring you something else...like two separate dollar bills."
Talk of the tooth fairy bearing gifts didn't distract my little daughter. She still looked at me with wide eyes, and her lips began to tremble.
"Here, let me see."
I felt her teeth and couldn't find the defector at first, but at last I felt it shift. "Yep. It's loose."
Her fears had been confirmed. Her eyes welled up, and she ducked her head and rubbed her hands against her flushed face. I pulled her to me for a hug and a kiss.
"Oh, honey...you don't need to be scared. It means you're a big kid. You're growing up. That's what's supposed to happen. It's exciting."
But a little sad for Mama. When I let go, my son walked by and rubbed her curly, golden-brown head in a comforting, if brief, gesture. He and big sister Ana eagerly tried showing little sis their mouths full of mismatched teeth. Berto found a molar he's banking on. Ella saw a front tooth of Ana's that is only half through and so far shorter than the rest.
Then Papa came out and heard the news. He tested the teeth, found two loose actually, and reacted matter-of-factly. I pointed to Ella's face.
"She's scared, honey."
"I figured out that it's loose and that it hurts," she murmured.
"Oh, but you don't need to be scared!" he said, scooping her up. She was relieved to find herself in Papa's arms and close to his calm face, and he talked to her happily and explained that it hurt because a new tooth was pushing up.
As I watched them I thought of how my husband had reacted when Berto lost his first tooth five years ago.
My husband is the general, you see, managing the kids' medication when they're ill, managing the environment around our son to the best of his ability because of his severe allergies. But when Berto lost his tooth, there was blood and a little pain, but there was nothing really to manage. My Man was at loose ends, and for once things affected him more than me.
I remember him sitting wide-eyed at the dining room table, looking in dazed fashion at the tooth and saying, "I feel like I should be doing something, but I don't know what to do."
Just as I felt when I saw Berto, after many nights' attempts, sleeping in his big boy bed that first time, just as I have felt at a dozen such moments for each of our four kids - that is how my Man looked when Berto lost his first tooth. He had the sudden shocking realization that hits all parents at some juncture: My child is really growing up.
Last night he said to Ella, "You don't need to cry about it. You're supposed to be excited, and Mama and Papa are supposed to cry about it. Because that means our Ella is a big girl now."
As he set her down, I looked at him and gave him a weak smile in return for his beam. I knew he was right about my tears, at least.
This is one of those moments. Our little girl is growing up.