Nov 8, 2009
There it was right before me: a two-foot long, about a quarter-inch wide, impenetrable dribble from a babe’s mouth. I was completely mesmerised. As the babe moved, the elastic dribble followed. It never broke. At one point, another little one entered the dribble zone, only to be ricocheted backwards when his arm touched the impervious, springy saliva.
I recognised it, the look of wanting to gum something to mere mash in order to ease the pain of a surfacing entity made of pulp, dentin and enamel, most commonly referred to as the tooth. My son had this look, and I’ve seen it countless times on the faces of other little ones.
In one of my son’s music classes, come instrument time, the teething tots were more interested in gnawing on the maracas, tambourines and drumsticks than in singing about an incy wincy spider or a twinkling little star. I witnessed intricate webs of drool as one baby would have a go at the drumstick, completely saturate it and then pass it on to his pal next to him to have a nibble, who would then pass it to the little princess across from him. By the time the fifth munchkin had a chance to chomp on it, not only were babies getting caught in the web, but the stick seemed to be sheltered in its own slobber cocoon.It’s a serious matter for parents and carers, this teething stuff, consisting of shrieks of the heart-stopping variety during the night, moodiness and clinginess throughout the day (or weeks or months), rashes, and an increase in laundry due to soaked bibs, shirts and blankets and spilled pink and purple medicines.
It is such a serious matter, I was nearly reported to Child Protection Services. While attempting to give my son the infamous Ashton and Parsons teething powder to ease his pain, he slapped the sachet out of my hand, causing the powder to fly everywhere, including all over my face. When I showed up at a playgroup – not having looked in the mirror before leaving the flat – with white stuff all over my nose and mouth, my fellow mums took me aside and said we needed to talk.
And talk we did. Once I made it clear that my drug of choice was sleep and not what they supposed it might be, the suggestions started rolling in. “If you want Enlai to sleep through the night while teething, you have no choice but to give him Calpol – and give the whole packet.” And then another friend chimed in, “Don’t forget the Metanium on his chin, cheeks and chest.” “I should be putting the same stuff I put on his bum on his face?” I asked. “It’s all about the barrier!” she responded. This friend replied in such a chipper tone that for a split second – in my sleep-deprived, frustrated state – I contemplated throwing Enlai’s teething ring at her. I know violence is never the answer, but at the time, I was the parent of a teething baby.
I had other suggestions from friends and family, all of which I tried. If someone told me that standing on my head while placing a feather boa on my feet and simultaneously doing some Gregorian chanting would’ve solved the teething dilemma, I would’ve gladly done it – 100 times a day, if necessary. One friend recommended using one of those terry cloth rabbit ears thingamajigs, where you place your own middle and index fingers inside the terry cloth rabbit ear pockets and start massaging your little one’s gums. What both my friend and the packaging failed to mention was that once your two fingers are in your little darling’s mouth, he may assume that you are in fact giving him the chance to have the gnaw of his life and subsequently try to “gum” your fingers into non-existence.
Teething rings, rattles, blankets, beads, and keys didn’t seem to work for us. But, the suggestion to wet a washcloth, put it in the freezer and then let my little prince chew on it when it was nice and frosty worked wonders. Freezer companions ice cream and popsicles were always good standbys. He also enjoyed chewing on my clothing and on one occasion, took matters into his own mouth and decided the black foam handlebar on his buggy was just what he needed to alleviate the unrelenting hurt. He bit a big chunk out, and when I glanced at his mouth, it looked as though several ant colonies decided to set up home along his gums.
In a separate incident at the market, while my husband was grabbing a baguette, he decided to give Enlai a petit pain to relieve his throbbing chops. Enlai masticated most of the pain (no pun intended), and while we were in the queue, he handed the remaining mangled dough to my husband. My husband wrung it out as one would a wet cloth, and what flowed out was enough liquid to hydrate a small nation.
Where slobber is, bibs follow. With Enlai going through bibs like one Mr. Ramsay goes through expletives, I was left to my own devices when our washer/dryer broke down. I started cutting shirts to make bib bandanas. It was at this stage that my poor little drooling, would-be cowboy looked at me with those big eyes, as if to ask, “Is all this teething nonsense ever going to end?” I consulted my how-to-survive-the-first-year bible which indicated, in short, that the answer was yes. Yes, Virginia, there is an end to teething.