Thursday, February 25, 2010

Right on time

Self-portrait by Natalie

The other night, during the name standoff, Natalie opened her mouth to let out a feeble cry of frustration. And I caught a glimpse of something in her mouth, behind her teeth.

"Hang on, honey. Open your mouth real wide."

She obliged and I could see that what I'd mistook for food was a giant horse tooth pushing its way through the gum behind her lower front teeth.

"You have a grownup tooth coming in! And a loose tooth, too! Give me your finger, so you can feel it."

Her eyes went wide. And then we were back to the matter at hand: her name in exchange for the Tiana dress.

I've been thinking a lot about that tooth. For a few months now, as her classmates show up at school with gaps in their smiles, she asks: "Mama, when my teeth come out?"

I've told her that it's probably soon. That it's different for everyone.

Natalie has always lagged behind in the most obvious of milestones: sitting up, crawling, standing and walking. And there's her speech, which she still works on twice a week with a therapist. But she is clever and inquisitive, intuitive and funny. And she reads and writes as well - if not better than - her peers.

All along, as I fattened her up with Boost, drove her to and attended countless physical, occupational and speech therapy appointments, argued with her school to enroll her in kindergarten rather than repeating preschool, my goal was this: for her to enter first grade with all the trappings of a typical 6-year-old.

Due in large part to her incredible kindergarten teacher, Natalie has become more confident, more comfortable in taking risks. I no longer need to serve as interpreter when she's talking to our friends.

And now, the tooth. A great big ungainly tooth, just like the other kids.

It feels so nice to be right on time.

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