My son finally gave up his last two baby teeth. They didn't go without a fight, however. Now that he is rounding the bend toward his fifteenth year, and the potential of orthodontia looms, we all thought that it would be a good idea to make room for those great big incisors. Pulling those teeth was what he got in lieu of a Bar Mitzvah. Kind of a big cheat, culturally speaking.
It did make me think about all the babies that I have seen stop being babies. I have the creepy experience of having teenagers who I recently nursed through elementary school returning with little bundles of joy of their own. "He'll be coming here soon!" they enthuse. Too soon, too soon.
To diminish those feelings, I reflect instead on the baby that I knew best before my own son was born: my niece. Twenty-three years ago we welcomed her into the world and she quickly became the person that forced me to reckon with my own dwindling youth. I was somebody's uncle and I had responsibilities. At times the learning curve was steep: I let her tumble from the hearth at my mother's house onto her head. Years later I failed to make it to her high school graduation. Being a grown up has such incredible weight. I listened as my brother recalled a conversation with his daughter about World War Two and how her young mind was just beginning to accept such a terrible mess. I thought about what my life would be like when I had a child to share my world view with. It was my niece who e-mailed me first when Barack Obama won the election. She sent me a very tongue-in-cheek video on the night that Navy Seal Team Six caught up with Osama bin Laden. She is now imparting her world view to me. I remember when she was losing her baby teeth.
It won't be long before my teeth start falling out of my head, and my niece and my son are explaining things to me all over again. Happy Birthday, kiddo.