Think about the thing that scares you most. For some it may be snakes, others clowns, and for me it’s heights. But for most of us we have never experienced anything negative in our lives when it comes to those fears. You haven’t been bitten by a snake, a clown has never dragged you into a sewer grate, nor have I ever fallen from a high altitude. Yet, we are still petrified by these things just the same. My son is learning this lesson for the first time.

It began in early December when my five-year-old’s bottom tooth started to move slightly. He had been around older kids who had lost their teeth and understood it was a possibility, but for it to happen to him was something that was fascinating and scary at the same time. He continued to ask when it would come out, and we told him we weren’t sure but that it would be far more wiggly when the time came.

I found I couldn’t remember losing my first tooth but certainly remember the latter ones and how my mother, Millie Pete, would handle the situation. String and a door knob. One time when my tooth was tethered to the string, she explained she was going to tie the other end to the knob and simply yanked it out herself before I knew what had happened. I began to wonder if I would have to do the same.

On New Year’s Eve while he was at Katie’s house, Mr. Carter was eating Cheetos and realized during a bite that his tooth had come out. Traumatized by the experience he hid the tooth in the couch before Katie realized what happened. But this wasn’t the bigger fear that awaited him.

Once he was over the sudden change, he was proud to show everyone where his tooth had come out. The Tooth Fairy gave him a roll of pennies and he enjoyed playing with the new space in his gum. However, one morning he woke up crying. I had to ask him several times through his sobs what it was that had upset him so, assuming he had had a bad dream.

“I’m scared my tooth is going to come in today,” he wept.

Mr. Carter imagined the new tooth would shoot up in his mouth in an instant, causing a great deal of pain. I tried to explain to him through his tears that it didn’t work that way, that he would become impatient with the slowly emerging tooth. I said I understood his fear since he was too young to remember how his original teeth came in and this would be a new experience for him.

And that doesn’t go away, does it? Even as adults we tend to assume the worst when it comes to change in our lives, and that’s why we would rather remain in a bad situation to avoid the process of starting a new, better one. He will soon learn his fears were unwarranted, but for many of us we never face what bothers us most and get over them. Learning from my son, I realize that no fear I have is as bad as what would actually happen if I would simply drop my defensive stance and allow life to naturally take place.

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