My six-month-old grandson, Lincoln, is trying valiantly to cut his first tooth. His parents would tell you he’s been slobbering and chewing anything that fits in his mouth for weeks. This isn’t their first “teething rodeo.” Big brother, Clayton, provided them with the total experience. Navigating twists and turns of similar circumstances is often easier. “Been there and done that” can have benefits. When life produces scary, uncharted paths, we can draw on our successful experiences.
While out walking this week, heart-heavy about recent events, I found myself sitting at the head table of my own pity party. I was consumed with the recent events in our nation’s capital, the daily death toll from COVID-19 topped 4000, and I was unabashedly jealous and frustrated because I had not experienced hugs from my kids and grandkids for five months. My brain was swimming in a soupy cauldron of worry and anxiety, seasoned with a generous helping of exasperation. As I stomped a little harder on my path, I pulled my phone out, looked down, and saw Lincoln pictured as my screen saver. Complete with a dinosaur hat, sporting a sweet, toothless grin, the image made me smile. Chubby, dimpled hands grasping the toy he chewed on provided a way to relieve pain from swollen, inflamed gums.
Not one to ignore analogies, I concluded one could draw parallels between teething and life events. I reasoned the solution hinged on some appropriate tools. Stay with me. My rationale for the argument follows:
- Cutting teeth is a milestone in development. What parent hasn’t been excited to see their child’s first tooth appear and grace an already adorable smile? Life consists of milestones. Some seem far off, only a hazy idea. We are shocked as they arrive quicker than ever imagined. Many are joyful, and we can’t wait to experience them. Some are sad and gut-wrenching.
- Pain is unavoidable in life. Teething is a physical symptom. Other manifestations can hurt with the same intensity. We need help from others to relieve our pain.
- Nurturing is necessary. Medicine, tender loving care, kind words, a gentle touch—all go a long way in soothing discomfort, whether physical or emotional.
- Misery loves company. When a child is in pain, we have ways to relieve it. We hold them and dry their tears, give them the appropriate medicine, or provide something to chew on. As adults, resisting the temptation to be miserable in our circumstances involves a conscious effort. Looking for the signs of hope afforded us, we need to lean on those who would offer help. We all have known those who wore a bad mood like a badge of honor. Attempts to suffer in silence are hard to disguise.
- Interrupted plans are inevitable. Teething can definitely ruin a baby’s day (and mom might feel that way too). Baby can’t be expected to “deal with it.” When plans are deferred, we can choose to be persnickety (or downright out of sorts). Practicing patience when our plans and desires take an unplanned detour is the goal. Believe me; I’m preaching to myself when I make that statement.
I hope 2021 brings much joy to you. We know it won’t be without its challenges. Just remember, even though your circumstances might be uncomfortable or downright painful, we have ways to help each other.