Losing your baby teeth changes everything. The cute spaces in your mouth give way to grown-up teeth, which you learn to call "permanent," because after all, you're not a baby anymore. They crowd like giants, ridged and daunting; they elbow their way in at oblique angles, fighting for prominence in your new adult mouth.
Of course, your jaw is still child-size, for a little while. It's a good thing the baby teeth don't fall out all at once ... it'll buy you some time. Because you're not quite sure how to fit them all in, these new grown-up pieces that swear they belong to you, even if it is only a "you" you haven't met yet.
So you play the child a little longer, and keep the rest a secret.
It's only loose. There's a little time.
Surprisingly, it takes ages for anyone to really notice you've grown up. You can get away with almost anything. You act silly. You play pretend.
And inside, the secret grows, like new teeth. The secret is, that something's changed; now you know that you're pretending. You're watching yourself play. You remember spreading out your arms to the music of Superman and feeling the wind as you flew ... it was real ... and now you're only pretending to fly.
You try to decide if you should feel shy about all this. Your smile changes, and as others notice, you close your lips more often, to protect it. Are you sure you want to grow up?
Then there are other new pieces too, like wanting sleepovers, getting your work done early, saving up your allowance for a new house, fixing your little brother's breakfast, worrying about whether your friends really want to play with you, finding your own style, or just wanting to talk.
The wind still feels just as good, doesn't it, even if you know you're only pretending to fly? Maybe these new strong teeth come with superpowers. They seem to know exactly who they are and where they want to be. They're like jigsaw pieces. They don't change their shape lightly, but you can twist them around until they fit. You can get a little help too, from your dentist father (because he'll always have superpowers), and from your woman mother (once she too, had to learn to look in the mirror with permanent teeth), and from time to time, a professional like an orthodontist (because you have lost your baby teeth, which means that you've learned that even your superhero father and your woman mother can't do everything). So twist by twist, you'll know how the pieces fit together, and you'll know who you are and who you want to be and that you belong. I hope you smile the whole way.
Photo note: The above pictures were taken by Arielle Voght, when [C] found her first loose tooth and I freaked out. A week or two later, this happened: