Does your child trust you enough to let them pull his teeth? This was a question Edric found himself asking two days ago when Elijah had him pull his tooth out. The tooth came out pretty quickly, but the process leading up to the actual tooth pulling was exhausting! Elijah vacillated back and forth between wanting Edric to pull it out and not wanting him to pull it. It was a 2-hour ordeal that began at 7 a.m. and didn’t end til 9 a.m. Praise God Edric was willing to delay going to work to wait on Elijah’s emotional readiness. But he nearly lost it at the beginning.
When Elijah showed Edric his loose tooth and Edric first offered to pull it out, Elijah refused. Even after much coaxing and assurance, Elijah still refused. He said, “I don’t want you to do it,” and ran to the other end of the table Edric was sitting at (to get away from him). Edric was tempted to react in irritation because he felt that Elijah was being overly dramatic about the whole thing. But he decided to understand where he was coming from and had a man-to-man with him. I love it when my husband does this. They went to the study room and talked.
Edric is very intentional about having “talks” with the boys when they are needed. That morning was one of those times when Edric had to help Elijah confront his fears. And he really went about it in a gentle manner (even though he was first inclined to say, “Don’t be a baby!” and, “I can’t believe you don’t trust me!”.)
Instead, he allowed Elijah to express his feelings. He asked Elijah why he was afraid. Elijah said, “People might make fun of me because I will have two missing teeth on top.” He also said, “I am scared that it’s going to hurt.” Edric and I both knew that the tooth was barely hanging on so it would come out fast. Nevertheless, Edric listened and acknowledged his feelings instead of dismissing them. He also addressed being worried about what people would think or say. Edric gave him a pep talk on what it means to have God-confidence. And to allay his fears about the pain, he said, “Do you trust Daddy? I will pull it out fast and you will barely feel a thing. I am not going to do something that will hurt you. But I won’t force you. I can pull it this morning or I can pull it later when I get home. You decide and then you tell me when you are ready.” In response, Elijah said, “What do you think I should do, dad?” And Edric said, “I think you should let me pull it out now so that it is over and done with.”
Edric let Elijah stay in the study room to think it over and it was about thirty minutes from that point before Elijah finally said, “Okay, dad, you can pull it now.” I felt like he was Isaac saying to Abraham, “Okay, dad, you can sacrifice me!” He was really wrestling with some big fears and he was on the verge of tears when he said this to Edric. It made me feel like crying. I realized that Elijah was totally terrified and he had spent the last thirty minutes mustering up the courage to say to Edric, “Okay, dad…” Even if he was really scared, he wanted to do what Edric suggested.
I saw him tremble as he opened his mouth for Edric to extract the tooth and when Edric finally grabbed a hold of the tooth, it came out fast. Elijah teared a little bit and then the whole thing was over. I put the tooth in a Ziploc bag so Elijah could look at it after.
Wow, it was quite a morning for all of us. And all for one tiny little tooth?!
But I realized something that day…it was not just about pulling teeth. It was about the importance of trust. Elijah trusted Edric so he let him pull his tooth out. But it could have swung the other way if Edric had not let his whole morning be interrupted, if he had lost his cool, and not taken the time to listen and talk to Elijah to alleviate his fears.
At the end of the day, I realized we cannot force our children to trust us. Trust is something that has to be cultivated. It is cultivated when we spend time with our kids, when we get to know them, and when we listen to them. It is cultivated when they feel that sharing who they are is safe to do, that they can be transparent with their emotions and not be criticized right away. It is cultivated when they know they are loved and that we want their ultimate good.