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Emily Morrison Emily Morrison
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Ice pops, root canals and face plants

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Middle children are neat people. For most of their childhood, they fly underneath the radar. They are stealth bombers whose only mission in life is to remain undetected. This may sound callous to those of you middle children whose only mission was to receive more attention. Stereotypically, this is a middle child's biggest gripe; however, all of the middle children I've ever met have said the opposite. They enjoyed a break from the bright parental spotlight more chances to eat cookies behind the couch, chew gum while falling asleep, and give your brother a new hairdo that will have kids calling him 'Spike.' 

My middle child, Meg, is no exception. She instinctively shies away from drawing too much attention to herself (all the better to accomplish her secret spy missions). These missions are so secret I'm still not sure what they entail, but I'm positive they involve writing down every word I say when I'm in another room. Because of this tendency to keep a low profile, I knew Meg must be in some serious pain when she began holding onto her cheek and saying, 'My tooth hurrrts.' (It's hard to transcribe Meg's Mainer accent, but that's an approximation of her 'r' sound.)

When I asked her when the pain started she informed me, 'Right after I chewed my ice pop yesterday afternoon.' Unfamiliar with ice pops, I assumed she was talking about a popsicle. Maybe she had a cavity and the pain was from a hole in her tooth. It only takes a minute or two for Meg to sniff out and deplete any hidden stash of candy within a mile radius. She also tends to hoard whatever chocolate she finds, so a cavity was not out of the question. 

'Mom, I didn't eat a popsicle. I ate an icicle. An ice pop is an icicle with snow on top. It's delicious!' she said. Apparently, while in the middle of my run and my husband's turn watching the kids, Meg and her brother chewed some 'ice pops' for their pre-dinner appetizer. Shortly after their first course of icy hors-de-houvres, her tooth started to hurt. Though I could blame my husband's hands off approach to all outdoor pursuits, it could have happened to anybody. Hey, I'm just as likely to assume Meg's making a pretty snow angel out front rather than a doggie dropping sundae outback. We just happen to chronically underestimate her ability to create big trouble in little China.

Two dentist visits and one root canal later (they call it a pulpotomy if it's on a baby tooth) we discovered Meg's tooth pain didn't come from the ice pop. It came from a dead tooth. For some reason, she's prone to tooth decay. Luckily, we have a fabulous dentist who never makes me feel like a failure as a mother when one of my children has a dental issue. My Catholic roots have instilled me with some level of guilt for any of my children's shortcomings, so a dentist who doesn't insinuate that all of my children's teeth issues are my fault is a huge breakthrough (thank you, Juan Aponte). 

Here's where Meg showed her true middle child grit. The novocain needle brought back epidural flashbacks, and it seemed like the doctor was numbing her gums for a full minute. Not only did she not bat an eye, she kept her mouth open and let it happen, cap'n. When he was through numbing, we needed to switch rooms for her procedure. Again, flying beneath the radar, we all walked to the next room and Meg headed out to the lobby with her bib on. She thought she was all done, God bless her.

When we told her she was just getting started, she remained unfazed. She settled into her seat like a man about to watch some Sunday afternoon football in his favorite lazy boy recliner. I asked Dr. Aponte, 'Do must children react like this?' My older daughter literally needs a horse tranquilizer before anyone can approach her mouth with a needle, so Meg's nonplussed attitude surprised me. He said, 'No. It doesn't happen a lot. Kids have to be very relaxed and very trusting. It also depends on how you phrase what you're doing. If you say, 'You're going to feel a little coldness,' then that's what they feel. They will believe what you tell them they are experiencing.' Half-joking, I asked him if being oblivious had anything to do with it, but he rejected that theory.

The truth is, like most children (youngest, oldest or middle,) Meg has an innate trust that everything will be OK. She has faith that life may be painful every now and then, but she can take it. It'll all work out in the end. Today, I watched her run around her first indoor soccer match and that girl moved like a freight train. She took a face plant within the first 10 minutes of her first game, a ball to the face two minutes later, and then her sister tripped her in the next match (accidentally). Not only did she run faster than I have ever seen her run, she sweat buckets, turned bright red and kept running. She never complained or said, 'This is too hard.' In fact, when I cheered her on from the sidelines she said, 'Mumma, stop yelling my name. It's embarrassin.''  

This is what I mean. No root canal, no face plant or floor burn can stop her. When I think about it, this is what I love most about her. She may not want to call attention to herself, but how can anyone not notice her? Her strength is my inspiration.


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