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On Saturday morning on our way to karate, my youngest son, C.J., commented that he enjoys riding in the car with me. He said that our rides together are the best place for conversations. My son has OCD and anxiety. We first began to notice these tendencies when he was seven, but they displayed themselves full force when we moved to a new house three years ago. The move put his whole world in a tailspin, and despite our best efforts with therapy and support at home, he descended into depression and became suicidal. My 12 year-old and I have been in the car often lately, as I have driven him back and forth to his partial hospital program and then to his partial day therapy for the past three weeks. Last Thursday, he finally transitioned back to full days at his regular school, the culmination of a long journey that began at the beginning of March. After two months of hospitals, medications, and intensive therapy, he is back to riding the bus to his home school. This Saturday after two days of bus rides, said he missed our time together in the car.
Often, we would talk about his worries and the strategies he was learning in therapy, but most of the time we just let our thoughts flow. We told stories about things we remembered from childhood, asked each other questions about our favorite water ice flavors, or blasted our favorite songs on the radio. We never ran out of things to say or do while zooming back and forth in the car together. You see, we have a lot in common, my son and I. I have anxiety too.
Today I was back behind the wheel with my boy, but this time we were headed to the oral surgeon. My son has hung on to his baby teeth too long, and two more had to go. After consulting with the doctor, he asked my son if he could just pull them out today instead of going under full anesthesia like last time. C.J. said, "Sure," as I felt panic rise up from my belly to my throat. I wanted to ask, "Are you sure? Will you be OK?" but as they ushered me out of the exam room, he smiled and said, "Let's do this!"
On our car ride back home, with gauze in his mouth, he chatted away about how awesome his teeth looked in the baggie he was holding. He asked if his lip was hanging down, because the Novocaine made it feel all heavy. Then, he realized that his other tooth was wiggly, and he pulled it out. Right then and there. Despite my warnings about the Novocaine still being in his system. Despite my worry about the pain he would feel when it wore off. Despite my flat out opposition to the notion that he should be wiggling any other teeth right now... with his dirty fingers, oh GERMS!
He did it anyway.
When the bile in my throat finally made its way back down where it belonged again, and we were sitting at a full stop, I looked at the third tooth. It was a baby molar, and it was flat (no roots left) and round. It had been ready to come out after all. He put it in the baggie with the other two, and continued to chat away.
When he first told me that he missed our car rides together, I worried that he may not have been quite ready to re-enter his school life. I worried that he should have more time, or if it was a sign that he needed more support. Today, after our tooth adventure, I know that he may have been feeling sentimental, but that is it. Despite all of my worries, despite my hang-ups- despite my anxiety, I realized today that maybe I have been hanging on to my baby for too long. He is ready to go.