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Veteran parents argue you never stop worrying about your children, which makes one wonder how George and Barbara Bush get to sleep at night. I sense, too, that part of this ongoing parental worry comes from the insidious mind game older children can play on you by leaking dribs and drabs of “the real story” to you at their leisure regarding incidents long forgotten in the dim recesses of our addled parental minds.

My wife and I have just recently experienced this first hand. Our youngest son has a dead front tooth and needed a root canal. The dentist had dutifully mentioned this six months ago, and my wife was surprised to hear this when she brought in number three son for his check up. The dentist had made a huge mistake, you see, lo those six months ago. He hadn’t talked to my wife, nor had he left a message on the machine.

He talked to me at length about it, and I forgot to pass the information along. Oops. But, hey, a dead tooth is a dead tooth, right?

Beyond this incident being yet another way for my wife to remind me of my parental incompetence, it also resulted in our son confessing the real way in which he hurt his tooth. The original story had him telling us that he ran into a door. I, of course, do not recall this moment in our parenting past, but my wife remembers it and recalls wondering how he could have been so clumsy as to ram his front tooth into the door. Perhaps my lack of recall stems from the fact that my children have ground me down to the point where nothing they do surprises me anymore. Nothing.

In actuality, it seems the damage done to the tooth stemmed from an older brother hurling a rock in rage in his general direction and having the dumb luck to hit him squarely in the mouth. This incident occurred shortly after number three son had had braces installed on those precious teeth of his. As such, it appears sons number three and two had been able to put aside their differences long enough to realize this incident was not going to go over well with mom and dad. Number three son also thinks he might have swung a fist or two in the general direction of number two son, but the details are conveniently sketchy in his recollection of his role in the whole thing. Number two son off in college makes for a decidedly one-sided version of events.

Further evidence they realized the severity of the transgression stems from the fact that they sought advice and counsel from son number one in how to present the “facts” to us in as palatable a fashion as possible in hopes of avoiding the long arm of the mom law or, worse yet, dad law. Number one son apparently was quick to point out the truth was not going to work, and hence concocted the story of number three son running into the door. That number three son would agree to fall on his sword to save number two son’s skin I submit as ample evidence that he must have had some complicity on his side in the sequence of events resulting in a rock hitting him squarely in the mouth. In short, number three son must have realized he likely deserved it, and hence realized it was not as iron clad an opportunity to throw one of his brothers under the parental bus as he thought. I mean, what child passes up the opportunity to throw one of their siblings under the bus?

I thought of all this as I sat in the dentist’s office after having written a $700 check to cover the parts of the fees not covered by this alleged dental insurance benefit provided by the Oakmont School district. It’s a little too late to recoup the costs from number two son, particularly as we are searching the sofa cushions for the spare change to help educate the lad. Had we known the severity of the “bump” when it happened, would it have changed the ultimate outcome, which happens to be a dead front tooth, with the one next to it apparently on life support?

Given the years between the infraction and the truth, my wife and I can look back on it and laugh … sort of. It is the first time we, as parents, have had these childhood confessions of things about which our children had originally lied. We likewise realize there’s likely far more startling confessions to come, particularly about the teenage years. And this brought about the unusually rare occurrence of my wife and I being in parental agreement.

We don’t want to know.

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