STFU Parents: The Obsessive Documentation Of Children’s Teeth

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Sometimes I spot weird trends in my submissions folder, and today’s column is about one such trend: teeth. Now, I understand the significance of teeth, because I indeed have a set myself, and while I don’t remember my baby teeth coming in, I certainly remember the joy of losing them and receiving a quarter from the Tooth Fairy. (I think that quarter has turned into a twenty dollar bill by today’s standards!) So in theory I suppose I can relate to parents who are excited by their babies’ teeth coming in, or just plain frustrated by the process of teething. But strangely, that’s not what most of the submissions I receive that are related to teeth are about. Some of them are, of course, but it turns out the fascination goes a bit deeper than that, and it kind of freaks me out.

My parents were never the types to hold onto things or chronicle events like the “Facebook parents” of today. When my brother broke his arm, no one wasted a roll of 35mm film on photos of his arm getting cast, or even of the cast itself after his friends signed it. When I got my wisdom teeth out, my mother was by my side the whole time, but never with a camera. It’s funny how each time I receive a new photo submission of something like a surgical procedure or a knee scrape, my first instinct says, “Well, we are in the age of digital technology. I guess parents want to remember these things?” but my second instinct says, “This is crazy. My parents didn’t do this to me, and I don’t understand why parents today are doing it to their kids.” I really do want to give “modern” parents the benefit of the doubt when they photograph – or rather, document – their children’s lives and put the pictures on Facebook, but I just can’t. At least, not in the case of events related to their teeth.

Here are a few examples of what I mean:

1. The Dentist’s Chair

This is a good example of the battle between my instincts as described above. On the one hand, I can understand why a mother would take a picture of her daughter’s first trip to the dentist (which I’m not sure this is). But on the other, I don’t get why it needs to be posted to Facebook. And what happened to the cute “kid smiling as she stands by the door of the dentist” picture? This one seems oddly invasive and almost creepy, like it was taken with a hidden camera. “SMILE! You’re on Candid Camera: Doctor’s Office Edition!”

2. First Teeth

Pardon my French, but why the hell does this woman need to shove a camera (and her giant fingers) into her kid’s face like this? If it was simply because she had an obsessive need to photograph her baby’s first teeth coming in for a baby book, I could halfway understand. Plus, parents put their hands in their children’s mouths all the time. There’s no disputing that! But this picture was taken with a cell phone with the intention of posting to Facebook, and that just doesn’t feel right to me. Leave your kid’s mouth alone and find another way to get attention, Griselda.

3. First Lost Tooth

A caption like, “It’s out!!!” can only mean one thing: Tracie has been meticulously tracking the progress of this loose tooth from the moment her kid first wiggled it with her tongue. But did she really have to snap this picture of the tooth freshly out, with the blood and the crying and whatnot? I know you can’t see the look in this child’s eyes, but trust me, it was more “alarmist” than it was “totally psyched.” My recommendation would be to let the child get to the “totally psyched” stage, and then take a picture. But then, I’m no professional documentarian. Or, documom, as I’m inclined to call Tracie.

4. Accidents

It was embarrassing enough to fall down as a kid and get hurt, but what if your mom had taken pictures of all of your physical damage and then showcased it as a Wall Photo on the internet? Man, that would suck. And yet parents do it all the time! Obviously B. here is a little too young, and a little too drugged out on morphine, to be upset about much, but there may come a day when he stumbles upon this picture and asks, “Hey, Mom, why did you parade my cracked tooth around the internet like I was a sideshow act? That was weird of you.” At which point, I would have to agree.