When he was 6 months old, my first child, Sam, began to drool. He drooled and drooled and drooled -- a veritable Niagara of saliva. As new parents, my husband, Haywood, and I had no idea what was going on but decided it must be okay because Sam looked perfectly happy. In fact, it was when he laughed out loud one day that we figured it out: Shimmering among the spit bubbles was the pearly white tip of his very first tooth.
"Well, that was easy," Haywood said. "Why does everybody make such a big deal about teething?"
Five years later, we found out. Henry, our second son, reached the ripe old age of 11 months without his mouth becoming any damper than usual. Then, suddenly, he started pulling at his ears and crying inconsolably for no apparent reason. The only thing that calmed him was ibuprofen and hours spent in my arms. I took him to the pediatrician three times in ten days, sure he had an ear infection. In each case we were informed that his ears were clear.
"He's teething," the doctor decided at our third visit, pointing out poor Henry's red, swollen gums. "And he's having a really hard time of it because several teeth are moving at once."
Sure enough, a couple of mornings later, Henry smiled for the first time in days and revealed not one but four perfect little teeth. What had taken Sam five months to accomplish with no apparent distress, Henry had suffered over two grueling weeks.
Margaret Renkl is a Parenting contributing editor.