The Curse of the Black Spot

The other night Ryan was finishing his grilled cheese sandwich when he suddenly started complaining, “Get the black spot out of my mouth!”

My first instinct was that there was a tiny burnt fleck on the bread that had somehow offended his sensibilities (I can’t even describe what happens if a corner of his sandwich gets contaminated by the ranch dressing he uses as dip for his carrots). I pretended to wipe an imaginary spot off his tongue and told him he was fine.

But he wasn’t fine.  

“Aaaagh, get the black spot out of my mouth!”

I looked in his mouth – saw nothing.

“Where’s the spot, baby?”

“It’s in my mouth!”

Right. Thanks.

I offered him some juice to wash the black spot away. It didn’t help.

Then I tried fishing for information. Did the black spot taste yucky? Did it hurt?

“It’s in my mouth!”

I thought back to a conversation I had had with a friend, in which she recounted how her three-year-old had come home from preschool and asked her, “Mommy, you’d never let anyone hurt me, would you?” and had proceeded to answer a battery of questions so that her mother understood exactly why she was upset (the girl got scared when a teacher yelled at her). I thought back to my sense of awe that my friend could have that five-minute conversation with her young daughter and could get right to the business of figuring out what to do about the situation at hand.

I held out two hands. “Does the black spot taste yucky,” I asked, indicating my left hand, “or does it hurt?” I indicated with my right. He ignored both choices and started shrieking.

I called my dad. My dad has an impressive ability to approach problems from… unusual perspectives, getting inside the head of someone working with atypical logic.

I put Ryan on speaker phone with his grandpa. Ryan wailed about the Black Spot; Grandpa commiserated with him. “I think what you have to do,” my dad offered sagely, “is to drink some milk. You see, the milk is white, and the white milk will cancel out the black spot.”

This sounded good. Ryan agreed to try it.

It didn’t help.

Ryan was getting frantic about getting the Black Spot out of his mouth.

I thought of one last trick: if the Black Spot was a bad taste, then eating a cookie should fix everything. Ryan took one bite of a gluten-free Oreo-type thing and cried harder than ever. “Oh, it didn’t WORK! I’ve tried EVERYTHING!!!” he wailed.

There must be an organic reason for all this, I realized. I stuck a flashlight in his mouth and looked around.


The Black Spot, it turns out, is code for Four-molars-are-all-cutting-through-at-the-same-time-and-my-mouth-hurts. It only took me an hour to figure that out.

Antidote for Black Spot: Advil and an old toothbrush to chomp on.
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Meredith Zolty
My kid is great! And he has PDD-NOS and ADHD (e-i-e-i-o). The apple doesn't fall far from the tree. Watch us navigate the world of neurodiversity at
Meredith Zolty


My kid is great! And he has PDD-NOS and ADHD (e-i-e-i-o). The apple doesn't fall far from the tree. Watch us navigate the world of neurodiversity at

0 thoughts on “The Curse of the Black Spot

  • February 27, 2012 at 8:29 pm

    Thank you for this.  I needed a good little chuckle.  I can’t imagine how frustrating that must have been, but you recounted it in a very entertaining fashion.

  • February 24, 2012 at 1:28 pm

    Great example of how to deal with communication in the seeming lack of it.

    Great post.


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