The Allegory of the Loose Tooth

The morning ritual was nearing it’s end as I stood at the bottom of the steps trying to project my voice without yelling “J5, are you ready to go?”  We weren’t running late…..yet, but we were getting close.

My boots were dirty from the morning chores I had just finished.  It had rained through the night and the dirt was wet and packed into the treads so I didn’t want to leave a trail up the carpeted stairs and I didn’t want to have to remove them only to put them back on.  It was a beautiful morning, and I must confess, part of the reason we were getting close to being late was my fault.  I couldn’t help just stand facing the east, casting my gaze from one scene to the next, taking it all in.

The air was cool, but not cold.  It smelled of fresh rain.  The air was still and the surroundings were quiet other than the the sounds of our horse, Apache, shuffling through her hay, Izzy and D.C., our dogs chasing dog food around the bottom of their bowls, and a few birds tweeting their morning stories.  I would have loved to have just wandered around slowly, hands in both pockets, letting my mind wonder and search as my senses basked in the beauty this morning held.  But school and work beckoned and it was time to keep moving.

As I stood with my left ear aimed intently on the noises upstairs trying to detect evidence of progress towards the door, my mind was already at work.  I was going through my to-do list for the day, thinking of contacts I needed to make, and also the preparations I needed to make for the scheduled meeting with the bank that afternoon.

Then my ear caught the familiar noises of Momma wrapping J5 in her coat, telling her that she loved her, and sending her down the stairs.  I wasn’t paying attention because it was the same ritual every morning.  I had stepped aside and was gathering my things so we could head towards the car.  Then I heard her say “Congratulations on your tooth!  That’s a big step in life.”  I had to chuckle to myself as I considered the minuscule impact a loose tooth would have on someone’s life.  “A big step in life” is not where I would file that experience.

J5 was excited to show us the loose tooth a half hour earlier as she sat warming by the morning fire.  We both huddled around as Momma checked all the others to see if it was alone or not.  Of course, Daddy had to make the usual offers to “rip that sucker out right now” as he reached for the Leatherman on his hip.

She had seen nieces and nephews with gaps in their grins, and heard their stories.  Her friends at school had shown off their trophies and spoken of Tooth Fairies and treasures under their pillows.  So it was quite visible, as shy as she can be when the spotlight is turned to her, her excitement that it was finally her turn.

It takes about 12 minutes to get from our door to the school.  I’m a little ashamed to say that I usually have to fight my mind’s instinct to kick into work mode and keep my attention on family during this drive each morning.  But I’ve recognized that commute time as an opportunity to spend some one-on-one time with my daughter and I try to visit with her about things in her life, fun stuff she’s done, friends at school, etc.  Often the response I get is “I don’t know” making it hard to carry any sort of conversation (the only consolation I have with this is that Momma gets the same response) but my hope is with patience and time it will open a line of communication that will be valuable for the future.

Another standard activity on our morning commute is I Spy.  Every week it get’s a bit harder because it is the same sights over and over again and I’m finding it hard to come up with unique ways to describe the air freshener that is hanging from my rear view mirror.  But this morning I was able to spy something that was “small, white, and wiggly”.  She laughed as she said “my tooth”.  I praised her for getting it on the first try and we talked a bit about when she discovered it and what her plans were with it in an attempt to have a chat.

After dropping her off at school I turned back onto the main road and headed to work.  Usually my mind immediately hits the switchboard allowing work to take over while family rests in the corner for a while.  But this morning I considered again my wife’s bestowal of a “big step in life” on the process of having a loose tooth.  I chuckled again as I compared what I considered “big steps” to my daughter’s tiny tooth.

Late last night I got word that the appraisal finally came in for the building we are in the process of purchasing.  This was a BIG STEP towards that success.  The number is good, and as long as the bank determines there are no mistakes, it should allow us to carry out the plans we have for renovations, improvements, and ultimate make-over, aiming this venture towards success.

The purchase of this building is what I would consider being “a big step in life”.  This business has been an 11+ year learning curve for me, but a huge part of our lives as well.  Not only does it occupy most of my time, much of my wife’s time, and some of my children’s time, it is our life-source as it provides for all that we have.  The purchase of this building will not only provide our business with a more secure home, with more space, a better location, and more amenities suited for our needs; it will also decrease our overhead allowing more of an investment back into the business.  We will be investing into our own equity and, finally, be able to diversify our income a bit more.  I could go on and on, but the benefits that will result from this “big step in life” are many.

Considering this step I couldn’t help but feel a bit of pride.  There would come with the building a sense of inclusion as I viewed other business leaders in the community who have found success in their ventures.  This would place me on the list of those that are business owners, property owners, and who have diversified to “having their hands in many pies”.

That’s when I made the connection and my love for my wife increased a little more.  I know I’ve said that she is an amazing woman many times, but she continues to prove it with each day.  A large part of that amazement comes from her talents related to motherhood.  She was able to look at that tooth with a humble perspective while I looked at the tooth with belittlement as I compared it to my “big boy life”.

Looking through J5’s eyes, this tooth was “a big step in life”.  Her life career consisted of being born, learning to walk, talk, eat, poop and pee on her own.  Then comes the step of school.  Suddenly she is thrown into this social sphere where life begins to form around her quickly.

I had to revert back to my school boy mind for a moment to really let it settle in:  As she stands with classmates and friends I can only imagine the status that comes from having a loose tooth.  I relate it to the first few classmates getting their driver’s licenses or the first few girls getting asked to the prom.  Suddenly you feel separated from the pack as more and more show up, trophy in hand, and a story to tell.  You can’t wait until your time comes when you can finally be apart of that pack.

Digging a little deeper than the superficial implications, I considered how she must view her age now.  Up until this point it was kids bigger and older than her showing off the gaps in their smile and how loose their tooth was as they let it wiggle and wobble far beyond the point where it would be easy to pull savoring every flick of the tongue on it.  That was years in the future until now.  She had made it and the fact that her tooth was loose was directly tied to the fact that she was years older now.

Finally, we consider what this means to us, her parents.  Of course, my dear wife jumped on this meaning first while I, the oblivious man, compared my daughter’s loose tooth to the six-figure transaction I was hoping to make in the coming days.

According to Colgate; the average child tends to have 20, what we would call, baby teeth.  This is distributed evenly with 10 on the top and 10 on the bottom.  Basically, they act as placeholders for the adult teeth that would soon come.  Notice the word ADULT.  As the baby teeth fall out they are replaced with the adult teeth and during that process they will gain another 12 teeth in most cases.

That’s right. What my wife was recognizing was a sure sign that our beautiful daughter was growing rapidly.  She was loosing her first BABY tooth.  This wasn’t the first haircut where you give it a month and it’s right back to where it was before you cut it.  This is something that once it’s out it’s replaced with the ADULT version.  That’s the version that will see High School and dating boys.  It will see tears of girl drama and boyfriend breakups.  It will shine in smiles of competition successes and (even against Dad’s best efforts) as a result of a first kiss.  It will go on to college and careers.  Marriage and family.  It is the beginning of a path that leads to adulthood.

My throat tightened as my heart skipped a beat.  It was “a big step in life”.  I understood that now and my vision was blurred as that progressive scene played out in my mind.  How could I selfishly set my life steps above my daughter’s?  They were both a big deal in the worlds we are living in.

It was another reality check.  I find myself gaining tunnel vision too often.  I get wrapped up in MY world, MY concerns, MY stresses, MY mountains and forget about the fact that there are other people living in the same world around me.  Taking it a step further, I tend to place MY “stuff” at a higher importance than others and this includes those closest to me.

I wish I could rewind a bit and look at the revelation J5 presented that morning again.  I would hope to see it through her eyes and also through my wife’s eyes in that moment versus gaining that perspective hours after.  Too much of my life is lived that way; with some hope that time travel would be discovered and I could fix all of the misplaced stepping stones over the years.

That loose tooth peeled  back my blinders allowing me to see what my teammates in life are experiencing as we battle together.  I had been so focused on placing that ball in the end zone because of MY duty to the team, resulting in MY success, adding a page to MY story……forgetting about MY team that I had recruited to help me get there.

We’ve all got a story and a team backing us up as we write that story.  Some teammates are only apart of it for a brief moment while others are ahead of us the entire drive making blocks and exerting as much effort or even more than we are with an eye on the end zone.  Whatever that moment is, I want to make a better effort to be in that moment with them rather than just as a character in the room.  There are so many successes by so many team members that total the eventual group success we are all hoping for.  I want to celebrate their successes as they celebrate mine.

I want to be apart of those “big steps in life” just as much as I want them to be apart of mine.


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