Life lessons from a broken tooth

IMG_20160623_143119“There are consequences when you don’t listen.”

I tell my girls this simple, non-threatening phrase at least 10 times every day. Most days, it amounts to nothing more than hot air—they’re being idiots, I utter my mantra, they ignore me, and I take away a Shopkin for 24 (or sometimes 72) hours. Some days, however, I utter the phrase and end up looking like the family travel version of Nostradamus.

We had one of those latter experiences last week in New York City. L had been a bit sloppy all day, and by the afternoon, she was having trouble standing on two feet. By the time we returned to our hotel, she was quite literally jumping off the walls. In flip-flops.

I told her about the consequences and asked her to stop. She didn’t. I repeated my line about consequences and asked her to stop again. She grunted at me. When I mentioned the consequences and asked her to stop a third time, I made sure my tone was even kinder and sweeter than before.

That’s when she slipped, fell face-down on the marble floor of the hotel lobby, and broke off a triangular chunk of her left front (grown-up) tooth.

At the moment of impact, everybody froze. Powerwoman was worried L had hit her head. R was worried she was going to get blamed. I was just sort of dumbfounded. Seconds later, L started crying in a way I’m not sure I’ve heard her cry before. My wife and I tried our best to stay calm, comforting our eldest while we waited for the gushing blood, convinced we were going to have to hop in a cab and rush the kid to a pediatric dentist right then and there. But the blood never came.

In fact, after about three minutes, L quieted down, dried her eyes, and said she felt fine. Just like that, the crisis had passed. The only lasting effect: My kid looked (and still looks) like a (very adorable) pirate.

Thankfully, as we found out later, it was a clean crack—though she lost about half of the tooth, somehow the crack missed the pulp chamber (that’s the part where the nerves are; the part that REALLY hurts if you expose it). Yes, she’ll need reconstructive work on the tooth later this summer. She’ll probably also get a crown on that tooth at some point in her 20s and have it for the rest of her life.

Another thing L will take away: A classic example of those consequences when you don’t listen.

Personally, I consider this the ultimate souvenir. My friend (and kick-ass travel guru) Rachel Rudwall has this theory that everything in life is either a great experience or a great story down the road. I’d say my daughter’s tooth adventures in New York check both of those boxes. For all of us involved.

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