Vita Brevis, Tooth Longa

September 20, 2012

Here’s the thing about being a working mom: I miss moments in my children’s lives. Moments like this one:

I wasn’t there for the loss of that tooth, which in the grand scheme doesn’t seem all that important, except for that it does. I didn’t get to witness the first moments of this proud, gap-toothed smile in person. I didn’t get to negotiate the rate of the Tooth Fairy. I didn’t get to tell her in person, in the moment that it most mattered, that she has the most beautiful smile in the world.

I wasn’t there, and that matters. But it couldn’t be avoided, and it’s not the kind of thing that I can plan against, because life generally doesn’t roll according to a set plan. I can make all the plans in the world – cancelling meetings to see recitals, adjusting schedules to be home for dinner, keeping weekends clear for ‘us’ time – but those plans can’t accommodate all the gloriously unpredictable moments that make up a childhood. The loss of a tooth. An escape from school. Mastering the bicycle. The words, the glances, the gestures, the movements — the significant moments that only happen in stretches of insignificant time. I can’t plan to be there for those. That I don’t have that power hurts my heart.

But the moment of the tooth – the Moment Of The Tooth – is still one that I can share. Even if I’m not there — perhaps (perhaps) even especially if I’m not there. Because it becomes a story for her to tell me, and for me to tell back to her, and for us to create together: how Emilia lost her tooth, how Emilia told Mommy about it, how Mommy so loved hearing Emilia’s story about How She Lost Her Tooth, how Mommy keeps the picture and cherishes it, how Mommy’s life is made so much brighter, especially when she’s so far away, by that brightest of smiles, how Mommy gets to relive the story of How She Lost Her Tooth when she’s back home and snuggling on the couch with The Girl Who Lost Her Tooth.

And so we create this story together, regardless of whether we’re together or apart, and that story endures, and that, I think, is the narrative of love.



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    Molly Logan Anderson September 20, 2012 at 5:02 pm

    I just love this. Captures how I often feel, exactly.

    Kerrie @ Family Food and Travel September 20, 2012 at 6:21 pm

    A beautiful post. An anthem for all of us working moms.


    Better Living Through Chaos September 20, 2012 at 7:22 pm

    Beautiful smile, beautiful writing. And … I was a SAHM when my kids lost their teeth, and half the time they lost them when they were in school, and I missed the whole thing anyway. They brought it home in a little plastic treasure chest from the nurse. Then they would tell me the story.

    Maggie S. September 21, 2012 at 8:09 am

    I was a first grade teacher before I got promoted to SAHM. Falling teeth made me gag. I have twins, so one year, the Tooth Fairy cut us off due to excessive claims. Those are some stories.

    Your story is your story. It’s good to love it.

    Dana Britt September 21, 2012 at 10:54 am

    First, that is quite possibly one of the most adorable little faces E-V-E-R!

    Secondly, I so hope you plan to let your girl read this post someday…so much love.


    Laurie September 21, 2012 at 11:52 am

    I hate missing important moments in their life, but I guess it’s a good reminder to us when we miss things like first teeth falling out (my oldest was at school for that moment) that there are so many things coming for them that we simply don’t get to be a part of, except to be the listener who hears the story and supports the kid. I didn’t take my oldest to school this year, for his first day of middle school, because it just didn’t work out. And I felt sick all day wishing I’d gone, but you know what, it was the best and right choice for all of us. You might miss things because of work, but if you had different work, or didn’t work, you’d still miss things, but you might not appreciate the stories as much as you do now :)

    Ian Hancock September 21, 2012 at 1:24 pm

    Beautiful post! I love the idea of her being able to create those memories with you through her telling you her adventures. Even though I work from home now, I know that I won’t be able to be there for everything. Your perspective is just the right way to look at events happening around us. It gives the opportunity to create conversation and build relationships that way. That is really powerful. Thank you! ~ Ian, founder at iWishforapp

    maman September 23, 2012 at 7:03 pm

    I missed my oldest losing her first tooth. She was at school. These things are going to happen, it is important not to beat yourself up over it.

    Angi September 24, 2012 at 9:57 am

    Simply beautiful. Being a divorced mom, I miss a lot of things. But we have our stories, too…and there’s nothing more amazing than the power of love and a little technology to keep us connected even when we’re not together. <3

    Erin September 24, 2012 at 9:22 pm

    Perfectly said. Thanks for being raw and real and honest.

    Anna September 25, 2012 at 8:15 am

    What matters most is you are there for her every chance you can possibly get. She wont remember that you werent there for her first lost tooth, she WILL remember how excited she was to tell you about it.

    What a cutie.

    Laura September 25, 2012 at 8:18 am

    oh I love your definition of the narrative of love!…our daughter just lost her two first teeth as well (and swallowed them both, might I add). The first one she lost after much (MUCH) fanfare just days after we moved overseas and away from my parents…the doting grandparents seriously asked me if I would be looking for the tooth when it came out the other end, because (I think) they were THAT heartbroken to miss this rite of passage. No, even as moms, we can’t control things, but also…wouldn’t we miss so much of the crazy good stuff if we could?

    Modern Girl September 25, 2012 at 10:30 pm

    I just started reading your blog and I find it truly amazing to see how easily and clearly you are able to convey feelings with words.
    I particularly loved this post because it felt real, and I felt “known”. I, too, find it difficult sometimes to forgive myself for things that are out of my control. But that is our world. No one can expect us to be mothers, wives, sisters, providers, cooks … etc … and never miss out on something here and there.
    Awesome picture :)

    Carlie Dearborn September 26, 2012 at 2:40 pm

    What a beautiful daughter you have. I missed this experience as well on my first one, but I was there when my sons fell out. It really is the little moments like that that make you love being a mother. Thank you for sharing.

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