Keeping Things In Perspective

The laughter of a dozen children splashing in the water was like background music to my mother soul. As I sat on the back deck that overlooked the lake, I could keep an eye on my kids and talk with the other parents—a perfect way to relax on a humid summer evening.

The shout of “Marco” and the responding “Polo” wafted over the water. And I smiled as my four year old daughter attempted to join the big kids in their game.

Suddenly, quiet descended over the group of children, and their water tag came to a halt.

My body tensed, and I did a quick head count, making sure I could see all five of my children. One of my 11 year old twins stood with a hand over her mouth. The other kids quickly surrounded her. When she pushed her way through them and waded to the shore, my heart stuttered with a silent uh-oh.

I jumped up and raced to her, cringing with each step. Did she have a busted lip? A cut? A bruise?

Her big brown eyes gazed at me with confusion and horror.

“What happened?” I asked, not sure I really wanted to know.

She took her hand away and that’s when I saw it.

Half of her top front tooth was missing.

I could only stare, speechless. Her permanent tooth. Cracked. Missing.

One thought reverberated through my head, “She’ll have to live the rest of her life, all 80 plus years, with a broken tooth. The rest of her life. The rest of her life.” My beautiful daughter, on the brink of her insecure teenage years, would have a glaring black gap in her pretty smile.

I was devastated. Later at home, after the kids were in bed, I sat with my husband in stunned silence and wanted to cry. Why her? And why a tooth? Why couldn’t it have been a split lip instead? At least that would have healed.

Gravely, my husband finally said, “At least the dentist will be able to fix it. And we can be grateful it wasn’t anything worse.”

And that’s when I realized how easy it is to lose perspective. Through a tight throat I said, “If I’m a basket-case with a broken tooth, I’d hate to see myself if something worse happened to one of the kids.”

We’re bound to have those broken-tooth moments in life and in writing—those times when it feels like the world is ending, but in reality we’ve just hit a bump in the road. Usually, after we’ve had the chance to put the situation in perspective, we realize that the problem isn’t so big, that maybe it’s fixable, and that it could have been so much worse . . . after all what’s a broken tooth compared to a drowning?

I’m a passionate person. I feel things deeply. It’s a great quality to have as a writer because I can transfuse those emotions into my stories. It’s only healthy and right for all of us to experience our emotions, not to ignore them or gloss over them. We can embrace our disappointments, fears, and frustrations.

But . . . I’m learning that it’s also healthy to keep things in perspective. When we face another rejection, harsh criticism, or difficult situation, we can allow ourselves to feel the pain. But then we should eventually tell ourselves, “I can be grateful it wasn’t anything worse.”

Perspective. When we keep things in perspective, we learn to be more grateful for what we’re given, instead of focusing on what we’re missing.

How about you? Have you had any broken-tooth moments, when at the situation looked horrible, but in hindsight it wasn’t so bad? And what are you most grateful for?

(For all my American readers, have a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday! Due to the holiday, there will be no Friday post this week.)

*This post originally appeared on a guest post I did for Inkwell Inspirations.


  1. Well, do I have a story for you.

    I've had a HUGE broken tooth moment. Literally. Got smacked in the mouth with a golf ball (a line drive straight at my face). Everybody there said it sounded like a ball smacking into a tree. It was that loud. Obviously, it took me to the ground. Broke my jaw so that my upper teeth were in the back of my mouth (but somehow still in my jaw). Busted a hole straight through my upper lip (hence, the scar). Chipped a perfect half-golf ball shape in my lower teeth. 40 stitches. A wired jaw. Multiple root canals. It wasn't pretty Jody. Not pretty at all.

    BUT - once they shot morphine in my butt, I was able to very easily put it all in perspective. :) No seriously. It could have hit me in the eye and I'd be blind. It could have hit me in the temple and I'd be.....well, you know.

    Life is definitely all about pespective.

    Yikes. How's that for a Wednesday morning story?

  2. See, Katie, it's in hearing stories like yours that really help me to keep one little chipped tooth in perspective! I won't ask how many teeth you had to have filled in. Yikes, is right!

    Have a great Thanksgiving! :-)

  3. Katie, that's awful! But how you described the relief of morphine made me laugh.

    Jody, I have a couple of front tooth moments, literally as well. I know exactly how you feel-as a mother. The enamel on several of my son's permanent teeth didn't form properly. One by one, we've had to watch them come in and hope for them to come in looking normal, while some have not. The first tooth I noticed to be abnormal was his front tooth. It's been a super difficult experience dealing with it. His back molars were so soft, they had to drill most of the teeth away and fill them. So, now, keeping things in perspective, we must hope that he'll always be able to keep his own teeth. Worst case scenarion, he'll have to have implants, best, we'll eventually have veneers placed on his front teeth.

    Me? I bit into the dashboard of a car when I was seven or so. Killed all the nerve in one of my front teeth It's now completely dead. But, it's just a tooth, and like your daughter's, fixable.

    You are so right though, it's super difficult to keep perspective when something is happening. And we never, ever, ever like to see our children suffer for anything.

    Happy Thanksgiving!

  4. Wow, Heather. I had no idea you were struggling with your son's teeth so much. You're right. We just never want to see our children suffer. I'm sure that's been so hard for you and your husband. I was upset about one tooth--I can't imagine more! But it's made me grateful for modern technology that can help to "fix" so many of those problems.

    Hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

  5. That's exactly right, Jody. And exactly what the dentist and my husband and I have told ourselves over and over. They can work miracles these days.

    Happy Thanksgiving to you as well!

  6. Four teeth on the bottom had to get filled in. Four root canals on top. The oral surgeon said it looked like somebody shot me in the mouth. Okay...I'll stop with the gore now.

    Heather - when did you find that out about your son? Sometimes, Brogan's teeth look weird to me.

    Okay, all this talk about teeth is going to give me weird dreams.

    Jody and Heather - happy Thanksgiving!! Hope it's a SUPER blessed one! Eat lots o' pie and turkey!

  7. Oh, I understand that momma moment! But thank goodness it was fixable. I hope you have a fabulous Thanksgiving filled with joy and wonder.

  8. I had one yesterday, my toddler fell down yesterday and scratched his cheek, all i could see was the white tissue b4 the blood started filling in, i panicked and imagined the worst till my two years old held my face and asked if i was okay.
    it is so easy to lose it.

  9. I'm a passionate person and I feel things deeply too. ;)

    Making mud pies in the back yard with my youngest brought a lot of clarity for me. So many things like that do.

    Happy Thanksgiving!
    ~ Wendy

  10. Wow. Y'all are making me hurt!

    Interesting analogy this morning. It is hard for me to read because I have this teeth "thing". As in, when my youngest lost one at a church festival, I am eternally grateful for her Sunday school teacher who stepped in and took care of it before I fainted!

    Katie~ Your story just makes me want to bawl. One of my very best friends was in horrific motorcycle accident this summer. She is having her third reconstructive surgery this morning. That is on top of the oral surgeries to replace her front teeth with implants. I am so sorry you had to experience all of that.

    My most recent tooth moment came two Saturdays ago. My oldest had a girl scout activity that completely slipped my mind...until her leader ( one of our neighbors) and the entire troop showed up on our doorstep at 8:45. I was just stepping out of the shower. The kids were still in their undies and my house resembled a nuclear waste disaster.

    I had to dig through the dirty clothes to find my daughter a pair of pants to wear. She left in mismatched socks and the troop was almost late to the activity because of us.

    I was so humiliated after we finally got her out the door, I sat down on my bed and cried.

    My husband found me and gently pointed out the troop leader was a mom herself. She has three kids and a not-so-spotless house. She also picks up the other girls from their houses, which probably aren't picture perfect either. And every now and then, I was allowed to forget something.

    I felt better but still spent the rest of the day cleaning!

    Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! I hope you enjoy a great day with family and friends. If you have a minute, please say a prayer for my friend. I am so very thankful she is still with us.

  11. We had a broken tooth moment with my elder son. We learned when we got to the dentist that, had we found the chip, he could have put it back on. He had to build the tooth up instead.

  12. Broken tooth moments are those times when we feel God's strength during our weak moments.

    When our oldest son was a senior in high school, we had taken him to a university about 5 hours from our home to attend a week-long free enterprise week. One night he and his group were playing tag in the dark. He tripped over the edge of the sidewalk and cut his knee open. He had to be taken to the ER, received stitches, and had to be given IV antibiotics. The doctor called and said had he cut it open just below where he did, it would've required reconstructive surgery on his knee cap. Being 5 hours away, I wanted to drive to see him, but my Hubby Voice of Reason assured me he was in good hands. Our son hobbled on crutches for a few weeks and has a nasty scar to show for his battle wound. I'm so thankful for the quick thinking of the university staff and the medical ER staff. It could've been so much worse, but it wasn't.

  13. I heard a hospital chaplain say once that whatever pain in front of you in the moment is the greatest possible pain - because it's yours. I've had lots of different kinds of pain over the years...and I've appreciated that "permission" she gave to feel the pain in the moment. And my biggest thankfulness coming out of a year of my deepest pain yet is that God allowed me to grow in Him through those bleak, wrenching days. Whether or not it remains the greatest pain of my life, I don't know yet. But it certainly taught me and for that, I'm immeasurably thankful!!

  14. Great post!

    My cousin who lives in Manhattan recently got mugged... but all she got out of it was a broken tooth and her change purse stolen. She was actually fine about it, considering it would've been much, much worse!

    Happy Thanksgiving!


  15. Katie, I'm so sorry to hear about your golf ball ordeal. Praise God for His protective hand on you that day. Your dental team did an awesome job. You have an AMAZING smile, one that is contagious. =D

    Heather, I feel your pain. Our one and only had enamel hypopleasia, which affected all her teeth. Without enamel on them, they were chalky and yellow. We knew from the time her first permanent tooth erupted that she'd have to have crowns on every tooth. We began the process her junior year in high school. She endured 18 months of appointments with a prosthodontist and three gum surgeries with the periodontist, but she headed off to college with a smile as beautiful as Reese Witherspoon's.

    Like you, Jody, we mourned the news at first. But then Gwynly and I reminded ourselves that this wasn't life threatening. Keeping things in perspective did help.

  16. Hi everyone!! Wow! There are a lot more people having tooth problems than I realized!! Don't you think it helps when we realize that we're not the only ones? I think that helps us to keep our problems in perspective too. Thanks for sharing today!

    And Lisa, Yikes about your son's knee! What a blessing it wasn't any lower!

    And Dawn, will definitely say a prayer today for your friend having reconstructive surgery. I liked hearing your #momfail moment. It's good to know I'm not the only one who completely misses things sometimes! :-)

  17. I love this quote:

    "When we keep things in perspective, we learn to be more grateful for what we’re given, instead of focusing on what we’re missing."

    Thanks Jody. Those are words to live by and to re-balance life.

  18. Anything to do with teeth makes me stress out. My son collided with a kid this time last year and had major mouth trauma, but it's fine now, although he'll need braces.

    So like you said, it may seem like the end of the world, but it's not.

  19. Jody,

    Thank you for your post. I am the mother of 4 I'm experienced with bones and teeth. However, it isn't my own experiences that have come to mind from this post. It's the experience of a close and personal friend that I will call Mother M. She has an adopted son and a bioligical daughter.

    After many years of struggles with her son's behavoir, through an extreme intervention,they found out he had been molested by his biological mother when he was a toddler causing his extreme beahvoirs.

    Shortly after Mother M. would find out that her daughter was abused as well. My inspiration is from her. She took probably a couple of days to morn for her children. Then she took it all into perspective.

    She never allowed herself to feel guilt. She would say, "Why should I feel guilty. I didn't do it." And she's right. She treats her kids the same as ever. She dutifully takes them to thearpy just as you or I would take our kids to piano or soccer.

    She would share her story if she could. However, she can't. It would devastate her kids. So I alone bask in her magnificent strength. She has says, " I am many things. There have been many trials I have been called to bare. Now I've been called to be the mother of the molested. Only that's not a trial because at least I'm still a mother."

    I'm thankful for her hidden strenght and push forward attitude.

  20. My brother had the same broken tooth moment when we were kids. But I was his sister so it was immensely funny. ;) He got it fixed and all was well.

    Anyways, I have those moments all the time. It really is about putting things into perspective and telling yourself that there are bigger things to worry about sometimes.

    Happy Thanksgiving!

  21. Here's to hoping my current situation is just a bump on my journey to publication.

  22. I would've felt the same way if that had happened to my daughter! Thank goodness for modern dentistry.

    I lost a front tooth in a car accident when I was 26, so I can personally relate to that horrified moment!

  23. Oh man, I would've been scared too! I know what you mean about worrying about things like that. My middlest has a tendency to not look where he's going. When he was three he ran through the house and fell against my end table by the couch. The gouge in his eye was horrible. You know how a hot dog splits when it's too hot? The skin was like that, and it was literally spurting blood. I was SO scared but he got stitched up and was fine. So then of course I had to find something else to worry about, namely his scar. *grin* Well, only a few months later he fell again, this time against his bed. Now he has a scar by each eye. :-) Not pretty, but certainly not life threatening and they're hardly noticeable now.
    I hope your daughter's tooth gets fixed quickly and easily. :-)

    Happy Thanksgiving!

  24. My husband lost half of his front tooth when he was 12 or 13. You'd never know it! Dentists are amazing people.

    By the way, I got teary-eyed reading this. I know that panicky mom feeling when a silence falls.

    Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

  25. My daughter swung my son on a door. When a neighbor popped in, splat, he hit the tile did a tooth.

    All is fine now.

    He's 22 and has a perfect smile!

    Great point about letting go and letting God.

  26. Do I ever have those moments? Only every single day!

    I'm glad everything turned out okay.

    Happy Thanksgiving, Jody! I plan on {finally} curling up this weekend with The Preacher's Bride!

  27. When our son was six he was riding his bike on the sidewalk that bordered our corner lot. He went too fast around the corner, veered wide and hit the front of our parked car. The force threw him over the hood into the windshield, knocking one front tooth out right through his upper lip. Seeing him crash was a moment of terror for me, but I didn't start shaking until it was all over and I saw he was able to get up and limp towards me. For his part, he didn't start crying until I exclaimed, "Oh my, you've lost a tooth." Then he howled, not in pain, but because he wouldn't get any money from the tooth fairy for it! (It was a baby tooth.) Needless to say, the fairy took pity on his fat lip and was quite generous.

    There have been other more serious incidents in our lives. They've all served to remind me that God watches over us and even in the difficult times he's there to comfort and strengthen.

    Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family!

  28. I'm really grateful for some very difficult circumstances during my young adult years - it taught me perspective at a pretty young age and compared to what my family went through then - not much else seems scary. Sometimes the hardest experiences are the most important and defining ones as well.

  29. Jody, I've lost quite a few friends my age. Right now, a friend is in the hospital having part of her leg and a foot amputated. Two weeks ago a friend died of leukemia -- a fellow mother of five. These tragic things have truly forced me to keep things in perspective. I still lose sight from time to time of course. Things can become relative in a hurry. But...the deaths in particular have made me truly appreciate each day I'm given, and see how fleeting this life is. It's tough to have to learn it that way, but facing this truth of our fleeting life here makes everything turn right pretty quickly.

    I identified with you're "I'm a passionate person who feels things deeply." I'll bet most writers would claim that. I usually appreciate that but sometimes it can be a hindrance.

    But...I know it helps make you a mother who loves deeply too, and that can't be too bad a thing.

    Enjoy your family over the holidays Jody! Enjoy your time off too. :)

  30. The only broken tooth moment in my life was via DH. He was left to care for our three for one half hour.
    I came home to chaos.
    A caved in ceiling, (well a large patch had fallen down), blood over the carpet and crying children.

    DH had decided to remove a picture nail from the wall. He lost his balance as he tugged at it, grabbed the light fitting and fell off of the chair.
    The hammer he was using to pull out the nail, had swung back and knocked out his two front teeth.

    He was never allowed to be alone with diy tools and children again. LOL

  31. Some sad stories here.

    It's amazing how quickly perspective can leave us even after a life-changing experience and yes us creative, passionate people can get more emotional and possibly irrational at times (or is that the sleep deprivation) but we wouldn't be writers without it. Maybe we need Jody's quote above our screens to help keep our little anxieties in check :)
    I once had to rush my friend to hospital (in NZ) when she sliced the top of her finger off under a lawn mower the day before I went on holiday to the UK *thankgoodnessI'dpackedalready*

    Happy Thanksgiving!

  32. Jody - I've had a literal broken tooth moment - and all of the drama! I broke both of my front teeth when I was 11. My first thought was the same as yours for your daughter, that I'd have to live that way forever. My second thought was that I'd have to have silver crowns put on. Kooky! What really happened is that my parents took me to a nearby dental school (we were a little low on money for extra expenses) and I met DREAMY young Dr. Whitely and got my first crush :) He patched me up just fine. You're so right about perspective... we need to stop and breathe and believe that we can handle what comes. Thanks for your blog! Hope your weekend was lovely.


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