Funny thing about life I’ve observed lately. At least about mine. A lot of the things that I love and cherish about my life’s story happened when I decided to go against the grain. The times when “normal” meant one thing, but my path looked different. Taking the route that sometimes felt more difficult often brought about results I’m really grateful for.
Like when normal was I just finished my Masters’ degree, it’s time to start applying for ‘real jobs’ that have something to do with what I spent five years at university for, my path was to work for a year at a Pawn Shop and then leave the country.
When normal was you’ve been awarded a scholarship for a PhD at the University of Edinburgh, my path was I’m a new Mom and I think we’re about to leave the country (again) so, after a year of pushing at this thing, I think I’m supposed to set it down and move on.
When normal was your almost-five-year-old is ready for public school, our story was get your boots on, Mama, you’ve got some homeschooling to prepare for.
Considering this, I look back and wonder how many times I sort of unquestioningly went with the flow instead of stopping to ask — is this the path for me?
About six weeks ago, a tiny little wiggle threw me into some deep parenting thoughts that relate to the topic at hand. Our six-year-old’s first wiggly tooth — a milestone he’d long awaited — signaled we were entering a bit of a new zone. I wasn’t planning on crying or keeping all his tiny teeth in some tin can to return to him at some suitably embarrassing moment. But I suddenly realized this meant we were about to enter the arena of The Tooth Fairy.
I wasn’t so pumped about that idea.
Here’s the thing.
First, I almost never have cash in my wallet. If teeth start dropping, that’s a real inconvenience. Second, I will soon have four children in my care. Do I really like the idea of putting money under a pillow for every. single. tooth. from. every. single. kid? And closely related to that thought — are we going to end up being the cheap parents? Is he going to chat with his buds on the playground and discover they’re all getting a fiver and he’s getting fifty cents?
And one more problem. He is on a top bunk with a little brother below him who is a light sleeper. Does this mean I will have to sneak into their room 28 times? In the dark? To try to find a tooth under a pillow?
What if I want him to get matchbox car or a chocolate treat instead of this being a financial transaction?
Plus, we once visited this village in southern England and there were fairies all over the place, in every store window throughout the town, and it was clear that it was like, a thing. Like, a religious thing. Something about that made me very itchy, so forgive me if I offend you, but I’m not a big fan of fairies.
I realized I needed a different story.
So I did what I usually do with ideas. I pondered it in my mind for about six weeks, thinking I better get to working on some kind of tooth fairy alternative. I procrastinated it until the tooth that wiggled and wobbled and jiggled and joggled for ages actually fell out — wowzers, I really had time to write a novel. And then the tooth was out and I said, “Heck! I need to do something!”
So I scooted off to sign some paperwork in town and cruised through the Piggly Wiggly on the way home. (Yes, that is also a thing, right here in Eastern North Carolina.) I picked up a bag of gummy worms and buried my face in my laptop as soon as I got home.
The results were a ballad of about 16 stanzas, introducing The Tale of the Wee Tooth Pirates. I won’t beladen you with its entirety, but here are a few stanzas to give you a good feel of it:
“In some landlubber neighborhoods
not too far from lake or from sea,
there travel a band of captains–
just as ruthless as they are wee.
These sea dogs shove off for one reason.
Lean closer, I’ll tell ya the truth.
Their Jolly Roger flies for this mission:
Collecting a freshly lost tooth.
The Pirates will come while yer sleeping,
to make peace with yer Mum or yer Dad,
and they’ll discuss the terms for surrender,
a good trade for the tooth that you had.
Negotiations can go on for hours;
it depends on the worth of the tooth.
They might offer coins or chocolate,
stickers, or a wee pile of loot.
I introduced a few ideas, like a Piratey Tooth Report Card, putting the tooth in a shoe by the fireplace instead of under the pillow (since the Pirates are too small to reach the bed) and remembering to brush since A tooth with a bucket of cavities sure won’t earn a bucket of loot!
Before bed on the night of the Lost Tooth, we read the story (which I printed out and glued into a folded slice of a cereal box to make it a “book”) and I was immediately overjoyed to hear the Bear hoping for a box of crayons or something other than dollar bills.
He was overjoyed the next morning when the Pirates traded ten points on his bike chart (he’s earning a new bike this summer) and a bag of gummy worms for his tiny tooth.
And I was overjoyed because Hero Hubs and I decided to write our own story, instead of falling into one that we didn’t really like, just because it was what everybody does. HH totally got into it and instead of the little Pirate report card I designed and planned to print out and fill in, he pulled a little piece of wood out of his stash in the shed, and I scribbled on it and he burned the edges.
We won’t do that every time, in case you’re wondering. Some Pirate report cards may be scribbled on the inside of a cereal box, kind of like their story. Different Pirates, different methods of delivery, right?
So. This is really the Sermon in a Nutshell, Moms, Dads, and children of all ages: You have permission to write your own story. Don’t forget that. Even though it can sometimes seem like you’re a salmon in a pond full of trout, heading in the wrong direction, you have the brains and the wherewithal to decide that this is the direction you need to go.
For your life. For your marriage. For your children. It is not always going to look how it looks for everyone else — and if it does always look how it does for everybody else, maybe that’s a cause for a alarm. (?!)
Whether it’s as big as a transcontinental adventure or as small as a decision about a Tooth Fairy, remember just letting life happen to you often means you’re not actually making the things that you want to happen happen. Yes, I made happen happen three times in that sentence. Forgive me.
Give yourself permission to mark out your own path, friends. And know that sometimes, that really means dropping anchor and listening closely to the Captain of your soul.