The Ugly Tooth

“We cannot change anything until we accept it. Condemnation does not liberate, it oppresses.” – Carl Jung

Little kids are savages. Their unbridled honesty can be shocking, sometimes annoying, and occasionally infuriating, but in many cases, they are simply telling you about an observation with their opinion.

 A few years ago, I had strep throat. We had just moved, and I didn’t know where anything was, so I went to the Minute clinic at Target.

There was a girl in the waiting room that kept staring at me. I said hello and we made small talk. She was old enough to talk in complete sentences but still looked like a little kid. She was unbashful in her stares and followed me with her eyes when I moved.

After a moment of awkwardness when she followed me to the other side of the waiting room with her mother embarrassed and in tow, she told me that my tooth was showing. I smiled and showed her my teeth to confirm that I did indeed have a tooth in the front that stuck out a little. I said “thank you” as I wasn’t sure what to tell her. She told me that my “tooth was ugly” and that it “stuck out.” And that it is “weird to say thank you for something ugly.” Her mother was frantically trying to get her to go back to the other side of the waiting room and was obviously embarrassed.

The mother started to apologize for her little girl’s behavior, and I stopped her. I told her that it is true that my tooth is ugly and that she shouldn’t be punished for saying so. Then I thanked the little girl for her honesty and with that my name was called to go back and I never saw either of them again.

Before my interaction with this little girl, I knew my teeth were less than ideal, but I wasn’t aware that one had shifted so far that it was poking out of my mouth. I was grateful for the little girl’s bravery to confirm something I was only vaguely aware of. That night “fix teeth” was added to my goals list.  

Two years later I fixed my teeth with braces and today all my teeth stay in my mouth when I smile. I may have gotten around to fixing my teeth one day if I hadn’t crossed paths with this little girl but more likely I would have not, preferring to live in the delusion that it was not that bad.

Accepting the truth about something is the first step in changing it; if it can be changed that is. Hearing this truth from another person is very helpful to speed the process along. Hearing it from a child is priceless as who can get mad at an adorable little girl with her mother in a Target clinic waiting room.

Our children say all sorts of things that are brutally honest. The other night after I cleaned the kitchen, my son commented on the great job I was doing cleaning and that “our house looked a little less ugly now.” He’s not wrong, our house is a bit ugly, but I chose to focus on the compliment of my cleaning, but I did hear him.

Today, I will work on accepting the truth as it is spoken, not as I would like to hear it. I will revel in the fact that I live with two tiny truth tellers that are going to give me opportunities daily to shift my perspective and take action to improve.

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