jen groeber: mama art

4 kids in 3 years: reflections on motherhood, art and life.

Wonder Woman and the Lost Tooth

I want to remember this.

Today I picked up Jasper at the end of school, and he had that face. It was the classic chokey-voice face, the quiver chin, patchy-cheek face that I’ve worn my whole life in times of frustration and disappointment.

Popping the minivan door open, his awesome teacher handed him off to me with her infectious smile and she said, “I’ve got good news and I’ve got bad news. The good news is that Jasper’s going to read aloud in assembly a wonderful story he wrote about going to see a movie with your whole family! The bad news is that… well, he lost his tooth. And then we lost it. For real.”


February 2014

And as Jasper climbed into the car he started to cry. The cars piled up behind me and I was digesting so much information. The last time someone seriously said they had good news and bad news, I was in college and the bad news was that my best friend’s father had died of a heart attack that morning right across the street from my house. The good news was that my father had had a stroke in the bathroom at our house at the same time, but he was still alive. That’s how my family delivered good news/bad news. As this flashback rolled through my head, I hit the button for the slider door on the minivan, checked Jasper out in the rearview mirror, and continued through the pickup loop.

It broke my heart. As the tears rolled down his face, I offered to pull over and look in his classroom for the tooth. He initially said no. After holding in his tears all afternoon at school, I imagine he was exhausted at the thought of going back inside. I talked,  walking him through the tooth-search best case scenario and worst case scenario, either one involving treasure from the tooth fairy. I’ll admit, I felt certain I could find it. He acquiesced.

We re-looped the pick-up loop, parked in front and walked into the school. I was sweaty and wearing workout gear. Purple spandex bottoms, a fuchsia Under Armour sports tank and orange spandex zip-up with black Hunter boots. I looked like a second-rate superheroine, except not so much with the muscle or superheroine bosoms.

And before I knew it I found myself facing a classroom filled with after-care kids and Jasper’s teachers. POW! I proceeded to crawl around the floor, my spandexed rump in the air, picking through marker bins and scissor jars, pulling up kick boards along the bottom edge of furniture, running my hands along the edge of his circle-time rug.

All this of course, because I’m a mother who can fix things, and I’m a mother who can find things. And more than anything, the possibility that a part of my son’s body, no matter how small, yellow and gnarly, was gone from me forever, well, that was enough to almost, for a second, if you looked carefully and listened, give me the chokey voice and quiver chin, too.

In the end, we didn’t find it. And we walked back through the building to the car, holding hands, down one tooth. There had been a power outage in the lobby and it was incredibly dark with people swinging flashlights, carrying ladders, rolling out extension cords, like the scene right after the apocalypse. As we opened the front door and stepped out into the bright sunlight it felt like we’d survived something important.

Jasper hopped back in the minivan and chattered on about his day. His clouds had lifted. For the most part, he was ready to move on.

But I’ll be honest. I was still a little sad. I couldn’t get over the fact that I couldn’t get his tooth back. I didn’t fix this incidental hurt. I couldn’t find something. And now, it was lost.

Most poignant to me, I realized that the days of superhero me, where my kids believe I can fix things and make the world a better place, these days are quickly slipping away, lost under the circle-time carpet or in a bin of school crayons, misplaced on the playground or rolling around in the bottom of a boot.

Wonder Woman has left the building.


January 2014
training the superheroes of tomorrow

21 comments on “Wonder Woman and the Lost Tooth

  1. ianmooremorrans
    March 1, 2014

    I enjoyed your story. Did Jasper still have a visit from the tooth fairy? If not, why not have him draw a picture of the tooth and put that into the tooth fairy pillow. You never know, she might just come and leave him a coin!

    • jgroeber
      March 2, 2014

      Actually, it’s the second tooth that has gotten lost before making it under his pillow. Luckily, the tooth fairy somehow knows when you’ve lost a tooth so s/he shows up anyway. He writes a note, s/he leaves the treasure. And this time he got a $2 bill! How cool is that, am I right? Who knew you could even find new $2 bills?! (I think his tooth fairy must be awesome.) 😉

  2. Deborah
    March 1, 2014

    Jen, I love your posts! I was on edge throughout the entire story, and then cried towards the end! I could definitely feel for both you and Jasper — he was so brave! You will always be a great Mom and Wonder Woman to me!

    • jgroeber
      March 2, 2014

      Oh, thank you! I knew you’d appreciate this one. 😉

  3. Kim
    March 1, 2014

    You are such a great Mama!

    • jgroeber
      March 2, 2014

      Terrible Mama, am I! (As you’ve surely heard me sniping at them in the pre-school parking lot.) But thank you. It’s about trying to be a great Mama that counts, right?

  4. markvnathan
    March 2, 2014

    Oh Jen! Don’t ever say that. I’m sure you are a hero in their eyes everyday!

    • jgroeber
      March 2, 2014

      Ha! I am so not a sueprhero every day. But thank you for suggesting that I am! And thank you for reading.

  5. David Van Buren
    March 2, 2014

    Another great post, Jen. You always grab me in the first paragraph.

    I have empathy for you. I was a Superhero in my daughter’s life. It was great. Then it faded, like Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny and yes, the Tooth Fairy. Savannah probably knew the truth for a while and kept pretending for my sake.

    My message to you is that the childlike Superwoman will evolve into a deeper love and understanding. It has for me. Savannah and I still do special things together, like watch an episode of Sherlock, have a bike ride, or have a french horn lesson together. It is healthy for her to see that her father is a normal person, warts and all, because then she can be a normal child, with successes AND failures like everyone else.

    Your children sense all the love you have invested in them and they will always feel it. He will remember the day you crawled around at his school looking for his tooth. Mine remembers me going back to the pool on Jekyll Island and looking for the missing diving ring.

    And yesterday, I came across a film vial containing Savannah’s baby teeth. They’re not all in there, but most of them are, and that’s OK I can hold on to a little piece of her childhood.

    Keep the pen moving, Jen.

    • jgroeber
      March 2, 2014

      I love that this observation about my big guy reminded you of the diving ring on Jekyll Island, which gives me faith that even if Wonder Woman has left the building, at least she’ll be in my kids’ hearts and memories. (And hopefully writing it here will help me remember, too.)
      Our tooth fairy makes off with all our teeth (and we like to think she went in over the weekend and found the missing one at school) but perhaps someday she’ll tuck them all away somewhere on a high shelf for me to find and see. 😉
      Thank you so much for this beautiful remembrance and comment.

  6. Jacqueline McDonald
    March 2, 2014

    Another great piece, Jen. You’ll always be their hero, but even more so when they have kids of their own and they realize what you do every day . . .

    • jgroeber
      March 2, 2014

      Ah, thank you. It’s true that you see your mother in a whole new light once you’re a mother yourself. I know I did. The trick will be to saddle at least one of them with four kids in three years so they can really jam on the whole experience. 😉

  7. Margie S
    March 3, 2014

    Your heroic measures to find the tooth are impressive! You are super mom in my book! May your son’s good news/bad news remain no worse than a lost tooth. No matter the news, your children know you will be there to support them through it all. Lucky them!

    • jgroeber
      March 9, 2014

      Aw, thanks! It was disappointing not to find the tooth, but I’m looking forward to about 77 more potential baby teeth to lose. Yay! And about a million (or a google, as my six-year-old would say) opportunities to be a failed superhero. POW!

  8. giselacarmona
    March 3, 2014

    You are definitely an amazing Mama, Jen… And let me tell you (with a hint of shakey voice and quivery chin) that wonder woman days do fly by so quickly you barely notice… Good news is, even when the kids are older like mine a mom is a mom is a mom…beats wonder woman every time… 😉

    • jgroeber
      March 9, 2014

      Thank you, Gisela. What a lovely bit of wisdom to hold near. And if I really come to think of it, my mother is still on the shortlist for immediate calls whenever I lose a tooth or need some love. 😉

  9. talesfromthemotherland
    March 4, 2014

    Oh so lovely, Jen. “And more than anything, the possibility that a part of my son’s body, no matter how small, yellow and gnarly…” Nearly breaks my heart. I remember when My son lost a tooth… we had watched Harold and Maude (he was a little older than Jasper, for sure, but we had forgotten the darker parts of that movie!) and he liked the way Maude threw her ring in the water, and said: Now I’ll always remember where it is. So, my boy, tossed his tooth in a pond, and said the same thing. I wanted to jump in and find that tooth, but I was also really touched that he got something so deep from that movie… oh, the sweet days. I love that you are lingering in them.

    • jgroeber
      March 9, 2014

      I love this. What a wise little man to know that to hold something forever you have to let it go. AH, there may be a blog post in there for you. 😉 I always love your observations. Thank you.

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This entry was posted on March 1, 2014 by in Surviving Motherhood, The Children and tagged , , , , , .

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