Justin Ricklefs


Rewind Buttons & Broken Teeth

I was four or five years old. Just old enough to have a memory of this experience. Or maybe young enough to have blocked parts of it out.

It was a cold, winter day. We were leaving our little church.

It was cold enough that I had both of my hands buried deep in my coat pockets. But I was young enough that I still wanted to play.

I looked both ways and then took off into the parking lot. The ground was blanketed in ice, so I did my best ice hockey move.

You can guess where this is headed. I bit it, face first, with my hands still firmly entrenched in my pockets.
Both front teeth ended up on the pavement. Blood, tears, panicked parents.

If you talk to me in real life, and you pay close attention, you can hear a slight slur when I say my s’s. It’s very subtle but it’s there.

This exists because of that fall. Or so the dentist said. Supposedly, I overcompensated and since I was missing those two teeth a year or two before I should have, I developed a slight slur.

Two Saturdays ago, it hit 65 degrees here in Kansas City. The snow from four days prior had all melted as did the inactivity of every kid in the city.

Brooke and Kamden were gone on an overnight, so I was holding it down with the other four.


Because it was so nice (and to get the crazy out of the house), we hit the jam-packed park.

It was a blast. Snacks, swings, dog chasing, laughing.

And then, as if my life hit rewind, Silas slipped on the wet grass. He ate a mouthful of the sidewalk he was so desperately trying to reach.

I scooped him up and expected to see his two front teeth still laying on the pavement like mine were all those years before.

Thankfully, they were still in his mouth, but they were forming a 90 degree angle with the rest of his teeth. His white shirt was now covered in red, and I wondered how I was going to do this without Brooke.

I was sure they were going to fall out. He spit blood and cried for a few minutes. I did my best to keep from passing out (I’m terrible with nasty injuries).

I knew it was a bad idea to call Brooke. She and Kamden had been planning this overnight for months and there really wasn’t anything she could do anyway.

After a couple calls to our pediatric dentist and Brooke’s dad (who is also a dentist thankfully), we got Silas’ teeth repositioned to about 45 degrees behind the others.


Then we had him bite on the back of a spoon for about 15 minutes and those suckers pulled up to almost even with the rest of his teeth.

We were warned that they may die and turn brown. In that case, we could have the teeth pulled. Like I was, he may end up front-toothless a year or two before he should.

It was that comparison and realization, insignificant as it is, that caused me to pause a bit as I watched him sleep that Saturday night before I went to bed.

What other ways will he turn out like me? What ways do I want him to be different than I am? What stories will he tell his kids about his old man?

Am I preparing him for the world? Am I loving him the best I can? Am I doing a good job?

That rewind button doesn’t get pushed all that often, but when it does, we’re given the opportunity to reflect and ask the important questions. I watched my son sleep and answers to those questions flooded my mind.

I could see that this boy of ours knows that he’s loved.

I could see a boy that understands ladies go first.

I could see that he is most alive when he’s adventuring and exploring.

I could see that a safe or easy life for him isn’t the goal, rather it’s for him to give his life away for the benefit of others.

I could see that it’s OK for him to cry when he’s scared, hurt or afraid.

I could see that he’s learning to pursue wisdom not simply intelligence.

I could see that he’s gentle and generous not powerful and controlling.

Then the dog barked, he had to go outside. And the play button of life continued.

I was snapped back to the reality of things like taxes, responsibilities and a messy house that needed to be cleaned before Brooke and Kamden returned the next morning.

But I was grateful for the chaotic incident at the park. It reminded me that as messy, confusing, and hard as this parenting thing is – it’s worth it.

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