Last Tuesday, I was privileged to be at the LifeLock headquarters in Tempe, AZ to consult with the National Organization for Victims Assistance (NOVA). LifeLock, along with representatives from the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), work in tandem with NOVA to offer support and protection to victims of crimes. I was invited to share my work on emotional safety and screen-balanced families.
For some reason, this trip felt different. I had an eerie feeling something was going to happen while I was away, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. I said an extra prayer Monday when I left, and headed for the airport.
After a full day meeting on Tuesday, I was set to finish with a report on social media security when my phone began to vibrate—“My Love” lighting up on the screen. Knowing I was in meetings, I knew her call was not routine.
“Josh,” she said as I walked into the hallway, “don’t panic, but Kennedy fell down on the stairs and she has two front teeth that are laying horizontally. I can see the roots. I’m on my way to the pediatrician now.”
I’ve never felt more helpless in my life.
“I’ll call you as soon as I get word from the pediatrician what we should do,” she said.
Comedians say the formula to great comedy is trauma + time. As I walked back into the meeting it was my turn to present. Before I did, I told everyone about the trauma happening at home. That’s when one of the ladies in the meeting began to sing, “All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth…my two front…
“Too soon,” said another, “too soon.” We all hesitantly laughed along.
My phone rang again. “Josh,” said Christi, “they want us to take her to Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital immediately to see if they can save the teeth. We’re on our way there now.”
Long story short, I got an immediate flight home and was at Vanderbilt a little after midnight, just in time for them to stick the IV in our baby girl and remove her two front teeth. I love my kids, but nobody warned me being a tooth fairy would cost me so much money.
If we keep this trend going, we’ll have no money for her wedding. Then again, she’ll have no teeth either, so maybe we don’t need to worry about it.
Yes, enough time has lapsed—and permanent teeth will eventually grow in—that we can laugh about it now. But last week, we weren’t ready. Christi was left alone to deal with the trauma. Kennedy was in pain. Landon himself was skittish from the chaos of it all.
Having written a book called Safe House naturally invokes a joke when something “unsafe” happens. I guess that’s what I get for writing in it that “I’d take broken bones any day over a broken soul.”
But that’s precisely why I didn’t blog last week.
We had more than broken teeth. We had an emotionally overwhelmed momma, an unsure son and a physically exhausted and stitched up little girl.
My family needed my presence. To care for the soul of my wife and kids, I needed to leave work at work. I needed to practice what I preach.
So I did. I gave myself permission to stop posting, emailing, and thinking about work. Instead, I did everything in my power to restore our home, and the souls of the ones I love the most, back to a safe house.
With Christmas approaching, there’s no better time to give yourself permission to leave work at work, than now. Being physically and emotionally present are not the same side of a coin.
When you’re physically with your children, flip the coin around and emotionally enter their world. This requires that you emotionally leave yours.
This Christmas, begin new routines. Cut back on screens. Tuck your kids in bed each night. Have dance parties. Build a house with blocks. Drink tea. Play checkers. Throw Jesus a birthday party. Open presents on Christmas Eve. Serve the homeless. Tell stories during drive time. Hold family devotions. Date your spouse. Make crazy fun memories.
And by all means, when your home is unsafe, unapologetically put your family first.
Joshua Straub, Ph.D. is an author, speaker, and president and co-founder of the Connextion Group, a company designed to empower parents and families. Josh speaks and writes on emotionally safe parents and spouses and the influence of technology on today's family. He is the author of the newly released Safe House: How Emotional Safety is the Key to Raising Kids Who Live, Love, and Lead Well (Waterbrook Multnomah) and along with his wife, Christi, is the producer and co-author of the video curriculum The Screen-Balanced Family: Six Secrets to a More Connected Family in the 21st Century. He wakes up each day striving to love others better beginning with his wife, Christi, and their son, Landon, and daughter, Kennedy.
For more encouragement and ideas on marriage and parenting in the 21st century, you can join Josh and a growing tribe of awesome families at www.joshuastraub.com and follow him on Twitter @joshuastraub or Facebook.