Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Free at Last

Emme's perfect smile
There are some things that come naturally to parents: loving your kids; annoying other people with tales of your kids' beauty, smarts and cunning wit; witnessing each new development with a mixture of awe, pride and bittersweet nostalgia for where you've been together.

Serena's top braces came off, too
But when there are battles - and there will be battles, unfortunately - you have to pick the important ones. Again, some are easy: no, you may not wear those booty shorts to school or Um... Let's find a more appropriate dress for the bar mitzvah... I don't always want to be "right," per se, but sometimes I have to put in my two cents.

However, I hadn't expected a struggle with Emme over braces. 

Full disclosure: I never had braces. It's a good thing I had naturally straight teeth, too, because my brother's mouth was an orthodontist's gold mine. Still, I didn't love through the discomfort of years of orthodontic appliances, braces, expanders, rubber bands, altered speech and eating, etc., all of which my kids hold against me.

When they were little - and I mean tiny, like kindergarten - our orthodontist recommended two phases, to widen arches and then to straighten teeth. I was totally on board; Raf was unsure. It was sad to see kids with full metal in their mouths before they could even reject it, but I was sure it would pay off. Emme's teeth in 2nd grade were headed to Spongebob-ville and the early braces for 9 months warded off crooked teeth for her pre-teen years. 

So when it was time for Phase 2, she said, "My teeth are straight. I don't need braces." Raf agreed and I had a tough time convincing him to sign the contract with the orthodontist. Month after month - for nearly a year and a half - I have struggled with the whining, "When can I get them off?" (Serena and Marlowe had braces at the same time - and both are getting them off this summer, too - but they didn't have as tough a time with them.)

With our summer vacation looming ahead of us, Raf decided to ask if we could get the braces off before we left, instead of a month later as planned. I wasn't sure about messing with the plan... after all, I didn't go to school for straightening teeth... but once the doctor was on-board (and believe me, it has been a scheduling and logistic puzzle toting three kids on three different schedules to their appointments a half-hour away at the end of the school year), Emme was thrilled. 

That is, until she had to wear rubber bands 24/7 for three weeks to speed up the process. It was painful and she cried; Raf said he wouldn't have wanted to do it if he'd known it would be so painful. Emme mumbled something about how nice her teeth were before she'd gotten braces.

I threw my hands up, frustrated at trying to please everyone and ending up pleasing no one. But the fact is - and Emme's heard me say it so many times, she's over it - I'm grateful for the braces and for having the means to give our daughters beautiful smiles and to avoid dental problems later in their lives. When they look at their gorgeous school pictures and wedding photos, they'll see why I was so adamant about braces. 

"You'll thank me on your wedding day," I'd say and she'd roll her eyes. 

Anyway, when Emme got her braces off last week, she couldn't stop smiling. I caught her looking in the mirror and she turned to me, saying those golden words a mother loves to hear. 

"Yes," she smiled. "You were right. Thank you."

And this time, being right felt really good.

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