What I learned from my daughter’s baby teeth

Mmargaret-teethargaret’s baby teeth were underachievers. Her first tooth didn’t fall out until she was seven years old. Her last tooth fell out just last week. She’s 12 ½ years old. Almost exactly to the date. So, she lost all 20 of her baby teeth in 66 months. That’s .303 teeth per month. Now that’s just lazy enamel.

Meanwhile, most of her friends have already had six rounds of braces. OK, maybe I’m exaggerating a teeny bit; but apparently, that’s the trend. Getting braces on when you’re seven, getting them off when you’re nine, then getting them on again when you’ve lost all your baby teeth. It seems like a really great strategy to generate more revenue. I mean, somehow one round of braces worked for my generation. But I digress.

Today, Margaret got the word from her orthodontist that she can get her braces on anytime now that she’s lost her last baby tooth. Her mouth dropped to the ground and her pupils became big (think emoji eyeballs) and she started jumping up and down at the news. You’d think she just found out she was accepted to Stanford. I looked her and said, “Margaret, unless they’ve changed things a lot, braces hurt!” Her response? “Mom, the reason I want to get them is because the sooner I get them on, the sooner I get them off!” But I wasn’t fooled.

When we got home, I thought back to when I was her age and got braces. I couldn’t wait either. I used to put tinfoil in my mouth and pretend I had them (which had the same outcome as dragging your fingernails down a chalk board – shivers down your spine). And then I got them. Every moment of the two and a half years I had them, I hated them.  Hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hated them. Suddenly, I realized that I approached this the wrong way. This is somewhat of a milestone, a rite of passage. Braces will improve Margaret’s appearance as she grows and matures. It will make her smile radiate even more than she already does. And she’s excited for it – for the process. For the outcome. For the experience. She knows it will be painful at times, and she’s concerned about how it will impact her ability to sing. But I realized that I should just let her have her excitement, despite what happens. Rather than trying to protect her from disappointment, I need to be a mom that “embraces her braces.” Because maybe – and it’s an enormous maybe – she will actually enjoy having them. Nah, she’ll hate them. But at least she’ll be able to enjoy the idea of them until she actually gets them. Contrary to what Tom Petty says, sometimes the waiting is the best part.

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