braces Sitting in the orthodontist’s office, I remind an obstinate kid who happens to be frustrated by his seemingly endless battle with an equally stubborn overbite, I tell him, “This is a gift, you know.”


“Seriously. You have no idea how much money we’re saving you from future dental work. Even though you don’t realize it, your braces are helping you when you eat … digest food … when you talk … In fact, maintaining good oral health even helps your heart. Not to mention braces will make your smile super nice.” Okay… so even I stopped listening to myself halfway through that little life lecture.

“Whatever…” sigh-rolled the kid. “You don’t know how bad it is.”

“Oh, yes I do.” I assure. Then for the umpteenth time I go into my own orthodontic history – braces, rubber bands, headgear (okay, not just one, but two headgears!), retainers (again plural.) On more than one occasion I found myself rifling through Barwise Junior High’s cafeteria trash in search for my oral appliance that I accidentally threw away. A few times, the gunk won and I was required to fund the replacement from my own pocket. For good measure I then remind him of my sight impairment and the lovely coke-bottle glasses I wore until contacts entered the picture. At this point I hear groans from a couple sisters perched close by – no doubt overwhelmed by my youthful beauty. I let the image sink in for good measure.

“Listen, I know the pain… literally. I’ve actually walked in your shoes on this one. For it to be worth anyone’s while, you have to be a participant in this effort. — If you’ve decided to stop doing you’re part, you are free to get these things off today. I can’t wear the rubber bands for you. So, you’re welcome to pay for braces yourself later… when you’re ready to commit. You’re not a victim here. It’s a gift.”

A mumbled “Right” floats my way.

“A gift, I tell you.” – Now I’ve morphed into some ridiculous theatrical character.

“Okay, Mom. Braces are a gift. Nothing like a present that hurts and hinders sleep!”

The kid just can’t see the gift part. Truth is, I didn’t either. In all honesty, I probably didn’t appreciate my parent’s sacrifice until we started putting braces on our own kids’ teeth.

I think I’ve missed a few gifts in my life because my eyes just might have been closed (or focused on what I thought I wanted). Not just the sacrifices my parents made for me, but also the sometimes challenging times with my kids. Help me to hear my little lecture when I’m enduring the whines, bandaging scraped feelings, mending broken hearts, navigating unpredictable emotional waves, weathering inevitable stresses – all the gifts that come with parenting. They might not seem like gifts in the heat of the moment, but on the other side …such great reward.

But more than that, might I always be grateful for the amazing gifts that greet me every day – even if only with a grunt or an indignant “where’s my waffle”. As I reply, “Make it yourself”, may I do so with keen awareness that the days are sweet and may I enjoy these incredibly special life gifts – my kids.

Thanks for walking the road with me.


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