How Young Is Too Young for the Orthodontist?

Graduating from high school in the late 90s meant that I came of age during the era of grunge and Friends. It also meant that, come senior portrait time, I was sporting The Rachel. This was not because it was flattering to my face shape, but because every hair dresser on the planet gave it to you whether you asked for it or not. It also meant that I was “too cool” to wear makeup. As if these two factors alone didn’t guarantee an unfortunate senior portrait, the fact that I had braces sealed the deal. Yes, I visited the orthodontist at the age of 17. In the 90s, visiting the orthodontist into your teenage years was pretty typical. This is a fate my children may never know. After my 7-year-old daughter’s most recent visit to the orthodontist, I’m not sure this is a good thing.

90s Senior Portrait
This is a picture taken of my senior yearbook page. Because my mom didn’t have a copy of this picture in her home. Enough said.

Six months ago, when our family dentist told us that he was going to refer my then 6-year-old daughter to an orthodontist, I thought that maybe there was a nitrous tank leaking in his office. After asking around the schoolyard, I discovered that this is now common practice. Apparently, orthodontists can create a picture perfect smile that will last your child a lifetime, even when your kid is still rocking baby teeth. Well, they at least want to can start the process. I had my doubts, but since I cannot say no to anyone, I made an appointment with the orthodontist. You know, because who knows what that nitrous sniffing dentist would think of me otherwise.

Our first trip to the orthodontist was tons of fun – if your idea of fun involves laying on a dental chair with a frantic child writhing on top of you. My daughter, who has typically done well at the dentist, was terrified of the orthodontist. I’d like to think she was shown a copy of our bill and was protesting in outrage, but I kind of just think she enjoys inflicting physical and emotional pain upon her mother. My daughter would only agree to open her mouth for the orthodontist if she was on my lap. Have you ever sat in a dentist’s chair and hugged a child at the same time? The strain on your neck makes tipping your head back at a salon sink feel like a hot stone massage.

This practice continued for every visit. And those were just consults to look inside her mouth and get her “comfortable in the office.” At her latest appointment, she had to get impressions. She reacted as if we told her we’d be pulling all of her teeth and she’d be eating porridge and gruel the rest of her days. She sobbed hysterically as the hygienist, orthodontist, and I all tried to reassure her that nothing would hurt. I laid there on the chair sweating, getting neck cramps, and wondering whether I’d plucked my chin hairs recently as the orthodontist’s light shined down on my exasperated face. I put my mom through some business when I was younger, but I guarantee she didn’t have to go through this when I got braces.

So why was I doing this? Does it really make a difference physically to get braces at age 7 instead of 12? Are fourth graders not allowed to have wonky teeth anymore? I get not wanting to have braces in high school (believe me, I do), but why isn’t middle school good enough? Aren’t our awkward years the ones when we learn to develop our character? I’d like to think that if I’d had straight teeth in high school that I’d have the personality of a wet blanket. Who needs to make jokes when you have a dazzling smile to win people over? Moreover, are these early trips to the orthodontist simultaneously causing my child emotional turmoil while also depriving her of her character building awkward years?

We were told my daughter needs an expander and braces now, and again in five years. This first go round will make the final one more efficient. In my meeting with the orthodontist, I should have been focusing on words like, “prevent having to pull teeth” or “super easy process at 12.” Instead I was perseverating on the “key” I was supposed to use to stretch the expander on the roof of my daughter’s mouth each week. The mouth of my stubborn child who I imagined holing up in her room to wire her jaw shut in protest. Don’t believe me? You should have seen the jaw strength on this one at her last appointment. She even wrote me an unsolicited apology note that was discreetly left on my bed later that night.

kid apology note
Maybe if your kid can’t spell orthodontist (or picture), they’re too young for braces. PS: I never got that pecher.

This last trip to the orthodontist has made me question today’s new orthodontic practices. Are 7-year-old’s ready to maintain a mouthful of expensive orthodontics? If my kid freaks out over impressions, what is she going to do when she experiences mouth soreness after a tightening, or, worse yet, the sharp pain of a broken bracket? When I experienced these discomforts, I was old enough to appreciate the “no pain, no gain” mantra. I was willing to do whatever it took to attain the end product – a straight smile. My kid is going into second grade. In a world where  jack-o-lantern smiles are celebrated, she has zero interest in having straight teeth. Basically, there is no incentive for little ones to appreciate or care for their orthodontics. So why bother?

I made an appointment for my daughter to start this process – you didn’t expect me to say no in person, did you? But I am having second thoughts. Surely someone so young and terrified can wait just a few years? Perhaps we can all agree that she’s still got a few cute years left in the yearbook and her 7th grade class picture should be the most awkward. Never fear though, we’ll make sure her senior portrait is memorable for one thing and one thing only – a bad haircut.

WMDW: The Straws That Broke Mama’s Back

If your house is anything like mine, you can walk into any room and find a used juice box straw, or, worse yet, the wrapper of one. I have always found this mildly annoying, but after two full months of this, I am ready to blow a gasket every time I see one. I recently may or may not have threatened to take juice boxes away for two weeks if I saw any evidence of juice box consumption on the couch. Well, it seems I underestimated my dear daughters because they doubled down on Mama’s threats. They are now collecting the straws. Yes, they are collecting used juice box straws. Well played, girls.

They aren’t just collecting these straws whole. No, they are taking their straws and cutting them into filthy germ-filled pieces beads and storing them in an old lunch box. Their goal is to fill the lunch box and then turn these straws into necklaces. To think, I once thought their desire to collect Dixie cups was their rock bottom.

collected straws
That’s what a lunch box full of cut up straws looks like.

Maybe I should be focusing on their desire to reuse plastic. Perhaps I should hope that this leads to successful careers as modern artists focusing on repurposing common household items. Instead, I am living in constant fear that this lunchbox is going to spill or that I’ll one day be forced to wear a necklace covered in the residue of kid backwash.

straw collector
Why can’t she have this much pride in…literally anything?

Either way, Mama’s going to drink some wine and consider which is worse – the wrath of my children if I throw this crap out, or the pain of cleaning these out from every crevice in my home for the next few months.  

When Trump Blames “Many Sides” He Contradicts Vital Lessons We Teach Our Children

On Saturday, my husband and I sent our daughters outside to play as we watched the horrific images coming out of Charlottesville. We watched as men clad in swastikas, carrying weapons and torches, shouted hate throughout the streets of a typically lovely, tranquil college town. We watched as a car rammed into a crowd on a street usually filled with students and families out for a stroll or a bite to eat. We then watched, equally horrified, as our president placed the blame on many sides. I peered out the window at my daughters innocently playing in the backyard and was as grateful that they hadn’t heard these words as I was that they hadn’t seen the images of the protest.

Blaming many sides contradicts critical life lessons we teach our children. When we blame many sides, we equate the behavior of hate-filled groups who stand for the oppression of others to the behavior of those who are willing to risk their own safety to stand up against hate. When we give people a pass for standing alongside Nazis, but denounce those who stand up to them, we need to stop and think about what message this sends to the impressionable youth of our country.

Bullying prevention is taught in school across America. We teach our children what we know to be true, that bullies and victims are few and the majority of the participants are bystanders, those who witness bullying and do nothing to stop it. Most kids are bystanders out of fear of retaliation, or feelings of helplessness. While the mindset of a bystander is completely understandable and teachers are sympathetic to their feelings, we encourage them to act as upstanders. We implore our students to stand up for someone being bullied, assuring them that they will be protected. If we can expect an 8-year-old to be an upstander, then why aren’t we encouraging adults to do the same?

When our president condemns “many sides,” he condemns the upstander right along with the bully. President Trump is equating men marching through streets spewing hate to the men and women who filled the city center of their community to show that hate does not have a place there. On one hand there is a bully marching for the oppression of women, immigrants, people of color, and the LGBTQ communities, and on the other is the upstander sticking up for those who have been marginalized. By placing equal blame on upstanders, we are sending a message to our children to allow hate. We are teaching them apathy. We are telling our children to continue being bystanders, for otherwise they will be condemned along with the bully.  

strong kids

As parents, we have concern over who our children spend time with. We want to meet our children’s friends and their parents so that we may consider their values and character. We encourage our children to surround themselves with positive influences who will bring out the best in them. We are concerned over who our children align themselves with socially because we know that these people will not only have influence over them, but also determine how they are judged by their peers, their teachers, and people in their community.

If my child was continually hanging out with friends who openly used drugs, though assured me she was drug free, would I feel unconcerned? Of course not. Even if she stayed sober, she would be aligning herself with a group whose values did not stand with her own. School officials and future employers would have every right to question her judgement. If the police entered a room filled with drugs, she would find herself in trouble just by being present. We teach our children that they are a reflection of those around them. We must hold adults to the same standard.

When we refuse to condemn white nationalists for Saturday’s despicable riots because “other groups” were also marching, we give people a free pass to align themselves with hate while skirting blame. Forgive me if I have little sympathy for men who claim to have been marching simply to save an historic relic. You chose to knowingly march with leaders and members of the Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazi groups. You chose to align yourselves with hatred and you should reap the consequences, whether that be public shame or a loss of your employment.

When our president makes vague remarks about placing blame on “many sides” and refuses to condemn hate groups, he is sending a clear message to our children. Waiting two days to condemn specific hate groups still sends the same message. My children were playing outside on Saturday, but many weren’t. Children and teens across the nation heard the words of the president and received a message which blatantly contradicts the lessons they have been taught by their parents and teachers. Today, they heard a politician backpedal after national outrage that spread across party lines. So what can we do?

We let them hear our outrage. We let them know that today’s words were a start, but not good enough. We teach our children that hate is unacceptable. We encourage our children to stand up against hate of all kinds. We teach them to make their friends based on who is kind and who brings out the best in them, no matter their race, ethnicity, religion, or sexual orientation. Whether they see a classmate being teased over her headscarf or the contents of his lunchbox, I will teach my daughters to be fierce friends who always choose to be the upstander.

I will teach with my words and I will show with my actions. If I want my daughters to be fierce, they need a mother who is too. So my daughters will see me feel anger over injustice. They will see me defend anyone being subjected to hate and oppression. They will see their mother align herself with people and groups that celebrate inclusion and love. For my daughters, there will only be one side, and that will be the side that fights hate. Always.

WMDW: Half Marathon Training Edition

Mama’s drinking wine tonight because, how else does a frazzled mom train for a half marathon? Seriously, if you know of a better way, then by all means, share it with me, ’cause I’m apparently running one in three days.

I was seriously into running a half marathon about three months ago. Winter me imagined May me to be a picture of health and athleticism. Winter me is an idiot.

Don’t get me wrong, I was pretty good there for a while. I was following the half marathon training program I printed off the internet and stuck to my fridge like I was… hmmm, I’d love to drop a long distance runner name here, but I literally can’t think of one. Prefontaine? He ran marathons, right? The fact that I’m unsure shows you how little business I have running this race.

Anyway, I was weekend long running like a champ until my children’s spring sports’ schedule started. Between baseball, soccer, and dance my husband and I haven’t been able to watch a 30-minute show together in the last month let alone fit in two hours for a long run. Did you know that the New York Yankees have fewer games and practices than my 6- and 4-year-olds? Fact.

So, my goal of 9 1/2 minute miles quickly changed to “just running the whole thing,” which then deteriorated to, “If I have to walk, I have to walk,” and has now reached “as long as I don’t need a medic, I’ll be happy” status.

That’s the point where you just say to yourself, “I could get a training run in right now, but I think I’ll just drink this glass of wine before baseball practice instead.”

Basically, if they give out a medal for the runner who has logged the least amount of miles AND drunk the most ounces liters of wine in the weeks leading up to a race, I’m pretty sure I have it in the bag.

Cheers!

WMDW: Starbucks Edition

Mama’s drinking wine tonight because this is how we left Starbucks today. Let’s just say, my Cascara Latte didn’t cut it after this.

My glass of sauvignon blanc came to the rescue at home and is reminding me to have a gratitude attitude. Thanks to Starbucks whose amazing staff immediately made a sobbing four-year-old a new hot chocolate and mopped up our mess with a smile. Another thank you to the old men sitting across from us who didn’t even blink an eye when we made our scene. Also, a huge thank you goes out to the woman who gave me a smile and a knowing nod as I walked past her holding a pile of dripping napkins.

To the group of college students standing next to us: you’re welcome for the reminder to refill your birth control.

Cheers!

Mama Makes You Feel Better: “Collection” Edition

cup collection
A view under the book shelf.

Mama makes you feel better because your kids have normal hobbies. Some kids collect things. Perhaps yours collect shells. Or stamps. Or Pokemon cards. Maybe you complain because sometimes your lives seem to revolve around that collection. Wow, that must be rough for ya’ll. Your kid showing an interest in something that can teach them about their world, their history, or ignite their imagination.

You know what my kids collect?

Used cups. That’s right. The little cups they use to swish and spit when brushing their teeth cannot be thrown away in this house. They are stored securely in their rooms. And by securely, I mean, they’re everywhere.

A glimpse under any bed, dresser, or book shelf reveals a collection worthy of awe and reverie. Used paper cup collectors from around the globe would marvel at what my children have meticulously collected.

What is the purpose of this collection? Well, who doesn’t find themselves in need of a cup now and again? Need a place to put the change you have stolen from your parents’ pockets? Grab a cup. Did a beaded necklace break and you’d like to store the parts so your mother can throw them away when you’re not looking fix it? Well, there’s a cup right behind the door jam perfect for that.

Whenever we attempt to dispose of a cup, my husband and I are met with angry protests. We have learned that our children are not above rummaging through the garbage.

When we last ran out of cups, my judicious daughters ran to their rooms to fill dust-covered cups with water. And we let them. Because it filled them with pleasure to make use of their beloved collections. Mostly, we were too lazy to go downstairs to fetch clean cups from the kitchen.

This Thanksgiving, be thankful that your children have not caught the cup bug. And by bug, I mean cholera. No one should be drinking out of these things…

cup collection
Every nook and cranny is filled in the little one’s room.

 

Mama’s Drinking Wine…

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Because sometimes you get to shop at Whole Foods all by yourself, which means one thing. You get to eat all the cheese. “Would I like to try that triple creme brie with some strawberry rhubarb jam? You bet your ass I do!”

Throw in some fancy crackers and a hunk of soppressata, and I had the fixings for one hell of a charcuterie board. Not bad for a night at home with the fam.

Once I put the cheese board out, how did my children react? They ran into the fridge, took out the package of processed American cheese singles, and begged to have one.

If I was a glass half empty kind of girl  I’d be drinking due to my children’s horrifying palettes. But Mama’s glass is half full tonight (not for long), because I’ll toast to anyone who leaves more cheese and hard meats for me!

Random Acts of Kindness

Yesterday, there was a shooting at our local mall. Home to numerous restaurants, play centers, a bowling alley, and movie theater, in addition to the many stores stocked for Christmas shoppers, it was filled. Santa was taking pictures with children when the shots rang out.

I was not there, but the mall is a popular spot around here, and it didn’t take long for this shooting to become personal. A woman bringing a group of children to the movies to celebrate her son’s birthday. Another having lunch with a friend. A family out shopping for children’s clothing. My Facebook newsfeed quickly filled with announcements of safety.

No one was injured in the shooting, which is thought to be gang related. No one has been arrested. Yet, countless families will now question where they will bring their children today. Countless mothers will decide against a visit to Santa this year. Countless children will have life-long memories of being forced to get down and take cover as shots rang out in a crowded mall.

In times like this, it’s easy to believe that the world is a dark, cruel place. It’s hard to feel safe when our news is filled with random acts of violence. Today, I will try my best to remember the words of Fred Rogers. “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.'”

My friend Kelly was in the mall yesterday. I can’t imagine the fear she must have felt and still feels. Yet, this morning on Facebook, she chose to send a message to her helper. It brought me to tears, yet also brought me comfort. It reminded me that, in the midst of one act of violence, our local mall was home to a bounty of random acts of kindness yesterday.

Kelly has graciously allowed me to share her words with you. I hope that they make you feel a little bit better about the world today.

mr-rogers

To the stranger in DSW,

Yesterday when my husband and I decided to go to the mall to buy our daughter (3) some new dresses, I didn’t expect to leave holding your hand, especially since I never even caught your name. The mall was so crowded, we decided to park near JC Penny’s because, let’s face it, it never gets too packed there. Where did you park? Did you have to walk far after we were evacuated?

My husband, I think you saw him, was so frustrated when we arrived because he had left the attachment to the baby’s (5 months) stroller in the garage, but I of course am always prepared and had my wrap. (Looking back it was a sign not to have the stroller because we had to evacuate through stairs.) We weren’t there long, a stop in Pottery Barn, a quick stop at H&M, and then down the escalator to DSW. Were you starting your Christmas shopping early or there for yourself?

Our daughter Madigan loves the escalator, but she didn’t love Santa sitting at the bottom, so we quickly made our way to DSW and that’s where I met you. I was with the baby in the bootie section. I have a large foot, 9.5, and luckily they didn’t have anything to try on. What were you looking for?

As I made my way across the store to see where Dan and Madigan were, I noticed people yelling and running towards Penny’s. I looked around DSW, and oddly enough no one but me noticed that chaos that was ensuing. When I heard someone from inside the mall yell shooter, I did as I was trained and began to yell “shooter, shooter, everyone run” as loudly as I could. Did you hear me?

Dan didn’t hear me either so I started screaming his name. I’m sure you heard that. Finally, we made eye contact and I once again yelled out “shooter.” Although Dan had our daughter, he did what he was trained to do as a police officer and began to run towards the shooter. When he and I were talking about it last night, I was angry that he would have thought to leave us, but he explained it was his duty to put others before himself in the event of an active shooter. This is something that as a wife of an officer I need to accept, although yesterday I screamed at him to stop. I watched as he assessed the situation, and agreed, he needed to get our daughter to safety, after all I was still three isles away.

He quickly picked up Madigan and at that time the store clerk yelled for us to head to the back. That’s where I met you. I was the girl with the baby wrapped around her. I was the girl with the long brown ponytail and tears beginning to form in her eyes. I was the girl while walking up the stairs you asked if I was alone. I was the girl who told you my husband was here, but further down the stairwell. I was the girl who you explained to that my husband looked calm and had our daughter tightly wrapped in his arms. And I was the girl whose back you rubbed.

I was also the mother of that little girl screaming she was scared. I was the mother trying to explain that we were just in a fire drill, like the ones we practice at school. I was the mother of the sleeping baby lying across her chest, so innocent. I was the mother who took the biggest breath she’s ever taken as the door to the outside world opened, because it was in moment, I knew my children were safe.

And I was the stranger who was grateful that she had parked in JC Penny’s because I could see my car. I was the stranger who turned back, looked you straight in your watery eyes and said thank you. And I was the stranger who will forever be grateful to you, a woman whose name I don’t even know, a woman who in a time of great uncertainty cared enough about me to make sure I was okay, a woman whose face I will never forget.

In debt,

Kelly Webster

Mama Makes You Feel Better…

 

 

 

 

 

 

star wars family
What we went through to get this shot!

Because you’re not the only one who spent money and/or time on your child’s Halloween costume, only to have them refuse to wear it. We have been planning our Star Wars themed costume for months. We went through three garbage cans in order to find the perfect one for R2D2 (or, Arty D2, according to a certain kid in this family), and my husband worked for hours getting the design right. Which is why, when it came time to put it on, she flat refused.

So, yes, I posted the adorable family pic above on Facebook, and don’t we look like the happiest darn family on the block? What I didn’t include in the caption is that this kid cried for 15 minutes prior to the photo being taken, and only put the costume on long enough for us to take a family picture – – and that was after we threatened her with no trick or treating. Because Halloween, after all, is about Mom and Dad getting the photo op they earned with countless trips to Joann Fabric and Home Depot!

So, take solace. You are not the only family on the block who brought a child in a sweat suit door to door to beg for candy last night! Now, go raid their candy bag and feel better!

sweat-suit-lily
This little bugger does look happier in this photo, doesn’t she?

Mama Makes You Feel Better…

milestones
Is “No Effing Clue” an acceptable answer?

Because you aren’t the only one who forgets your children’s milestones. I recently had to fill out some paperwork for my soon-to-be 4-year-old daughter. It was all fun and games until I got to the questions about her “Developmental History.” Say whaaat? You expect me to remember how old my kid was when she pulled herself up to stand? I can’t even remember to sign the field trip permission form that I got yesterday, but I’m supposed to remember something that happened over three years ago? At least, I think it was three years ago. Seriously, how old are kids when they do this?

For a while I considered just writing “typical age” across this entire section, but then I realized that I had gotten a little too specific on previous answers. On the question about accidents, you might notice that I wrote in that she chipped her tooth when she was two. With that type of ridiculous specificity, they would now know that my “typical age” answer was not due to my practicality in form completion, but know that it was my pathetic attempt to avoid saying, “I have no clue.”

So, like any reasonable mother who never got around to making a baby book, but is overly concerned with stranger’s opinions of her, I lied. Well, in my defense, I searched through old emails and iPhotos to find the answers. When I came up short on a few, I googled the typical ages for these milestones and put it down on the form. Now the occupational therapist would think I was Mother of the Year for sure. Unless she receives the form late, which will most likely be the case. I’m not good at mailing things.

In related news, my own mother was aghast when I told her that I do not have a baby book for either one of my children. She then suggested I have a third baby so that I could get a baby book and do right by that one. Well played, Mom. Well played.