Like many kids of my generation, I suffered through several long adolescent years sporting a heaping mouthful of braces. Scratchy brackets, sharp wires, rubber bands...even the dreaded headgear (collective shudder). "Back then", they started the excruciating process in middle school, which meant you just might enter high school still flashing a chrome-grin. (i.e. the photo of me in 9th grade) And the agony...pressure so intense it hurt to BREATHE. Every time I visited the torturer--I mean orthodontist--I spent days afterward subsisting on bananas and peanut butter sandwiches; even those caused me to wince with pain at each bite.
Fast forward to the 21st century, when enlightened tortur--orthodontists begin their work on 7 year olds! Derek already has had palate-expanding devices in for a year-and-a-half, with brackets and wires that they remove or add, depending on what's going on with his teeth (falling out, growing in, crowding, what have you). Apparently they now know that if you get in there before the palate fuses (around age 10), you can just merrily manipulate the mouth with much less resistance, and therefore PAIN. So, his experience overall has been much easier than what I remember.
However, although I never expected to say this: I'm glad I have such vivid memories of my own Orthodontic Era. Because this morning for the first time after an "adjustment appointment" at the orthodontist, Derek lay curled up in bed, refusing to eat (for him, a RED ALERT!!) and moaning about his mouth aching. I was able to empathize with him and share some Tales of a Teenage Metal Mouth. I assured him it would feel better tomorrow morning. But he really brightened when I cut up a banana and arranged it into a smiley-face for his breakfast...and slathered it with Nutella. (Proving once again, chocolate does make the world go 'round!)