Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Bracing for braces

Well, it seems that no sooner had Older Son finally gotten all the hardware removed from his mouth, that Younger Son was judged ripe for torture—I mean “braces-ready” himself. Being a seasoned, battle-scarred veteran of the Orthodontic Experience (both my own, and Derek’s), I politely listened as the hygienist relayed crucial information (you know, good stuff like “foods you can’t enjoy for several years”, “how not to rip out a wire”…oh, and of course the more mundane “proper brushing technique so as not to walk around with bits of your last meal stuck in your brackets for all the world to admire”). I nodded at the right times to show I understood. But in my head I was thinking “this is old news, honey, we’re gonna be just fine.” Ha! Silly me, I forgot for just a brief moment how radically different my two boys are. You see, drama-free Derek sailed through the Braces Years in his typical placid fashion. He might have complained—quietly—that they felt uncomfortable after a tightening. He might have requested—calmly—a dose of pain reliever to help manage the ache. He might have mentioned—gently—that it sucked not to be able to bite into certain foods or to eat others at all. Seriously, all he needed was sympathy and a hug, and he was fine. It was about the easiest outcome a parent can ever expect when comforting their child through something potentially traumatic.

And at first it appeared that Riley would follow in his brother’s footsteps. He emerged from the Orthodontist’s office and proudly displayed his shiny new accessories. He even returned to school in a positive mood, without requesting any medicine. But…then he arrived home at the end of the day and immediately collapsed in a tearful mess. “I HATE braces!” he sobbed, curled up in a ball and hugging a pillow. Turns out the pain took a while to hit, and he was now getting the full force of a very sore mouth. He consequently hadn’t been able to eat his lunch, so I’m sure that contributed to the suffering. I went into Mom Fix-It Mode, and began offering possible feel-better options. A nice, soft banana? (“I can’t chew, he protested”.) Yogurt? (No teeth required!) Hot chocolate? (Just sip it; I swear, it’ll be easy!) Each idea was met with a dejected shake of his head, as if nothing I could possibly suggest would ever ease his misery. It was pathetic, I tell ya. At last I convinced him to try taking Ibuprofen to see if that would bring some relief. (About 30 seconds after he swallowed it, he moaned, “It’s not working!” Sigh. Patience, grasshopper, is clearly not one of your strongest lie down and give it a chance!)

I have to admit, given this unexpectedly less-than-promising beginning, I began to feel a bit of trepidation about the long Metal Months ahead of us. How could he withstand the repeated agony of every-6-week adjustments? And how could I cope with the accompanying whining? Fortunately, we had Derek’s recent experiences--and ultimately successful resolution--to reinforce the point that Riley would, in fact, survive this. And I was even able to use my own saga to lend credence to our claims. I remember getting my braces on in 7th grade…the day before I was scheduled to take the SAT with a group of my Nerd Society—I mean “scholastically gifted”--peers. (It should be noted that the timing of this was NOT one of my mother’s more brilliant ideas…) The morning of the test, my mouth was absolutely killing me. I had to bring a lunch, and as I recall the only thing I could manage was: a banana and a peanut butter sandwich. The upshot was, sharing my Tooth Trials got Riley to smile a little...and persuaded him to try the Elvis Diet until his chompers got back to normal.

Anyway, as we promised him, the initial shock and pain did diminish. Actually, after that first day, he only asked for one more Ibuprofen. He resumed meals again—well, mashed potatoes, soup, applesauce, cheese, and the like. And the attitude returned to his usual exuberant (if still dramatic) self. So, I’m happy to say I think we’re all going to make it through this process one more time. I just need to be certain to stay stocked up on peanut butter, bananas, Ibuprofen…and hugs!

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