I judged a mom today.

I judged a mom today.

I did. I judged another mother.

Treat others how you want to be treated.

Don’t judge a person before you’ve walked a mile in their shoes.

Yeah, I know. I still did it. My jaw dropped. She probably heard my teeth slam together in an effort not to show my judgement. I didn’t confront her. I didn’t say a word. She wasn’t harming her daughter in any way I could see – other than her tween daughter will hate her in a few years and leave as soon as she’s 18.

I’m judging again. I’ll stop.

I took Emma to the orthodontist.

Some parents sit in the receptionists’ waiting area and some sit in the extra chair provided near the dental chair. I like to sit with Emma and discuss where we should play hooky before taking her back to school.

The row of dental chairs are separated by a free-standing, frosted glass window. There is no privacy. The orthodontist made her rounds. She examined the patient next to Emma.

Orthodontist: Oh! Look how nicely these are coming along.

Mom: Uh, huh. Can we take them off now?

Orthodontist: Oh, she still needs more time. We still need to fix her bite and then we’ll fine tune.

Mom: Can you take them off, please?

Orthodontist: We never hold anyone hostage with braces. But I am not recommending this. Her treatment is not complete.

Mom: Yes, I know. I would like my daughter to have an imperfect smile. You know? I don’t want her to have perfectly straight teeth. It shows character if her teeth are not perfect.

I looked at Emma. My mouth dropped. I tipped back in my chair to get a better look at the mom and daughter.

Emma: (whispers) Mom, stop!

Me: I want to see them.

Emma: How old is the girl?

Me: Your age? Maybe a little younger?

The daughter stared at her hands in her lap while her mom argued with the orthodontist.

Mom: I never wanted her teeth to be straight. I just want them almost straight.

Orthodontist: We can take them off today if this is what you and your daughter wish. Please understand that the price doesn’t change, whether you paid in full or are making payments.

Mom: Yes, I know. Please remove them.

If I thought this was best for my daughter and this was something my daughter wanted, by all means, judge me. Walk in my shoes. Write about me on your blog.

I have the feeling this wasn’t the daughter’s wish.

How long does a parent have control over how their child looks? Even if the daughter wanted straight teeth, she probably wasn’t paying for the braces herself. Braces are a luxury, in most cases. I’m not sure the daughter ever had a say at all.

A parent can somewhat control how a child looks when they’re young. A baby is a little doll you can dress up even if the doll keeps you up all night, shoots yellow poop up the back of the cute outfit you bought from Target, and rips out every hair bow you place on her head. And Emma still won’t let me style her gorgeous curls.

When does a parent cross the line? Deciding where bones should be – teeth are bones, right? Straight but not too straight teeth? 

I’m not the greatest mom. I yell at my kids in public. I’m sure I’ve put them in danger by road-raging my way to the grocery store. I rarely watch any gymnastics practice. I’m cool with making chocolate chip cookies for dinner when Scott is out of town. I show my daughter it’s ok to eavesdrop and judge others. I don’t want to have more kids because, well, I’m just done. 

Emma: Mom?

Me: Yeah, Em.

Emma: Thanks for letting me keep my braces on. I’m glad you’re not like that other mom. You’re the best.

I judged a mom today because sometimes you need a shot of adrenaline in the arm to let you know you’re doing ok.

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I survived adult braces.

I made an impulse purchase nine months ago. When most people make an impulse purchase, it’s a pack of gum at the check-out counter. My impulse purchase was a full bottom set of metal braces.

And I had to avoid gum.

I don’t know what happened. I took Emma in for a braces consultation. I walked out with a painful jaw and a pack of wax in my hand.

That was nine months ago. I got my braces off. Again.

I’m eating popcorn as I type this.

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Ring that bong.

In response to my braces, I was flooded with questions. I am not alone when it comes to cussing at our teenage selves for not wearing a retainer. I will be the first to tell you everything you wanted to know about adult braces:

Do they hurt? 

Yes, they hurt. Even with the new technology (no spacers, no ring around the back molar, and the brackets have tiny doors for the staff to easily switch out the wire) the orthodontist is still moving teeth through your gums. There was only one adjustment that caused enough pain to give me a headache. That being said, the pain wasn’t even close to the pain of childbirth. Or even period cramps.

Um, sorry males.

No, not sorry.

Did you have braces as a teenager?

Yes. I had braces for two years. I had braces, acne, glasses, and I was taller than all the boys. I thought I was too cool for a retainer. And here I am – wearing adult braces. Adult braces that don’t get paid for by my parents. Hilarious, dad.

Could you get Invisalign or clear braces?

No. My bottom teeth were too messed up for Invisalign. Invisalign also costs more than traditional braces. Clear braces are not available for bottom teeth, only top teeth.

I like my braces cheap, fast, and ugly.

What about your top teeth? Why are they so straight?

No idea. My orthodontist didn’t have an answer either.

How long do you have to wear them?

The orthodontist guessed ten months. She got them straight in nine. This all depends on how much you let your teenage self get away with falling asleep without a retainer. This also depends on how fast you can pay off your bill.

Remember how we could pick out colors for braces?

Oh, we can still pick out colors for braces.

Staff: I’ll just put a grey band on for you.

Me: Stop. Are you asking me if I want a color?

Staff: Do you want a color?

Me: Do you want the Royals to win the World Series? I’ll take blue, please.

Ugh, I remember all the flossing. Do you have to get special floss?

Yep, that hasn’t changed. Keeping my teeth clean was even more annoying because I drink massive amounts of coffee and sometimes red wine. Even with the picking and the brushing and the flossing – no one escapes the dental hygienist lecture after a professional cleaning. No one.

Dental hygienist: Just make sure you really angle your brush down inside the gums.  You seem to be missing…

Me: Can I box you up and take you home with me?

So no chewing gum, huh?

No gum, no popcorn, no corn on the cob. Rice was hard to eat and so were chips. I couldn’t stuff a giant sandwich in my mouth. All food had to be picked apart with my monkey hands. I survived on soup and protein shakes.

And coffee and wine.

Were you the only adult seen by the orthodontist?

Yes, that I saw. It’s more humorous than humiliating. It’s like the fountain of youth club back there.

Does anyone make comments about your braces?

No, not unless I pointed them out. I think most adults want to hide their braces. I showed everyone because I’m shy. If you’re introverted, like me, this makes perfect sense.

I’m extroverted, what are you talking about?

Small-talk makes me panic. When I panicked with adult braces, my solution was to pull my lower lip down to show my mouth full of metal to Kate’s teacher, the FedEx man, and my fellow braces-wearing grocery store bagger. I didn’t know what else to talk about. I own awkward.

So wait, you have a retainer now?

Hell yes I have a retainer. I have the clear/removable retainer for both the top and bottom teeth. And I will wear these every night until I reach the elite status of dentures.

How much?

Ah, you were waiting for this question. I put it at the end so you would keep reading. With my “discount” of being considered “a fix,” it was approximately $900. I could split the payments, which ended up $100 a month for 9 months. I’m sure the price depends on how much work needs to be done. It was the biggest impulse buy I’ve ever made.

Are they worth it?

Yes. I feel like I have a brand new set of Hollywood-grade teeth. I can smile bigger and laugh louder without feeling self-conscious. I am assuming these are the same feelings people get after plastic surgery or losing a lot of weight. It was more for myself than the people that have to look at me every day. From a dental standpoint, it’s much easier to floss straight teeth. And food is less likely to get stuck for no one to tell me about until I see it before bed.

This popcorn tastes delicious.

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Any other questions? Would you get adult braces? Would you invest in any part of your body to make you feel better about yourself? 

Say cheese.

It was a last second decision, really.

Or maybe it was a decision I made in my head years ago.

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I took Emma in for an orthodontic consultation and I walked out with bottom braces for the next ten months.

I don’t know what happened. I was sitting there, talking to the orthodontist about Emma’s smile. I said I wish I wore my retainer. One x-ray and a quick quote later – BOOM.

I picked a seat in between two middle schoolers and started to decline. Right there, a 33-year-old public service announcement: wear your retainers, kids. And worse, my own kids took video on my phone. I had a laughing audience.

I sent a picture text to Scott when I was done. My phone rang.

Me: Hello?

Scott: Please tell me this text is photoshopped. What the hell did you do?! I thought you were taking Emma in!

Me: Well….it’s all because of one tooth, really.

Scott: This is real? You have braces on right now? You look like you’re 15!

Me: Oh, do I? Thank you. Hey, do I have a lisp?

Scott: I didn’t know you were getting braces! How much did those cost?

Me: It’s way cheaper than you think. I got a discount for being a returning customer. And it’s considered a “fix.”

Scott: Fix what?

Me: My one tooth.

Scott: What tooth?

Me: Ugh, Scott. The one tooth that never kept its act together. It went all sideways. It looks like I’m missing a tooth sometimes when I smile or talk.

Scott: I’ve never noticed it. Show me a picture.

Me: No. I know how to hide it. I delete pictures if I see the missing tooth. I’ve been hiding it for years.

Scott: I had no idea you were so self conscious about this. I guess apparently enough for braces? BRACES? BRACES. Metal ones.

Me: Oh, and a retainer for my top teeth. Just at night. She could tell my one top tooth is starting to protrude. We made a retainer today. She saved me from snaggletooth, Scott.

Scott: Your dumbass would buy a snow cone in the arctic.

Me: It was included in the price! Now I feel vain.

Scott: Hey, if it makes you happy…whatever.

Me: Am I vain?

Scott: No, you’re not vain. Look at you. You hit puberty all over again. You have braces on.

Me: Hey, Emma and I will be in braces at the same time!

Scott: Goodbye, brace face.

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To answer your questions – yes, they hurt. But no pain, no Hollywood smile.

I’ve lost about 5 pounds in two days because of the “braces diet.” I forgot how much food I can’t shovel into my mouth. I’m surviving with protein shakes, soup and sucking on an occasional barbecue chip.

I spend at least 30 minutes brushing and flossing my teeth, twice a day. The biggest difference between 13-year-old me and 33-year-old me is screw you, coffee and red wine. Adult teeth staining is a real thing.

I’ve already broke a bracket by ripping off a tag with my teeth. I bought a new bikini. I’m  fishing in the Bahamas this week. And they say barracudas are attracted to metal. I can’t wait to explain this one to my orthodontist.

Scott, I’m bringing pliers so you can cut the barracuda off your 15-year-old wife’s lip.

Have you ever gotten adult braces? Would you? Are you self conscious about something you’ve never told anyone about? Do you still wear your retainer? I’m already impressed if you do.