That's my silly girl today with a big cheesy smile showing off two wiggly top teeth stickin' out and hanging on by a thread on the verge of falling out any minute now. It brings back such memories for me - those darn teeth just like hers that seemed to be loose forever. I remember the adult threats of the long string attached to my tooth and the door, or the car bumper, or the dreaded pliers. I could never quite figure out if they were joking or serious? Yikes!
Both of my kids got referred to an orthodontist by their new and wonderful family dentist a few months back. Although I know it's inevitable due to my small-mouth genes and their already crowded teeth, the news is still a bit hard to take. The money part is one thing, well, okay, lots of things, but knowing that my sweet little babies face a future of painfully bloody teeth pulling surgeries and sore mouths from braces is just, well, sad.
So, after many months of procrastination, I finally take my kids to the orthodontist to hear the details of their dreaded oral fate. Now, I don't know if the doctor was trying to butter me up knowing full well that he's about to make enough money off of us to pay for that 5-Star European cruise that his wife is begging for, but he didn't seem to think that anything regarding their teeth was urgent at all. He smiles and delivers the news "their jaws are absolutely perfect which is great, so let's wait until more teeth fall out and then we'll talk". And the two very loose teeth that Talia keeps wiggling and that I was hoping he'd pull out in two seconds without any pain? He says "save yourself some money and let them come out on their own which should be in the next two days or so". Uh humm, that was a week ago! At least we found a great doctor that offers a warm personality and fun stickers and pencils and...he takes all major credit cards.
On the way home, I start thinking about all the seemingly endless work on my mouth that I endured as a child. Because of my very small mouth, I had eight permanent teeth pulled (along with countless baby teeth) braces, head gear, neck gear, and a retainer. The works! Joan Cusack in Sixteen Candles, yep, that was me. Although I shudder when I remember some of that awful stuff like it was yesterday, I'm so happy that my mom did that all for me. My jaw doesn't knock and my teeth are straight now. I don't even want to think about what my mouth would look like without all that work.
So, out of curiosity, I ask my mom, how did she manage that big expense as a single mother? Get this - she tells me that her income was $750 a month back then (not a week, but $750 for the whole month!), and she paid $100 to my orthodontist every single month for two years. I'm speechless. I can't even fathom how she got by with such little money. That's only $650 per month for rent, food, utilities, clothes, etc., etc., etc., etc...She didn't have credit cards or equity lines of credit or wealthy parents or child support. Yet, not once did I hear her complain about what she gave up or make me feel guilty. I can only imagine what she sacrificed. She just did it. Maybe it was just different times then, or maybe my mom is just simply a great mom, or both, but I'm just amazed...and totally grateful.
It kind of puts things into perspective. It's not a matter of "if" my kids need orthodontics, but "when" and I can do the "when" part without worrying if I can buy groceries or pay the utility bills. My husband endured very crooked teeth until he was almost thirty when he could finally pay to fix them himself. My kids will get it all done before their teenage years when it really matters. They will be fine, especially with all the extra ice cream in their future and (more) beautiful smiles, too.