Braces, Round One, were removed from my 4th grader today.
Exultation! But just for a while.
A second round is sure to come two years from now. That’s how they do it nowadays: Expand their jaw with a torture device that requires parental “cranking,” to make us complicit; smack braces on the widened mouth; remove braces; allow one week respite before a retainer that will become the subject of anxiety dreams involving naked dumpster diving (we’re always naked in anxiety dreams); after the last baby teeth fall out and adult ones grow in, apply Braces Round Two.
This is progress.
If you are my child’s grandparents or teacher please skip the next sentence. I intentionally scheduled today’s orthodontist appointment to start when recess ended. I let him miss instructional time instead of play time.
I have my reasons. One night last week, the 4th grader, lying on his bed in the honest hour, that twilight moment after lights out when truth is told to parents, said, “My body feels so much stress. My head and my heart are filled with stress. It’s not good for your heart, right?” Even his stress was stressing him.
What could a 4th grader (with one of the nicest teachers in the school, no pandering) feel stressed about?
Maybe it was transitioning from summer. Maybe it was the quizzes he had to catch up on after missing two days of school for a family Bat Mitzvah in Pennsylvania. Maybe it was missing his dogs, who live in Pennsylvania because they are actually his grandparents’ dogs. He does have a beautiful relationship with Bucket and Bumper. Like human long distance relationships, it’s all honeymoon, no day-to-day dreary logistics, like poop gathering or vomit cleaning.
So maybe he was sad or stressed by those things? I don’t know. What I do know is that he is a kid for whom “unscheduled” is the highest form of pleasure, that recess and lunch are his favorite parts of school, and that ten years old is too young to be consumed by stress. When given the option, it was an easy choice to protect recess.
Don’t think I haven’t reminded him multiple times of what I did for him. I get a lot of “meanest mom!” flung my way; I’m going to milk this as long as I can.