Sean came home yesterday with some new headgear from the orthodontist. It’s painful for him because its new and his mouth is still adjusting to it. He has to wear it 14 hours a day to realign some teeth that sprouted in the wrong spots.
Last night he complained that it was painful. We gave him some Tylenol and he went to sleep. But Erin and I felt awful. A parent never wants to see their children in pain.
For me, the challenge has always been to push ahead and make the kids go through things they must endure for their own good. Many times I caved after seeing their tears, and while I cave out of love, it’s not the right thing to do.
Caving in to the kids means they grow up spoiled and unable to deal with the challenges life will inevitably hurl at them.
But for me, it aint easy.
I grew up in a house where there was a lot of yelling and hitting. My mother was the one out of control. My father was the one who would try to comfort us in the aftermath by giving in to our requests. He has a special place in my heart for that. But now that I have two kids, whenever they experience pain, I fold.
Like anything else in life, there’s a middle speed somewhere that I need to find. I have work to do on that score.
I’m hell-bent on sparing my kids from the discomfort I experienced at their age. But some of the discomfort they’re going to go through is a necessary part of growing up. Like going to the orthodontist and getting a metal contraption fastened to the mouth — then, to add insult to injury, telling the kid he can’t chew gum, drink soda or have candy for a long time to come.
Historically, we Brenners have not been kind to dentists and orthodontists.
My late brother came home the day he got braces and pulled them out in the bathroom with a pair of pliers. I stayed in braces three years longer than I should have because I skipped appointments, stuffed my face WITH the retainer in my mouth (before the braces) and smoked, which, by the way, isn’t good for braces, either.
I’m determined not to let our kids do that stuff, because as a parent that’s what I should be doing — standing my ground.
The key is to stand my ground when the tears start flowing.
One thing will make this easier:
While the orthodontist office of my childhood was a dark, sterile and boring environment, Sean’s going to an orthodontist who knows how to keep the kids happy while they’re in the chair.
They get to watch TV. They can play the X-Box if they want.
Those options didn’t exist when I was a kid.
Which makes me a little less sympathetic.