As Ruby starts her first full week seventh grade this week, I have been going back in time to my own middle school experience. I remember the excitement of getting a locker and the (much more short-lived) thrill of having a PE uniform to change into. I remember awkward dances and questionable fashion choices and the joy of being invited to an exclusive party and the nagging ache of knowing I hadn’t been included. I remember my friendships (many of which I maintain to this day) and my feuds. I remember playing Spin the Bottle at a party and then being so embarrassed the next week when the boy I kissed wouldn’t even look at me – so embarrassed that I hid in the library for a month straight and helped the librarian re-shelve books; I should list my resultant knowledge of the Dewey decimal system as a skill on my résumé. I remember the smell of the old hallways and the taste of the sandwich my mother packed me every day for lunch.
Most of all, though, I remember my braces.
I had horrible teeth, crooked and crowded, and I was relieved when I got braces in seventh grade, although I also felt guilty because I knew they were expensive and my parents couldn’t really afford them. As a result, I tried not to complain – and failed miserably because I was 12 and I complained like it was my job.
Braces sucked. They hurt. They were unsightly. They got food stuck in them. I couldn’t eat half the stuff I wanted to eat … or I ate it anyway and broke brackets off. And I had to wear them forrrrreverrrrr. That’s not pre-teen hyperbole. I got braces on my teeth in seventh grade and did not get them off until the week before I took my senior pictures. That’s more than five years.
I don’t regret it. I needed braces, and even at the time, I was grateful to have a mother who made sure I had everything I needed even if she didn’t know how she was going to pay for it. I also had a great orthodontist for the second half of my treatment who was determined to not pull a single tooth, even with my crowded jawline, and I’m thankful for that, too.
But man, I hated it at the time, and when I found out I was pregnant, my dearest hope was that Ruby would get her dad’s perfect teeth – they’re beautifully, naturally straight; he has never had a cavity; and he didn’t even have to have his wisdom teeth pulled.
She didn’t. She got his face and my teeth.
And now, as I watch her encounter her own middle school drama and wish I could swoop in to save her from all of it, I know there is one more thing I can’t save her from: braces.
I’m sure they’ve made some advances in the 25 years since they put them on me, but honestly, I can’t tell quite what those advances might be because they still look really really un-fun.
Ruby has her first orthodontic consult on Wednesday. I imagine she’ll have a full-on mouth of hardware by Christmas.
Besides orthodontic wax, a water flosser, and lots of mashed potatoes, does anyone have any tips, tricks, or advice for us? Please chime in in the comments below.