Life moves quickly. I woke up the other day to the stark realization that my baby had turned 8 years old. I’m not complaining, mind you. I appreciate my kids more and more with each passing day. I wasn’t big into the baby and toddler thing. I know that’s not something you’re supposed to say. But I like being able to talk to my kids, to hear how they feel, to watch their logic develop and unfold. It’s way more fun to play Backgammon with Eli, who at 8 is already a formidable opponent, than to mull away endless hours watching him screech wildly in a bouncy seat while systematically hurling teething toys across the room.
Babies are cute, especially other people’s. They’re nice to snuggle with too, every once in a while. But I prefer more verbal clarity in my communication, and with boys who are 8 and 11, that’s exactly what I get. Of course I’m well aware that all that might change once puberty hits. But right now that still feels like a lifetime away, kind of like braces did until yesterday.
I didn’t prepare Eli very well for the orthodontic surprise 8th birthday present he received this week. I’m not entirely sure why I so acutely ignored my maternal responsibility to prompt and prepare my child for this pending traumatic milestone. I may actually have been in a slight state of denial. “Am I getting braces today?” Eli asked point blank while he shoveled in a handful of French fries at lunch. “No honey,” I calmly replied. “I think the doctor just wants to check the expander progress and schedule the braces for a few months from now.” I wasn’t lying. That’s honestly what I thought.
I was every bit as shocked when our warm and welcoming orthodontist pulled out the shiny silver metal tool kit and began attaching the metal brackets to Eli’s front four teeth. OMG, I thought. He’s getting braces TODAY! I tried to act calm. Eli seemed to be rolling unflappably with the unexpected event. Meanwhile I started texting everyone I knew with my pithy, yet painful observations about time’s fleeting passage. It’s not that I didn’t know this was coming down the pipeline, I just wasn’t expecting it today. And consequently, I had done a really lousy job preparing myself and my little guy for it.
I would never have made this error with Levi, his older brother. For Levi, everything had to be spelled out, thoroughly explained, even rehearsed, sometimes for weeks prior to a new event. I remember preparing levi for school with pre-classroom tours, early meetings with teachers and hours of re-reading “Miss Bindergarten Gets Ready for Kindergarten.” With Eli, I woke him up one day and happily chirped that today was his first day of kindergarten, and off we went.
I can’t pinpoint how or when I knew that Eli would have an easier time adapting to new situations than his older brother. Giving myself the benefit of the doubt, maybe my maternal intuition led me to trust that Eli could better manage these kinds of surprises to his psyche. Or, perhaps I was just more preoccupied and less attentive to the daily details of life once he came along and I found myself inundated with two kids, a busy work schedule, and a bustling household to manage.
The ironic thing here is that while I’m usually fairly laid back when it comes to major lifestyle shifts, I find myself a bit overwhelmed by the monumental realization that my youngest is growing up — fast. The braces just kind of pushed me over the edge.
But what can you do? Life marches on, whether you’re ready for it or not. So happy birthday, my dear and lovable little man. Thank you for your adaptability in the face of chaos, your humor amidst our daily disasters, and your heart-melting smile, that with or without metallic appliances, warms my soul and soothes my spirit.