Woe is me

On Thursday, Fritz had an expander installed in his mouth and brackets placed on his upper teeth. This is a new experience for all of us: neither Bill nor I ever had braces or an expander or any orthodontic work. I could tell Fritz was anxious – he has been pretty upset about this whole ordeal beginning last summer when he was found to have a cyst in his jaw. I’ve been pretty matter-of-fact about all of his medical treatment, including his braces. The orthodontist is of the opinion that early intervention is the best thing for him, especially on the bottom where the cyst moved teeth completely out of alignment. So that is that. Fritz can bemoan the surgeries he’s had for the cyst and the braces he has to wear on his teeth, but it won’t change the fact that Bill and I have decided this is best for him. He has to do what he has to do, and there are worse things that kids have to suffer.

In the waiting room, Fritz leaned over and put his head on my lap. He said his stomach hurt. Nerves. I rubbed his back and told him it would be fine. When he went in, I briefly thought that I ought to have taken a picture of him or at least taken one last good look at his crooked mouth. After a while, they fetched me and I got to see the appliance. It closely resembles a medieval torture device…and I get to crank it twice a day. I feel like I should be wearing a black mask to protect my identity in case the prisoner manages to escape.

We left the office and headed for home. Suddenly a wave of emotion swept over me, and I felt myself struggling to keep from crying. In part, it was that mother’s nostalgia that comes when your child passes yet another milestone. I cried when he outgrew those 0-3 month clothes, and the 3-6 month clothes and the 6-9 month clothes. I cried when that first tooth popped out. I cried when he made his First Penance and his First Holy Communion. And now, he’s getting braces.

In part, my tears reflected the pity I had for him having to go through this. My poor boy. He’s too young for this – he’s not even nine. Why did he have to have a cyst? Why does he have to have an expander? Why can’t his life be easy?

And if that pity for my son isn’t pathetic enough, I realized finally that my tears were in part ones of self-pity. Why do I have to go through this: the appointments, finding babysitters or dealing with squirming toddlers at the doctor’s office, cranking his torture device, listening to his complaining and whining, correcting his uncooperative attitude? Why can’t my life be easy?

Fortunately, recognizing self-pity is, for me, the fastest way to get over something. There is no emotion I loathe more. From self-pity comes anger at my uncoordinated little ones, since I have to clean up their spills. From self-pity comes impatience when they want to do something themselves or when they want to help me, since I have to slow down and wait. From self-pity comes annoyance at my husband, since he isn’t able to help out around the house or with the kids.

Fritz will get through this ordeal, and so will I. They say the expander is only for 4 or 5 months, and I will pray it does its job quickly. Even the braces they say will only be for 6 to 9 months. This is no big deal. Really. There are worse things than hauling your kid around to doctor’s appointments, right?

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