This is a monumental event in the life of a teenager, ranking right up there with prom, graduation, and a day of clear skin. Shannon waited patiently for this day to arrive and in high school years, it was an eternity. In a place where any small defect or deviation from the norm makes you an object of ridicule, getting your braces off in high school is major. For someone like Shannon who is fixated on her appearance, it is nothing less than sensational.
I’m not trying to imply that Shannon is vain; to the contrary–I’ll come right out and say that she’s vain. Not that it’s all her fault; she is constantly bombarded with the notion that being attractive is more important than being smart, or being just a genunine person. She watches the Kardashian girls on tv who are known for little else than “looking good” and they’re “famous”. As a parent, I try to remind her that it’s not all about how you look, but the kind of person you are. I stress the importance of getting a good education because looks fade. However, my wisdom seems to fall on deaf ears because there are people at her school with zero redeeming qualities that are popular just based on how they look. So it’s no wonder that Shannon was anxiously chomping at the bit to have her braces removed.
It’s also no surprise to anyone who has had braces that her first few days of braces-free teeth were spent licking them, examining them, and eating all the items that previously she wasn’t supposed to eat. Shannon couldn’t help but look in every reflective surface to check out her beautiful new smile. I couldn’t help but be happy that she was happy and that my five thousand dollar investment had paid off with a glorious mouth full of perfect teeth.
Ah, but then came the inevitiable: she wanted to whiten her teeth. No one wants to wear braces for three years and come away with…gasp!…white spots on her teeth! My friend, Jen, was generous enough to let Shannon have a teeth whitening kit. The kit included a tray for Shannon to immerse her teeth in a perioxide goo, thus enhancing her already beautiful smile. For the record, our dog, Ollie, got in the trash after Shannon had whitened her teeth and chewed the gel trays until he, too, emerged from the bathroom with a glistening smile.
Daniel, my youngest son, was intrigued by the whole braces-on-the-teeth adventure, since he is next in line. He quizzed Shannon about her experience, which she bemoaned as one of the worst of her life. I reminded her it could have been substantially worse; she could have been confined to headgear for three years.
“I just never would have left the house if I had headgear,” was her dramatic response. This was not a surprise to me. Her little brother continued to bombard her with questions regarding her time in braces, inquiring about the pain involved and the difficulty involved in eating. Once she became bored with his line of questioning, I changed the subject to Daniel’s upcoming school project on Benjamin Franklin.
“So Daniel,” I inquired, “can you name something Ben Franklin was famous for?”
“He was an inventor,” Daniel responded. Just then, Shannon chimed in.
“He was an author, too,” she said. I agreed, and was pleased that she was joining in the conversation. She picked up her dinner knife and looked at her teeth. Eager to keep the dialogue rolling, I asked Daniel if he knew what treasury bill Ben Franklin’s picture was on. He guessed and said the five, so I asked Shannon.
“The hundred,” was her answer. Just as I was swelling with pride, she blurted out, “because he was the 100th president.”
And suddenly, it hit me: That was the best five grand I ever invested.