If I had a Magic 8 Ball from my days growing up in the 70s that would have told me I was going to grow up and have all boys, I would have pre-selected some pretty ridiculous names for them. I might have gone Roman and chosen Romulus, Spartacus, Aurelius, Cassius and Pontius (which means Fifth One, if you're not caught up on this sort of stuff, because I certainly wasn't.) With the last name O'Toole, however, that whole Roman theme would likely have been stupidly confusing.
Similarly, had I known that all five of my boys would need braces, I would have just bought our neighborhood orthodontist a Jeep. The cost, in the end, would have likely been a wash, and I'm pretty sure that he'd have an awful lot more fun switching to the soft top every spring than cashing our monthly checks. (Christopher, who prefers to be called Chris, I just learned, in the one on the right here. He just got his metal mouth today. Cue the Motrin...)
Kids have No. Earthly. Idea. what kind of stuff we do to give them an advantage in life. Robotics camp. Soccer goalie lessons. Private art instruction. And yes, braces. It's the last thing a kid thinks of as a blessing, but later in life, he or she totally will.
While Chris looks delighted with his new look, I know after having a metal mouth of my own that braces hurt like hell and are a considerable amount of work. Especially for a child who goes to sleep-away camp every summer for two weeks and never changes his undies. (Don't get me started about these boys of mine). There are tons of appointments, extra care that goes into blasting the food niblets out of unseen spots with a water pik, photographs to avoid and kissing to be wary of. It's just a pain. Period. A pain.
But braces are truly the ultimate blessing.
I look at Michael now and literally swoon at his smile.
Like, right? And I look at Jack. So stubborn and annoying, of course, what 16 year old isn't? But with such a beautiful smile. I could eat him for breakfast.
And I look at my sweet Ryan... who will be the fifth and final O'Toole boy to get braces.... and I just love him to death. He gets his metal in June.
I've come to understand that it's not up to our children to understand all the moves we make to position them for their future. And while braces certainly aren't the end of the world, they're such an extravagance. Such a blessing. Such a gift. I know one day, perhaps a long time from now when my boys are raising their own children, my sons will look back on their childhood and realize how endlessly spoiled they were.
Is it completely ridiculous for me to make a story out of this simple rite of passage? Of course. Millions of children get braces every year. But to be able to sit right here in my front row seat and watch the transformation take place? Wow. That's just awesome.
Here's to us never getting too busy to appreciate the view. Especially when it's as handsome as this.