From despondent to determined

My daughter takes on the dreaded (gulp) headgear

The list of things my 10-year-old daughter hates is pretty short.

She hates chasing the dog through the swamp when he gets loose and she hates onions. But she hates dental headgear most of all.

She's a small girl with a small jaw, so she's needed some work to keep everything coming in straight.
She's had braces and a retainer to start with, and now we've moved on to the heavy equipment.

First let me state that our orthodontist is an incredibly skilled man who is knowledgeable, empathetic and great at what he does. I wish every family could have him as an orthodontist, but you can't. He's ours.

After a recent visit to his office, it became clear that my daughter would need headgear. Even the best orthodontists can make headgear only somewhat bearable, so on that day a new item was added to the list of things my daughter hates.

On the way home from her appointment that day, I tried to talk about all the people who have had headgear so she wouldn't feel like the only one with this contraption wrapped around her head. I pointed out that Michael Cera's character George Michael from “Arrested Development” wore headgear, and that Katy Perry – one of her favorite singers – wore headgear in the music video for “Last Friday Night.”

She had no clue who Farmer Ted from “16 Candles” was, but she got my point.

There was genuine despondency coming from the back seat of the car as we drove home that day. We had some things to do, but a question came from the back tinged with a sadness I hadn't heard from her before: “Can we just go home, please? I've been through a lot today.”

I think there may have been a bit of drama in the car with us at that point, but I could see she was miserable. We headed straight home, and since I'm a huge sucker for big tears I set her up with Minecraft on the laptop. It served as a fine salve that day.

I felt bad for her. Just getting it in was a struggle at first. She didn't want her mother or I to do it for her – she was determined to do it herself. She wasn't going to let it beat her, and as much as she hated it she was committed to wearing it as much as possible. It turns out that the more she wears it, the shorter period of time she'll need it.

Since that day she's been really conscientious about wearing it. It's gotten quite a bit easier to put it on, and every time she wears it she knows she's a few hours closer to saying goodbye to it – from a very straight jaw and some really nice teeth.

I'm also glad she hasn't lost her sense of humor. As things got a little better, she rounded the corner one day with her headgear on, and a phone jammed between the wire and her ear.

“Hands free!” she said, with pride.

And so the countdown to a headgear-free face began.

Bill Burke is a writer who lives in southern New Hampshire with his wife and daughter, who is trying to convince her parents that she's now more machine than Man.

Categories: Dad on Board