Most days I’m pretty sure the investment in my son’s personalized orthodontia will be worth it someday, but today is not most days.close-up view on children teeth with braces

He took a baseball to the mouth on Monday night, which happens to be only three weeks after he collided with another child on a trampoline; in both incidents, his the tissue of his lips and gums became enmeshed in the brackets and wires of his braces.

The first time, the lip freed itself (that’s not a phrase I’ve ever written before) while we were in the waiting room, and while I was relieved for the convenience of this self remedy, I didn’t realize what a gift it was. That day, the rest of the ordeal only involved having the broken wires removed, the bracket taken off (both of which ultimately defeated the work of the last six months), two hours with mouth specialists, x-rays and sympathy.

The second time – and I will spare you the details because you might be a person who has issues reading about someone’s pain, or you might just be a human being and thereby prefer not to imagine the soft parts of someone’s mouth enmeshed like the threads of a tennis racket – no self remedies worked at all. Not. At. All.

And so I gathered a book, my laptop, an insurance card, an ice pack, and my sweet boy, and we headed off for some medical intervention.

Sidenote: Tyler was seriously inconvenienced by this because he had plans in that moment to set up a booth and sell toys (and various handpainted rocks and sculptures of the trash he turns into treasure) to any foot travelers through our neighborhoood after dark on a Monday evening.

For the record, I wouldn’t have said yes even if we weren’t dealing with a dental emergency. I try the ‘Yes, if’ method, but sometimes it’s just ‘Dude. No.’

It was 8:57 as we left the house, and the first Urgent Care we went to closed at 9:00. The second took one look at my son and said, “I’m sorry, we don’t do teeth.” The third stop was Children’s Hospital Emergency, and I’m only surprised there are still care centers in the tri-county area that I haven’t been to. From this day forward, I shall bypass the others and instead go straight to Children’s.

But that’s only assuming I’ll ever need an ER for my children, ever again. I don’t know. It’s a lofty bet.

A few weeks ago – before the trampoline incident and after the pencil lead in the hand but before the steel gate to the cheekbone – I learned in another ER visit that redheads are ‘tolerant to lidocaine.’ Translation: It doesn’t work.

And so I now know to advocate by starting with this information: My son isn’t upset because he’s anxious. He’s not resisting this because he hates needles. He’s not a strong-willed disagreeable child who would rather bite you than obey. He’s crying because the medicine you’ve given him doesn’t work with his biochemistry. And that means he’s feeling it every time you poke his fresh wound with a sharp tool to see if he’s numb yet.

Bottom line: restraints and sedation in the ER didn’t give my boy the relief he needed or the experts the space and time they needed to make repairs. I’m not kidding, you guys. I can’t make this stuff up.

I took home a woozy and seemingly drunken eight-year-old in the wee small hours, although his mouth was still in shambles. He could drink through a straw so they knew he wouldn’t be dehydrated, and he could stand and lock his knees in his half-conscious state if I stood next to him with my arms under his, and that was enough to give us a few hours before we would begin it all again.

The next morning, we went to the orthodontist, where we showed up in the clothes we had worn to the ER and baffling expressions of help and exhaustion.

“Tuck, let’s get you a warm salt water rinse. Trish, let’s get you a cup of coffee.”

They couldn’t fix him either.

(To be clear, any of these specialists *could* have set Tucker’s mouth free with a significant amount of force and torture. But they were gracious people with boundaries who know when to stop. And the orthodontist specifically said, “Tuck and I are buddies. I’m not going to ruin this relationship by being the bad guy, since we have a longterm partnership to maintain.” True wisdom right there.)

And so we went to see a maxillofacial surgeon who could usurp all efforts to anesthetize locally, and finally just perform surgery while Tuck was asleep.

So, that brings me to the waiting room while Tuck was very much blissfully not awake. I sat with my friend Peter, who told a small lie by telling me, “I was in the neighborhood so I thought I’d stop by,”; my mom, who stepped out of her powerhouse administrative leadership responsibilities (my definition; not hers) to take care of the girl who is taking care of the boy; and my friends Matt and Karen, who ironically were the patients booted from a wisdom teeth extraction because of a child’s dental emergency.

What a gracious irony that the surgeon might have to postpone with someone who knows and loves Tucker and would thereby not lose her mind over having fasted from food and drink for hours only to find out that the surgeon won’t be able to see her at the scheduled time. (Thank you, Karen. And I’m sorry.)

They were all a wonderful distraction during an otherwise vortex of waiting.

“Tricia, this is what happens when you let your child take risks and be adventurous. This is where you find yourself when you don’t stand in the way of a boy who’s living a great childhood and becoming a strong and courageous young man.

And Trish, that’s a good thing, by the way.”

Those words sewn together became some of the sweetest nectar of affirmation I’ve ever heard.

And also, “Let’s give that boy a mouth guard.”

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