Some of you know my oldest son, A. He's a very, VERY bright boy with a strong personality (to put it lightly). Unfortunately for him, he comes from two families with genetic tendencies to have very bad teeth. He did not inherit my teeth: I never had to have braces and all four wisdom teeth came in straight with plenty of room...yeah, I know. I'm sorry.
So when the dentist showed me the x-rays of A's teeth, even I could tell where things were headed. Visions of what all that money could buy went flying out of my head to be replaced with visions of silver wires and retainers. A's visions were completely different. He could see no reason why he should get braces.
"I'm okay with how my teeth look. I don't care if they're crooked. I don't want braces."
Knowing A the way we do, we knew that if he felt pressured into getting braces, he'd never cooperate with the orthodontist and would put us through years of guilt. ("I never wanted braces. You made me get them. You never listen to what I want.") We also knew that if he didn't get braces now and wanted them later on, we would be the ones who would get blamed for his decision. ("It's your fault I didn't get braces. You should have made me get them when I was younger.") The kid is a natural lawyer and can debate with the best. We knew we'd lose.
Solution? We drew up a contract and had A sign it with me and his orthodontist as witnesses.
Here it is:
I, the undersigned, A. A. S., hereby declare that I have had the benefits and drawbacks of getting braces, as well as the benefits and drawbacks of not getting braces, explained to me fully. I further declare that I fully understand the ramifications of my decision either way.
I declare that, should I choose to get braces at this time, I will strictly follow the care regimen prescribed by my orthodontist to the best of my abilities. My parents will cover any costs incurred if I choose to get braces at this time. I further declare that, should I decide not to get braces, I accept full responsibility for that decision and will not blame my parents at a future time for not making me get braces. I will cover any costs incurred if I choose to get braces at a later date.
I understand that my decision is final and do hereby indicate my decision below by signing the appropriate line.
I have decided to get braces: _____________ Date: _________
I have decided not to get braces: __________ Date: _________
Witnesses: __________________________ Date: _________
__________________________ Date: _________
I know, I'm not a lawyer and any good one would probably see plenty of loopholes, but it was the best I could do. And it worked. A will be getting a tinsel mouth in 2 weeks and his orthodontist was so impressed by the contract that he asked for a copy.
Just so you know that A isn't all about debate and control, let me tell you what he did on Sunday.
We spent Sunday afternoon at my parents' house. Except for the brother who lives in Texas, all my siblings were there, so we had a lot of grownups and kids around. The nieces and nephews in the family range in age from 20 on down to 3.
A (11), along with two other cousins close to his age (S & D), went outside to play with D's soccer ball. Eventually, they were joined by my brother (who is huge and bald), his wife, and three of his children (ages 14, 17, and 20), all of whom decided to play on a team with my S (7) against A, cousin S, and D. My little T (3) came out during the "game" to play with his big brothers, although he was mostly just watching. (Keep in mind the age and size differences between the two "teams.")
In the course of the game, several things happened. First, the Big People's Team started playing very aggressively and were ignoring the rules set up by the Smaller People's Team, who was out there first and had the right to set up the game the way they wanted it. Second, T got hit in the face by the soccer ball (by accident). Third, the Smaller People's Team decided they didn't like the roughness of the game and chose to take their ball inside and play board games rather than play against people twice their size.
To make a very long story short, A was accused of several things, including smart mouthing the adults on the Big People's team over the accident involving T's face and the soccer ball. (No, T wasn't seriously hurt.) The adult accusing him was absolutely furious. I tried to get said adult to talk things over with A, with me present, but the adult refused and left before I could get A in the room to discuss what happened.
Here's the thing. Once I pieced together what happened by talking to A, my S, cousin S, and D, I realized that A had done nothing wrong. Regardless of what happened or who was at fault, an adult had stormed away feeling like A had been disrespectful. So I had to make A call and apologize later that night.
It was absolute torture to him. The thing he values most is being Right, and to have to admit a mistake (especially when he wasn't "in the wrong") was pure hell for him. I dialed the number and had A say, "I'm sorry I was disrespectful to you this afternoon." He nearly broke down. I got choked up too because, in spite of all his efforts to come across as rough and tough, my A is really a softy down inside.
It makes a mom proud.