Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Contracts and Apologies

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.

I'm serious.

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.


NOBODY said...

That contract is HILARIOUS. And priceless. No wonder the dentist wanted a copy. I may be conacting you in about 10 years when my own "A" needs braces.

The story about the furious adult and "A" kind of made me sad. In my humble opinion, he shouldn't have had to apologize to an adult who couldn't even keep their temper in check. I mean, I would have done the same as you, but it's still sad. And what a good boy.

Jen said...

I have refused to date guys who have really bad teeth. Sounds superficial, but I just can't imagine kissing someone with gross teeth.

I got braces originally were supposed to be on for 2 years. I did everything the ortho asked, including flossing daily, etc which isn't easy with braces. I was able to get them off in a year instead of 2. The ortho said they sortof plan that people won't do what is asked, and then it takes longer than needed.

Good luck! Braces hurt!

pflower10 said...

You're such an awesome mom!!! It's a good thing "A" has you!

Lucky Red Hen said...

Good for A, bad for adult. There is something to be said for doing the right thing vs. being right. If A didn't apologize then he'd be tagged as the rotten sassy kid even though he really wasn't - and that would stick for the rest of his life. Now that he's apologized, he cannot get tagged the smart aleck. Too bad you can't talk to the adult and convince him to call and apologize to A for being an a$$.

PokeyAnn said...

What an awesome contract! Kudos for being so creative and knowing your son so well. I'm sorry that sometimes "adults" act much worse than "kids", I think we could often learn a thing or two from watching our children, well sometimes anyway. What an amazing son to apologize, it shows great character.

Kengo Biddles said...

Teeth: I love the quote from "A Good Year" "You're American." "How did you know." "It's the only place that issues teeth like that."

And I dread my own Ginta getting older, because I fear that he and "A" will be peas in a pod.

Elizabeth-W said...

I wonder if there's a way to tell A that sometimes 'apologizing' is less about admitting wrongdoing and more about social nuances--what Lucky said. Maybe if he sees it as him coming out on top, and that most people there probably saw A as the bigger man, might let him have his dignity. Poor kid. That's rough.
On the other hand, because I have a horrible devil's advocating streak, what one person considers a bit of cheek, a bit of sass, some moxy, other people see as downright insubordination. That this guy couldn't have a conversation with a child about his expectations leads me to make several less than flattering assumptions about him, though :)
You are a good mom!

Julie said...

The saddest thing is that the adult is a she, not a he, and she took off before I could talk to A. She didn't even give him a chance to talk things over with her in person. Then again, that turned out to be a good thing because I was able to get a better idea of what happened. A phone conversation is often easier anyway.

Thanks for the comments, everyone.

Sue said...

Love the contract. (Amazed at the foresight!)

Hate adults with the emotional capacity of four year olds.

You've got a good, smart kid there.

compulsive writer said...

The contract is brilliant.

The smaller people are pretty smart, too.

And the apology story is heart-wrenching. As another who loves to be right, he has my sympathies.

Gerb said...

Wish I came up with that contract idea...my oldest, AGE 14!!!, doesn't brush his teeth enough and I'M the one who gets a talking-to from the orthodontist.

Like I have any control over my 14-year-old. Sheesh. The older he gets, the lower my IQ goes.

~cari~ said...

I was talking with my mom Saturday and we got on the subject of orthodontics. She said that my sister and brother both regret not getting braces and that they try to blame it on my mom. I told her about your contract and she said, "Now, THAT'S a smart mom!"

sue-donym said...

I love contracts. We have used them for all of the kids for different things. ALthough it may have backfired on us, because the Princess now wants us (the parents)to sign contracts all the time. (like "you promised to take me on vacation, so please sign here")