By Sue-Ellen Sanders
Initial consultation at the orthodontist: free
Price of braces for two pre-teen/teenage young adults: thousands
A moment of motherhood enlightenment: priceless
It wasn't a Mastercard commercial, although a new charge card might certainly come in handy, after our visit to the orthodontist last week.
But, during our initial consultation with "Dr. J" who would be guiding our family down the bracket journey, I learned more about my kids than their teeth.
It was an "a-ha!" moment for me and for my kids, as well. Oh, but they've probably forgotten by now.
My son, Jake, was sitting in the orthodontist's chair, as Dr. J flashed several close-up photos of Jake's teeth onto a nearby screen. "You need to do a more thorough job of brushing your gums," he advised my 13 year old.
"See how red and puffy they are? You need to take more time brushing your teeth and make sure your brush here, too." He pointed to Jake's top front teeth in the photo for emphasis.
Jake replied, "I brush my teeth longer than Chloe does."
Now, Dr. J. had already completed Chloe's exam and had actually complimented her on the condition of her teeth and indirectly, also her brushing. So, I didn't feel the need to defend her.
She sat by my side, smugly, for once in her nearly 12 years of life, realizing that there was no need to speak.
Dr. J. reiterated to Jake, "You need to spend more time brushing here, especially after you get braces."
Jake continued, "Sometimes Chloe doesn't even brush her teeth at night.
When my mom asks if she's brushed her teeth, she lies because she's already in bed and too lazy to get back up and go into the bathroom."
"Jake," I stepped in, "This isn't about Chloe; these are your teeth we're talking about."
He defended himself. "Mom, you know it's true. I brush my teeth a lot longer than she does!" Chloe just flashed those well-brushed teeth at him.
Perhaps, Dr. J. didn't realize how brutal the sibling competition was in our family. Chloe runs faster than Jake; Jake sings better. Everything else is up for grabs on any given day. It's not the way I would have designed it, but in the long run, I guess a little friendly competition keeps the kids on their toes.
A recent Time Magazine article reported that siblings may influence our lives more than any other people. Researchers have figured out that by age 10, kids spend an average of 33 percent of their time with
their siblings. And although little kids spend the most time with their parents and their teachers and older kids are frequently guided, in part, by their peers, in the course of a lifetime, it's the sibling relationship that helps define us.
This is not a big surprise to me. I think if my kids weren't so close in age, there would be less acrimony and more distance to reflect upon what wonderful traits the other sibling brings to the family tableau.
Yet, the two have always been each other's buddies, as well, and the studies in Newsweek surmised that close-in-age siblings grow closer as they get older. I am waiting, patiently.
Meanwhile, it's possible that Dr. J. knew just what he was doing when he complimented Chloe's brushing in front of Jake and told Jake he needed
to brush better, in front of his sister.
Because, Jake has been brushing and flossing his teeth like a maniac since we came home from the orthodontist's office.
It may be possible to put my referee shirt aside for the moment, while we use the "force" of competition for good instead of evil.
Sue-Ellen Sanders writes about family issues every week in the Hometown News. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.