My daughter received the first phase of her orthodontia adventure last week. She had one apparatus placed on her lower teeth, a lip bumper. It's a kind of an internal face mask that makes her look like she's taken up chewing tobacco, minus the spitting. On the top teeth she has a more medieval kind of thing that we need to crank on every other day. Like a tiny torture rack for her mouth. My wife and I were commenting the other day on the unfairness of taking a human at the most baffling and uncomfortable possible age, a time when just being in your body feels like a betrayal of some sort, and then inserting items in your mouth that hurt, make you talk funny, and prevent you from eating all of the most fun foods.
She's been a rock star through this. She couldn't eat solid food for three days, she came down with a nasty head cold the day this work got done, all in all it was a miserable week. One of the things I admire most about my daughter is her ability to just put her head down and move through something unpleasant. She is the more fearful of our two girls, the least likely to choose to do something she hasn't done before, the one that hangs at the back of the pack. And yet, when a situation is thrust upon her, when there is no choice to be made, she just sucks it up and keeps on swimming. Among other things, this makes her an exceptional traveling companion. She'll get quiet, almost to the point of disappearing, but she's with you and she stays with you until you come out the other side. I like that.
Sometimes you see things in your kids that make you feel like they're gonna be OK. For me it's not so much grades in school or sports trophies. It's major personality traits, and habits that seem like they have been solidly woven into the fabric of who they are. In her case these include an addiction to reading, a keen eye for the weirdness of what we as a society have chosen to deem "normal", and the ability to just go deep and wait out a difficult moment. Maybe I had something to do with this, maybe it's just who she is. It doesn't matter to me at all how these things came to make up a part of her. It just makes me smile to see it.
I'm proud and delighted to have kids that I actually like as human beings. Real individual people that I would most likely choose to hang out with, even of they weren't my kids. They say it's an "awkward age". I disagree. I think it's our own discomfort with ourselves that feels awkward. The deeper our comfort level with our own bodies, past traumas, present dramas and future prospects, the less awkward this age group feels to us. They have great things to teach us, if we can be brave enough to take on the lesson.