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Growing Up

The clock is ticking and soon my twin 13-year-old daughters will be metal free.

No more unsightly food trapped in silver brackets. No more cats-in-the-cradle colored rubber band configurations spring-loading their jaws. No more moody Mona Lisa smiles with sealed lips.

The orthodontist explained to the girls that if they wear their rubber bands without fail until the next appointment, they could get their braces off. Their hearts soared, while my heart sank. I quickly intervened, “Oh girls, those rubber bands are such a pain. They make your teeth hurt and give you a headache. And you can’t chew gum or eat candy the way you love to do. There’s no need to wear those silly things.”

The orthodontist looked at me like I had been taking nips off his laughing gas.

“You see, uh, I’m not quite ready for my girls to be done with braces. Isn’t there something you can do, some kind of treatment plan that lasts until, say, after college?” I asked. My daughters did a double-twin-power-activate-eye-roll and groaned at me through their rubber-banded grimaces, “Mo-ooooom.” Ugh. I’ve discovered the word mom has two syllables and a very low octave when you annoy or embarrass your adolescent children.

I have reason to be concerned. They already have too-cute figures. God given, not strived for, so they look created, not carved. They steal my jeans and my Lululemon and look better in all my clothes than I do. They have sun-kissed highlighted manes of thick hair that fall in a perfectly flat-ironed lush curtain down their backs. Their eyes, now accented with a faint brush of mascara, convey both innocence and sophistication: I’m old enough to get it but too young to care. Wink. Their skin is lineless and immaculate, plump-cheeked and youthful and p.s. you’re welcome for all my summers of being the Sunscreen Nazi. They paint their nails pale pink or a sassy ocean blue. Their fashion sense is comfortable and effortlessly cute. They can wear white Converse shoes with anything, anywhere, and suddenly everyone else looks overdressed. They are unaware of their beauty, which frees them of its baggage. Being twins, but not identical, gives them enough space to be themselves, yet enough closeness that they are a force to be reckoned with. They hover in the gap between girl and gal, and I feel the tension as both camps vie for their membership.

The last vestige of childhood I have is the metal.

So I want the braces to stay on, damnit.

I don’t want them to be cuter or more kissable. I don’t want them to look older. I don’t want them to grow up, not just yet. Let’s just slow this freight train down, I say, as I try to tie myself to the metal tracks.

I am not ready for the white expanse of their real grownup smiles. The ones that will smile proudly at me when they get their driver’s licenses or graduate from high school. The brave smiles when I hug them goodbye at college. The dreamy smiles that will let me know they have fallen truly, irrevocably in love. The smiles that burst with excitement over job offers, promotions, proposals, weddings and pregnancy tests. The motherly smiles that will one day smile down at my grandchildren.

To this very metaphorical, hormonal, nostalgic mother, the removal of this metal represents stepping out of the protective armor of childhood. Meanwhile, I want to add some more alligators to the moat and pull up the drawbridge.

But the wiser part of me knows that the loveliest things on earth cannot be covered or contained, things like love, sunsets, stars, and oceans.

And my daughters growing up and smiling at the world.

(From left to right) Grace: Dress by Tracy Reese, $138; Kristin: Dress by mara hoffman, $540; Isabelle: Top, $ 145, shorts, $165, by mara hoffman; all available at Valentine's Too

Credits

Photography by Jessica Pages

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