Good Parenting With 20 Metal Brackets and 2 Wires

September 21, 2007

This morning, his comments were echoing through my ears… “Are you sure you want to do this?”

Sitting on the operatory chair in my brother-in-laws dental office, I did have to wonder what in the world I was doing there.

Sure, a couple of my teeth were not perfectly straight, but it had never really bothered me before – at least not to the point that I had been willing to spend any money to get them fixed. And, hey, my beautiful, amazing wife had married me crooked teeth and all, so it was not like I needed them straight to impress the ladies or increase my chances of a hot date… I had one of those every day, all day. To top all that off, my children all loved me, no matter what my teeth looked like.

So, why was I sitting on the side of the chair staring at the 20 metal brackets and 2 orthodontic wires sitting on the tray next to me? This was going to cost me time, money, and pain – and for what?

“You know what Joe, let’s do it,” I said, “Joshua is getting braces on and Esther has had them on for 3 months already. I want to be an example to them of trying new things.”

He shrugged his shoulders, gave me that coy grin of his, chuckled with a mirthful laugh that said, “Ok… but you have no idea what you’re getting into!” and had me lay down in the chair.

2 hours later I felt like someone had snapped a pair of vice grip pliers on my teeth and was mercilessly yanking on them. If that wasn’t bad enough, there was this wire digging in here and a bracket grinding on my lips there. But, truthfully, all-in-all, as I walked out of the office, it wasn’t too bad.

This morning, almost 48 hours later, my whole face feels loose and sore, especially the two teeth that are most out of line. The raw lip syndrome has set in with a fury and sleeping has been a bit troublesome because every time I roll over my face presses against the pillow and reminds me that the vice grips are still there yanking on my teeth.

It is a constant reminder of the last thing Dr. Joe told me as I sat up from the procedure, “Well, you’re a great dad, Joshua. You know you’re going to have about 5 times the discomfort and pain that your children will have – right?” Now he tells me… thanks a lot!

In truth, I would have done it anyway.

I was there for that exact reason – to be a good dad. I have heard so often that example is the only teacher and the more I strive to raise my children to greatness, the more I realize the profound truth of that statement.

Example says, “If I can do it, so can you!” It urges on, calls to rise up and join those that are going before. It removes excuses and levels the playing field. It drives teachings, lessons, ideas, principles, deep into the realm of reality and extracts them from the vague, superficial and obscure. Example makes it all real.

But there is something more that it does – something that is even more powerful that all of that.

This morning, during my personal scripture study, I discovered what that “more” is. Paul, talking to the Hebrews, stated this about our Savior:

“For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted.”

And another ancient prophet has said:

“And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities.”

Setting the example does not just allow me to lead out, forge the way, and level the playing field for my children, it gives me the same experiences that they are having – or will have.

This gives me, as a parent, enormous power to guide, influence, comfort, care for, understand, love, respect, appreciate, and nurture my children in a way that would not be possible if I had not actually experienced the thing for myself.

With that insight in mind, is it any wonder that Christ came to earth and took up flesh? Is it any wonder that God, that created heaven and earth and had all power, still needed to actually, physically experience this life like we would?

He did it because He loves us. He not only wanted to set the example, but He wanted to know and understand, so that He could comfort and guide us in all of our trials, afflictions, griefs, joys, and success. We can never say to the Savior, “Well, you just don’t understand what I am going through.” But we can turn to Him in all aspects of our life and in all circumstances, with the confidence that He has been there, He knows and He can help.

Peter stated this:

“For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps”

From the Savior Himself, we hear:

“Follow me, and do the things which you have seen me do.”

As a parent, this is my new creed: To follow the example of the Savior by setting the example for my children in every way possible. Even if it means being strapped with 20 brackets and 2 wires.