At the brink of b e c o m i n g a t e e n a g e r, to Thomas image is everything. He values externals and often judges a book by its cover. I can preach, I can teach and I can model otherwise, but for now, he's a kid, and while I don't like this, it's pretty much typical for someone his age. He agrees appearances shouldn't matter, but the reality is they do. Perception IS reality.
He has a VERY unusual dental situation that makes him extremely self-conscious. He's missing a total of eight permanent teeth, which is not ideal no matter WHAT your age. He has his two front (top) teeth, and then the next two on either side are missing; on the bottom, he has the front four, then, again, the next two on either side aren't there. His orthodontist designed an acrylic retainer with false teeth for a couple of reasons: 1) aesthetics (because Dr. M KNOWS image matters to a tween-soon-to-be teen), and 2) to hold place for future orthodontic work.
Because this retainer is somewhat "invisible", it's easy to misplace. He's supposed to wear it constantly except for eating, but it's invasive and he's had a hard time getting used to it. It's much more fragile than a traditional metal retainer–we found this out when the first one split, probably from him pocketing it when he ate (instead of putting it in the case—waaaay too much trouble for a kid living on adrenaline).
Of course, there's a lab fee to replace the retainer, but we figured once Thomas understood how careful he HAD to be, he would be much more viligent in its care. Of course, CAREFUL doesn't count when you LOSE the REPLACEMENT retainer less than a month later. CARELESSNESS does not make mama and daddy happy–Thomas endured a measured wrath while we contemplated appropriate and corrective consequences to assure neither of these things happened again.
Every Friday morning, our school's cheerleaders sell Chick-Fil-A chicken biscuits as a fundraiser. When Rachel and I were out of town for our annual Valentine Tea, to increase sales, the cheerleaders offered a $50 cash prize to be awarded at half-time of the basketball play-off game that night; all students who bought a biscuit that day were automatically entered in a random drawing.
One of Rachel's friends called us from the game that night to let us know Thomas had won! Believe me, Thomas likes winning as much or more than I do, and instantly he was a rock star among his friends–fame AND fortune! Thomas' excitement was understandably palpable over the phone when we finally talked to him.
When I got home, I morphed into mom-mode and asked him what his intentions were with his kid-sized mother lode. I fully expected him to want to buy music or games or something else he wanted that we weren't willing to buy.
Perhaps more than winning, I LOVE it when my children make a decision that exceeds my expectations. When asked about his money, Thomas said, "I thought about it and I want to give it all to y'all to help pay for my new retainer…I felt really bad about losing it."
Big. Smiles. No one suggested this to him, I'm sure he debated this, and although it's not what he would have wanted to do with the cash, he knew it was the BEST choice he could make. I'm sure my over-the-top enthusiastic response blew at least a little conciliatory air up his skirt.
Well, get this, it just gets better. Yesterday, when my friend, Liz, and I were cleaning out the glass from my car break-in, she said, "Do you wanna keep this? It looks like a mouthpiece of some kind." It was his LOST retainer! It has fallen in the side of the car and she found it amid the chards of glass! And we hadn't yet had the new retainer made :). So he gets to keep the money after all, and I'm thrilled for him.
He made the right choice, was willing to sacrifice his own interests in order to do the RIGHT thing, and he got a reward when all was said and done. What a GREAT paycheck for me, too!