the smell of my desperation has become a stench

My kid got braces and all I got was a broken heart

Marlo is going to be super jealous that I am giving her sister more space on this website than I have given her in recent weeks, and when she does I’ll just respond, “Remember when you used to pronounce BREAKFAST as BREF-DISK, and now you don’t? BAD MOVE.”

A few weeks ago I took both kids in for an orthodontic consultation on the advice of their dentist who said we’d want to catch some specific things going on with Leta’s jaw before she’s done growing—and here’s where DNA makes no sense. Leta is 5’3″ although her legs make her look like she’s twice that height. I was 5’9″ at her age (an inch shorter than I am now) and her father is 6’3″. Either the shorter side of the family kicked in or the next couple of years of Leta’s life are going to take place inside one giant bottle of ibuprofen.

Oh, wait. My dad was 4’9″ when he started high school and by the time he graduated he was 6’0″ and really, really angry about life. To give him the benefit of the doubt I’m going to assume those two things are related.

I’ve been mentally preparing for The Age of Orthodontics over the years when friends and family have shared how much they spent on two-three years of braces. And I remember my mother paying for the ones I wore for 22 months from the end of 7th grade to the beginning of 9th, years of my life that played such a vital role in hardening my character. Also, years of my life I’d gladly pay a bear to maul out of my head.

Leta has expressed some frustration with 8th grade dynamics and I told her, dude. No one has fond memories of 8th grade. NO ONE. Not even the ones you think are having a great time. They are pretending. And if someone genuinely did enjoy 8th grade? That’s when their life peaked and you do NOT want to follow them on Facebook or get their opinion on Pizzagate.

Trust me.

It’s not like I’m paying for a Tesla, but it’s also not at all similar to two bags of Corn Nuts that I found on sale for 79 cents WHY YES I DID AND I POINTED IT OUT TO THE GUY TAKING MY MONEY THAT I WAS GETTING A GOOD DEAL. I did not peak in 8th grade, y’all. IT IS ABUNDANTLY EVIDENT.

This post is in no way affiliated with Invisalign—although, hey, Invisalign! I am a mommy blogger who can be bought and sold! I can manufacture content with staged photos of unhappy and unwilling children like no one else!—and I bring that up because we had the option of going with traditional braces or going this route, a route in which a child can take the correcting instrument out of their mouths whenever they want and intentionally misplace it. Or intentionally place it straight into a dog’s mouth. Or intentionally set it on the ground and smash it with a rock.

Same price! Totally different level of responsibility!

I won’t say it again, the part where I have the best kid who ever lived, straight up, no contest, 100%, call Mueller and have him investigate. But as we looked at all the options I nudged her, pointed at the Invisalign and said, “I trust you.”

Her eyes got big and then I communicated through ESP, “You know about the evidence on my phone that I will one day turn over to TMZ, and then we’ll all bathe in one hundred dollar bills.”

That was three, four weeks ago? Please don’t ask me that. This morning I called Marlo “Coco” four times and was really mad that “Coco” wasn’t putting her shoes on already. READ MY MIND, KIDS. Jesus. Anyway, last week they called to tell me her trays had come in. So I took Marlo to school on the other side of town, came back here—the midway point—to pick up Leta, and then we headed down to the orthodontist on the other side of town. These details don’t seem like a big deal, except, Jesus. Yes. Jesus twice in one sentence! And now three times! THE SPIRIT OF GOD LIKE A FIRE IS BURNING! I am a child of God! Praise to the man who communed with Jehovah! Want me to go on? No? One last one: Popcorn popping on the motherfucking apricot tree!

Now I’m done.

The amount of driving that I do even though I work from home is a crime against this planet. I was working on my budget last week and realized that what I pay to gas up my car since we moved at the end of February has QUADRUPLED. The hell. I am in my car all the goddamn time chauffeuring those kids around town. I know I am not alone in this frustration—albeit totally privileged frustration I HAVE A DAMN CAR—and I sent a fellow single parent a text last night and the automatic reply on his iPhone popped up: “Driving. I won’t hear or see your text.” A few minutes later he texted, “Driving. I won’t be able to stop driving until I am dead.”

If I take a little longer than usual to answer your text it is because I am screaming obscenities at some imbecile in front of me on South Temple who suddenly decides out of nowhere that they want to make a left turn. And I have murdered them. And I’m in prison.


Leta got her first 12 weeks of Invisalign trays yesterday, and I sat at her feet as the orthodontic assistant performed all the installation mechanics in Leta’s mouth. We walked out an hour later with a whole bunch of equipment and instructions. I guess I should say, Leta skipped out as she was overcome by the excitement of it all, by the idea of reaching this milestone in her life. She asked me how badly it was going to hurt over the next few days, and because she was still so excited I lied and told her that she’s only going to feel a little pain when the truth is SHE WILL WANT TO CLAW HER OWN FACE OFF.

She’d already missed over two hours of school, so we hurried to the car and jumped in to escape the freezing wind. And that’s when the whole thing sort of turned into a strange waking dream. During the entire drive to her school I felt like I was watching us from outside the car, like I was witnessing an actor playing out the role of a mother who suddenly realizes she’s losing the grip on the baby who once kept her awake at night when hiccuping inside the womb. I could feel the clutch of our two hands loosening, and this whole woozy reverie was made even more surreal by the golden leaves caught in the wind, flying in every direction, like someone had tossed a barrel of yellow fabric in front of a wind machine.

I even said to her, “This has been the most spectacular autumn I can remember.” And if you follow me on Instagram or Facebook you know her immediate response was, “Aw! The Grinch is growing a heart!” A response from a human who understands and can wield sarcasm. That turd.

Once we arrived at her school, we both ran in to escape the cold and I signed her in at the front office where three very awkward middle school boys were huddled and mumbling something about one of their moms. Leta grabbed her sign-in slip and dashed out of the office before I could even get in a hug. I ran out after her to find her running up the front staircase to her third period class and called out, “Hey, I don’t even get a handshake?”

She glanced back, rolled her eyes and moaned, “Moooommmmmm.” With a period. No exclamation point. Lowercase. Italicized.

I pushed the heavy front door open and saw another swath of golden leaves fly by. And I started crying. Tears just poured out of my eyes. It was a totally involuntary response, one that had me biting my lip to keep it from trembling. And it wasn’t because I felt that she had rejected me, no. Not at all. I was just overwhelmed with the almost incapacitating love I have for that human being bounding up the stairs away from me.

Away from me.

Away and up and forever the singular person who first owned the entirety of my heart. And always will.

I like her so much.

  • bluesurly

    2017/10/31 at 2:07 pm

    Isn’t it a fantastic feeling to LIKE your child? I mean, you automatically love them, but like them so much you actually want to hang out with them. Yep – best feeling ever. I lucked out as well.

  • kathy

    2017/10/31 at 2:13 pm

    Wait until she goes off to college and you realize that what you know about her life from that point on will be through phone calls and texts and visits. That her life will be lived away and apart from you. All as it is supposed to be, but a sad realization.

  • Sarah Bailey

    2017/10/31 at 2:23 pm

    I had braces 20 years ago… and now I’m just finishing up invisalign because I stopped wearing my retainers. (Oh dear god if nothing else make sure she wears her retainers forEVER!) If I had had invisalign then… omg my middle school years would have been SOOOOO different. She’s so lucky to be able to do that at her age.

  • Sue

    2017/10/31 at 3:20 pm

    My 12 yo is ripping the guts out of me in much the same way.

  • Josey

    2017/10/31 at 3:23 pm

    Well dang you, Heather, if you didn’t just make me freakin’ cry again. My almost 6yo refused to look at me today during the mid-day elementary school Halloween parade because it’s “so weird” when parents are at school, and my heart broke just a little bit. I mean, DANG, I’m so proud of her independent spirit, but c’mon…I thought I had a few years left before she was embarassed by me! The weird/not weird thing about reading blogs for nearly a decade is how even though we live 6 hours apart and have never met, Leta feels like a friend’s kid who I’ve been able to watch grow up through the years, and I so love hearing about her life. Thanks for sharing!

  • Cynthia

    2017/10/31 at 5:14 pm

    Oldest is trick-or-treating with friends for the first time. Heart is aching at the first of many growing pains-for me. Happy-sad.

  • Taco Corp

    2017/10/31 at 6:08 pm

    Chalk me up as another child who had braces but now did Invisalign as an adult! Yes, wear your retainers FOR-EV-ERRRRRR! (imagine Squints in The Sandlot saying that). Invisalign was more of a pain than I thought it would be (all that constant teeth-brushing!) but WAY better than braces! Good for Leta!

  • Michael Mathews

    2017/10/31 at 6:40 pm

    I feel I may be the only 50+ year old who still wears a retainer, but I do. Even at this age, I can tell when I miss a night (usually due to an overnight flight).

  • Ciaraleigh Perry

    2017/10/31 at 8:54 pm

    Never posted after 6+ years of reading (and reading all the archives because, this whole site is amazing)… But, I think when I reach this moment with my own girl, I won’t make it through! Even thinking about it makes me tear up and want to get in the fetal position and cry.

  • Miss lee

    2017/11/01 at 8:33 am

    I am still wearing my retainers.

  • Miss lee

    2017/11/01 at 8:35 am


  • Katie H.

    2017/11/01 at 8:55 am

    I’m not crying, you’re crying! I’m on the verge of this in my life with my ONLY daughter, and it feels so necessary as a process and so heart-breaking as the person who cannot even imagine her not holding my hand when we walk together. The love never leaves… thank heavens!!! 🙂 <3

  • Heidi

    2017/11/01 at 10:30 am

    I love when you share stories about Leta, because I know you feel about her the way I feel about my 5 year old daughter. I look at Ruby and think “I’m the luckiest woman in the world, to be her mom.” The “away from me” line, though, hurts so good.

  • Becky

    2017/11/01 at 11:25 am

    LOVE this – “I was just overwhelmed with the almost incapacitating love I have for that human being bounding up the stairs away from me.” It reminded me of “…and the Grinch’s heart grew three sizes that day…”
    It seems Leta is a bit prophetic, and growing pains abound in your home this fall. <3

  • BR

    2017/11/01 at 11:28 am

    My baby is only 7 months old and yet here I am crying. I am already mentally preparing myself for dropping him off at college and I don’t know how I’m going to get through it. Uugh, my heart.

  • Marie McDowell

    2017/11/01 at 11:37 am

    Ok, possibly one of the most beautiful of your posts. Ever. Don’t ever stop writing.

  • Sarah

    2017/11/01 at 12:37 pm

    I probably should take this to my grave, but out of my public school education, middle school 6th-8th was my favorite time. Could be I peaked, could be all my friends dispersed to other high schools and depression hit. Either way, you made me laugh out loud.

  • Heather Armstrong

    2017/11/01 at 4:12 pm

    Haha! I’m glad you understood that I was joking. My middle school years were actually better than my high school years (that’s not saying much, but…). And then college was like a sine curve, just up and down and up and down. I’m glad I have meds now!

  • Heather Armstrong

    2017/11/01 at 4:13 pm

    Oof! That is a gut punch and SPOT ON.

  • Kat

    2017/11/02 at 11:00 am

    My husband still calls Marlo “WOOK! A STHNAAAAAKE” even though by now I’ve read him clips from this website enough that he knows who Marlo and Leta are.

  • MagpieMoon

    2017/11/02 at 3:39 pm

    My daughter just finished her Invisalgn treatment. AMAZING results in a much shorter period of time than we expected. Leta will do great. The trays do hurt at first, and she may lisp a bit initially, but eventually the trays become like second nature. My daughter got so used to wearing the trays that now that she has her retainers (a similar tray for the top, and a permanent bar retainer installed inside her bottom teeth), she wears the top retainer all the time even though she’s only required to wear it at night. She said her teeth feel weird without a tray and she’s afraid her teeth will move back!

  • Kristan

    2017/11/02 at 9:59 pm

    My daughter recently turned 1 and yeah, same.

  • Kristan

    2017/11/02 at 10:00 pm

    “All as it is supposed to be…”

    Yes, that’s what I remind myself of. If I’m doing my job as a mom right, I will in many ways become obsolete. How wonderfully heartbreaking.

  • Christie Banwell

    2017/11/03 at 8:46 am

    Well, this is a timely post. My 14-year old son now breaks my heart on a regular basis. I sometimes get grunts, sass or silence (I can’t decide which one is worse) when I ask him questions, and he has an amazing ability to treat his little brother like shit, but then half an hour later, he’s hugging me so hard my ribs ache. We are very much in that push/pull stage where he’s trying to gain some independence, and i am holding on for dear life!

  • Deb

    2017/11/03 at 1:23 pm

    I heard you on CBC this morning. It was nice to hear your voice and your thoughts on blogging. And yes, our children own our hearts and yes it can be painful at times:)

  • trish

    2017/11/03 at 1:25 pm

    My 6 year old last night asked if parents ever forget about their kids (this after he asked me what happens to kids who have two parents in jail, yikes). And I couldn’t even convey to him how much we don’t forget about our kids, because they inhabit, they become, our heart.

Heather B. Armstrong

Hi. I’m Heather B. Armstrong, and this used to be called mommy blogging. But then they started calling it Influencer Marketing: hashtag ad, hashtag sponsored, hashtag you know you want me to slap your product on my kid and exploit her for millions and millions of dollars. That’s how this shit works. Now? Well… sit back, buckle up, and enjoy the ride.

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