Carrie Yamato

I couldn’t help but turn around to catch glimpses of my daughter in the backseat of the car.

We had just left the orthodontist, and after almost two years, she was braces free.

No more worrying about broken bands, food getting stuck in them or stressing that her smile wasn’t Instagram worthy. 

“I think I forgot how to smile,” she said as she was getting used to the slippery and smooth feeling of her naked teeth. “I haven’t smiled normally for such a long time. It’s really weird.”

Weird—maybe? 

But unbeknownst to my 13-year-old daughter, she was working a smile that was genuine and beaming.

It wasn’t her usual smirk accompanied with a side head tilt to evoke her mood of the moment. It was a full smile that, despite her concerns, was truly beautiful (Thank you, Dr. Sinclair). It was a smile that expressed sheer joy that she could finally eat all the gummy candy she loved, but more importantly start school with a new look.

I wanted to celebrate this rite of passage with her and use the opportunity to tell her what I saw beyond her new and mature smile.

But like the busy teen bee she is, it was drop-off time at the beach, followed by a sleepover, then Knotts Berry Farm and another day at the beach.  By the time our schedules were in sync and we had the chance to talk, she had moved on to way more pressing and imminent matters.  

Taryn, I know you usually read my column, so before you thoughts move further away ... Congratulations on getting your braces off!

Despite all the appointments and the Advil you occasionally needed, I think wearing braces was a pretty easy road and totally worth it.

I hope your new smile helps to make you realize how beautiful you are not only on the outside but on the inside. When I look at you, I see someone who is sensitive and kind and who has the uncanny ability to think well beyond her years. It is truly a gift. 

I hope your new smile gives you added confidence to take on the challenges that excite you, inspire you and encourage you to be the person you want to be. Whether it’s in school, with your friends or onstage, I hope you go for it. You won’t regret it.

And no matter what your new smile paves the way for, I hope one of those beautiful smiles is maybe — just maybe —a response from the love you feel from Dad and me.  Sorry, I know how annoyed you get when I’m overly dramatic. But back-to-school time combined with getting your braces off is guaranteed some over sentimentality.

But above everything, I hope you always find a reason to smile, and more importantly, can find it even when things aren’t perfect.  Your smile is amazing. You are amazing.

Now, let’s go and get your retainer. 

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