The Best Part of Me

By Diane Stark

“Did you notice that Nathan has an under bite?” My husband’s cousin asked me at my son’s first birthday party.

“He is turning one tomorrow, and he only has four teeth,” I said. “How could he have an under bite already?”

But sure enough, when I asked Nathan to smile, it was clear that his two top teeth were behind his two bottom teeth. He was 364 days old and already, he had a very distinct under bite.

As I cut his birthday cake, I tried not to think about the massive orthodontist bills in our future.

Fast forward two years to Nathan’s first dental surgery. They had to remove one tooth and put a silver cap on another. I remember crying that day, feeling like the worst mother in the world. What three-year-old needs dental surgery? Was it because I nursed him too long? Or not long enough? Was it too much apple juice? Or the occasional Sprite I allowed him when we went out to eat?

I was convinced Nathan’s terrible teeth were somehow my fault. I mourned the fact that his smile included that ugly silver cap. I worried constantly that the other children would tease him about his teeth, and I even took Nathan to an orthodontist when he was just six years old.

“How soon can you start fixing his teeth?” I asked her.

“Well, his top four baby teeth need to fall out, and the adult ones need to grow in before we can even start,” she said.

This was not the answer I was hoping for. Because I knew that his under bite wasn’t nearly as obvious with his baby teeth as it would be with his larger, adult teeth. In other words, the situation with Nathan’s teeth was going to get even worse before we could do anything to make it better.

I began to dread his baby teeth falling out.

“Nathan is really cute until he smiles,” one of my older kids commented one day. “Then all you notice is his messed-up teeth.”

Nathan didn’t hear the comment. But I cried for hours.

I love my kids so much, and I only want the best for them. Nathan’s under bite and silver cap didn’t make him any less adorable to me, but it made me sad that others would see his teeth and think he was unattractive because of them.

I couldn’t wait to get those braces on his teeth. I wanted to fix them before he got old enough to realize how awful his teeth really were. I didn’t want him to be embarrassed or feel ashamed.

And then this past Mother’s Day, Nathan brought home a card he’d made. His teacher had asked them to write a paragraph called “The Best Part of Me.”

As I looked at his smiling face on the cover, I wondered what Nathan would choose as the best part of him. His huge heart? His gorgeous brown eyes? His hands and feet that are always willing to help others?

Nope.

Nathan’s essay read, “The best part of me is my teeth. I can bite like a dinosaur. And I can chew on food. My teeth are nice and white.”

To top it off, his teacher had taken a photo of just his teeth and glued it next to his essay. My eyes filled with tears as I looked at the picture. His adult teeth had indeed made his under bite more apparent and that silver cap was in full view as well. It was hard to imagine a worse set of teeth than my son’s.

And yet, Nathan had chosen his teeth as the best part of him. I just didn’t understand it.

“Why did you choose your teeth, Nathan?” I asked him.

“Because I like my teeth,” he said. “They have a job to do, and they do it right. Doing a good job matters way more than how something looks.”

I hugged him and thanked him for the beautiful Mother’s Day card.

But later, Nathan’s words came back to me at the oddest moment. I was packing for our upcoming vacation and decided to try on my bathing suit to make sure it still fit. “Fit” is a relative term these days. While the bathing suit covered all of the necessary parts, I wouldn’t say it actually flattered any of them. As I looked in the mirror, I berated myself for the extra weight I saw around my middle. I observed that my thighs looked more cottage cheesy than usual. And I noticed that gravity was definitely no longer my friend.And then Nathan’s words echoed in my head: Doing a good job matters way more than how something looks.

I chuckled as I realized the truth applied to more than just my son’s teeth. I’d given birth to three perfect babies and nursed each of them for their first year. My body had done an important job, and it had done it well. So I had a smooshy middle and some saggy other parts. I also had three great kids.

Just as Nathan valued his teeth for the job they did more than for their appearance, I could learn to do the same with my body. My body had provided my husband and me with three incredible little miracles.

No matter how it looks today, my body did a really good job. And for that, it deserves my appreciation – and my acceptance.

After all, it gave me my kids – who are, without a doubt, the best part of me.

About this writer

  • Diane Stark

    Diane Stark

    Diane Stark is a wife and mom of five. She loves to write about her family and her faith. Her essays have been published in over 20 Chicken Soup for the Soul books.

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One Response to “The Best Part of Me”

  1. Linda O'Connell says:

    This was a heart warming essay. Out of the mouths of babes, right?

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