There are certain irrational (or only somewhat rational?) fears I have as a parent. One of those is that my child’s first dentist appointment will result in 10 cavities, a stern and shocked look from a judgy hygienist, and a pediatric dentist’s secret back-room call to child protective services. It sort of snowballs from there.
Most likely this first visit, if it’s anything like the doctor’s office or getting a haircut (or even just cutting nails for gosh sakes), will go like this:
1) We practice and prep and talk about it as much as humanly possible beforehand. He will be ridiculously excited about it until the moment we walk in the door.
2) He gradually starts freaking out in waiting room.
3) We get to the room and attempt to get him into the chair and he does a full body thrashing with terror-stricken sobs. We wait patiently, we try to make it fun, we distract with games/iphones/anything (is a sucker a no-no in a dentist office?), we try to explain things to him. Nothing works.
3) Over sobs, the dentist tries to talk to me/us and says something like: “Relax, he’ll be fine, this is a normal reaction for some kids, he does have some plaque but just keep working on the brushing.”
And then we will leave, somewhat traumatized, somewhat comforted. If it goes even the tiniest bit better than that I’ll call it a victory!
For awhile Ben would brush his teeth halfheartedly & completely ineffectively (basically he just sucked on the brush), and he would also let us brush a tiny bit each day with some minor protest. But for the past 4 or so months he has staged a full blown coup d’état against brushing. Don’t even try to think of something we should have tried, because we already tried it. We wanted to avoid force as much as possible because we all know that this does not end well in terms of starting a happy relationship with dental hygiene. (….”Mommy and Daddy hold me down screaming to brush my teeth? Ahhh! Well of course I’m going to make their life miserable the next 152 times they try to bring up the topic of teeth-brushing. Obviously.”
Anyway, days would go by without any brushing whatsoever, so we had to resort to gentle force on some occasions. Usually it would be a 2-parent effort and never really resulted in successful brushing anyway. It really is hard to reach a moving target and good luck bracing a 2 year old’s head. We reached the pinnancle of stressful parenting at bedtime last week when I literally had him in a full-body, straight-jacket-like, twisted-up pretzel hold of some kind. My legs crossed over his. One of my arms holding down both of his. His head in my lap. Sobs as I brushed gently for about 5 seconds. It’s probably hard to picture but I’m sure it sounds awful to you. It was awful.
But you know what… it worked!
And so I decided that we would resume this gentle full-body straight jacket pose every day. The parenting angels must have noticed because they intervened. The very next day something changed. All of a sudden Ben became a tooth brushing toddler!!! (For a week straight now, at least).
Mind you it wasn’t completely independent. He put the brush into his mouth and my over-the-top, ridiculously happy reaction just caught his attention so much that he waned MORE MORE MORE of it! Initially I was semi-annoyed… I’d tried the same thing insanely silly, exaggerated, happy response countless times. But then I remembered the secret of understanding toddlers: they will do things in their own time.
His brushing went on for so long that I even got to record a video. I felt like we both should have earned some kind of lifetime achievement award for it. We were ecstatic.
So anyway, all those words just to clarify why this 10-second video brings me so much joy: