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Want To Add To Your Parenting Guilt? Try the Dentist!

Yesterday I took all three of my kids to the dentist. I didn’t have a good feeling about it and not just because of the whole “three kids – one me” part of the equation but because 1) I worry I’m not the greatest about staying on top of my kids’ brushing and flossing habits (full disclosure: the twins don’t floss regularly and by regularly I mean they’ve done it about five times ever) 2) I hadn’t brought Elby in to see a dentist in well over a year and 3) I worried I’d waited too long to get the twins their first visit.  I feared going to the dentist would be an exercise in parental —possibly well deserved -guilt.

In my defense, Elby is deathly afraid of, well a lot of things, but dentists are high on her list. At her first and only visit she shook and cried like a dog being pulled into a vet’s office against its will. The poor thing was so wracked with anxiety – despite a boatload of reassurance that it would be painless and my promise of a new Barbie – that I worried she was having an itsy bitsy panic attack.

When she finally allowed her lips to crack open a millimeter, I was told that she had a cavity on her front tooth and perhaps she should have it filled. “Well forgive me for being thirty years behind modern technology but isn’t that tooth going to fall out on its own?” I asked.  I was told that perhaps it would but if it didn’t fall out soon enough it could cause damage to her permanent tooth.

Poor Elby was traumatized enough by being in the office, how could I put her through that? I wondered if there was some book to help her understand like maybe, “Baby’s First Dental Procedure.” I’d invested so much time convincing her that nothing would hurt and I didn’t want to lose my credibility so I decided that we would wait and see.

Over the next year (and a half) she lost that tooth as well as three of its neighbors but I figured we’d better go back plus Sadie and Mattie were overdue for their first check-up.

I decided to try a brand new pediatric dentist who on the plus side was supposed to be extremely kid friendly but on the negative side doesn’t take my insurance.

The place couldn’t have been any more perfect for children with TV’s, toys, a little kiddie kitchen area and dental chairs in the middle of all the action. The kids did fantastic; even Elby acted like an old dentist pro, letting her teeth get counted, prodded and cleaned.

Unfortunately, things didn’t go as well for me. Turns out these people are serious sticklers for good oral hygiene habits and they questioned the kids while I stood by helplessly wishing I hadn’t been such a proponent of honesty in my house. Sadie and Mattie happily admitted to only brushing their teeth once per day and not being flossers. Elby said she brushes the same amount as Sadie and Mattie but that she does floss, well, when we have flossers, but sometimes we run out (traitor!) Meanwhile, I was barraged with questions about my kids’ diet (read: parenting skills) Do they drink juice? How much? Do they drink it all and once or sip it out of a sippy cup over the course of a few hours? You’d think we were talking about Windex.  “Listen, they drink juice. Maybe once a day. Not out of a sippy cup. I’m not Britney Spears!”

“Do they ever eat sweets? What kind of sweets? Cake? Cookies? Sticky candy? Dried fruit? Fruit snacks with sugar in them?” I felt like a defendant in a murder investigation.

“Yes. Yes okay! They eat sweets! You got me! They eat candy and fruit snacks sometimes! And they don’t brush their teeth right after! I’m just a mom who is doing her best and who sometimes resorts to bribing with old Halloween candy to get her kids to get into their pajamas sometime this CENTURY. I’m not perfect! Matilda eats apples. Does that count for anything? The kid loves an apple or four. Sadie mostly likes fruit roll-ups. I’m sorry! I’ll try to do better!”

I got a few weird looks but somehow I felt they were used to this.

Then I was given a lesson on how to lay Sadie and Mattie down to floss their teeth and shown how to help them brush better.

Lastly, it turned out that none of my kids have any cavities but that this visit cost five hundred dollars which I promptly put on my credit card.

Oh parenting guilt. You win this round.

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