|when they all had their baby teeth. Photo by Keith Pitts|
I walked into the dentist office with my 4-year old twin boys on a crisp September morning. It was their first visit to the dentist ever. As I was greeted by the receptionist, I thought about how I did nothing to prepare them for their first visit. I’m not talking about reading them a book about going to the dentist the day before the appointment, I’m talking years of unpreparing at the most basic level. Brushing their teeth was one of my parenting responsibilities I completely let slide. I had spurts of caring about their teeth, but then I’d misplace their tooth brushes or be so exhausted after preparing them unprocessed whole foods, bathing them, reading to them, singing folk songs, getting them in clean diapers, give them a kisses all day everyday. They're just baby teeth anyway, I secretly justified. The rough draft to the final version.
After I was greeted by the dentist's receptionist, I sat down to fill out their required paper work for new patients. I was confident my secret wouldn't be found out as I looked at my boys putting a puzzle together on the floor. Look at those smiles--white as could be! The dentist will never know I’m lying when I check the box “Brush teeth twice or once a day.” I rounded way up. Maybe they'll have a few tiny cavities in the back of their mouths. Totally normal. I stayed in the waiting room as they got their cleanings. Everything seemed fine as they returned to me. Then I heard the dentist calling my name.
I felt the guilt rush over me as she inquired, “So how often are they really brushing their teeth?”
“Oh, eh, it’s the craziest thing. I’m horrible at reminding them! They almost never do.”
I thought she would find my honesty endearing and refreshing. Instead she looked offended. I realized I’m dealing with a person who takes teeth seriously. There’s nothing endearing to her about treating the most basic personal hygiene need as an oversight. I stopped smiling.
“The combined total of cavities for your boys is 9.”
“Wow. That’s a lot! I’m thinking it could possibly be genetic. Because I never brush my daughter's teeth and she’s never had a cavity in her life! And she has 2 more years of neglect on the boys.”
“No,” she said without the slightest bit of compassion, “It’s because you’re not brushing their teeth.”
$300 dollars later, I thought I learned my lesson, but at the next check-up, one of my sons was due for a baby root canal. Every time I see his shiny metal tooth in the back of his mouth, I’m reminded of my biggest failure as a mother. They say failure is the secret to success. I just think it’s the secret to a lot less cavities.
I wanted to give another shout out to the Go Mighty Team. Their idea to create, connect, and share goals is brilliant. I would've never signed up for the storytelling class without posting this goal on their site. Set up a profile and start with one goal. Just one scary goal. See where it will take you! Read where it took me.