Saturday, August 21, 2004

Punched in the mouth

Took my kids to the dentist this morning, which I know you'll agree is about the most fun you can have on a Saturday. The dental hygeinist chewed me out for not making my daughter brush her teeth better, and more frequently. Gingivitis! More plaque in a 14-year-old's mouth than an adult's mouth would have! Scandalous, scandalous. And all my fault. I promised to make sure she brushes in the morning as well as the evening, and does so in an appropriately gum-strengthening fashion, and for two minutes minimum. Since my daughter's a super-organized morning person, adding brushing to her a.m. routine won't be a problem (though my supervision thereof almost certainly will be, since a super-organized morning person I am not).

When it came time for my son to take the chair, I confessed that he was also not a morning brusher, but that he brushed faithfully every night. I hoped she wouldn't ask how many minutes he brushed, because while the 10 seconds of enforced brushing I wrestle him into every night seems looooooong to the two of us, it probably wouldn' t impress her much. I tried to soften her up with tales of his sensory integration problems, and how he therefore couldn't tolerate me brushing his teeth for him. Then, of course, he sat down in the chair, laid back and remained blissfully still while she poked, prodded, scraped, and scrubbed his teeth. Clearly, his only problem is a lazy mom.

Why is it that just about any contact with a medical professional can leave me feeling so judged? I'm normally pretty secure in the way I'm parenting my kids. One of the central rules of our parenting strategy is not to sweat the small stuff, and so, yeah, maybe we don't attack tooth care with the kind of zealousness we would if there was nothing else to attack. I think we're doing a good job with the big stuff, and if the kind of micromanaging that requires leaves us too exhausted to legislate flossing, I'm not going to lose any sleep. Most of the time, I'm cool with it. But boy, put me in a room with a disappointed dental hygeinist, and I'm suddenly all, "Lady, after four hours of doing homework with my learning disabled daughter, endless struggles to get my attention-challenged son to finish his homework, meltdowns at the dinner table, battles to get PJs on, I just want those kids in BED, thank you very much. The last thing I have energy for is gum-rubbing." And don't talk to me about mornings -- if my son makes it through breakfast without spilling something on his shirt, I'm not eager to go double-or-nothing and hope he doesn't get toothpaste on it.

I thought that stuff, but of course I didn't say it. Professionals don't understand. I just nodded and said I'd get right on that brushing. And made a mental note to make sure we got a different hygeinist next time.

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