Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Dentist for Four

The success of taking five small children to the dentist is something that must be measured in relative terms. When the number of possible poor outcomes exceeds Emma's counting ability, I stop aiming for perfection and start hoping for a passing grade. Today I passed.

My kids could hardly wait to get to their appointment. I know, they need to get out more, but it does help that we go to a mega dentist office for kids, complete with a jungle gym in the waiting room, coloring book trays on the dentist chairs, and a prize box at the end. They threw off their shoes and took the jungle gym by storm before I could set the diaper bags down. Elijah's whole face lit up as Hannah slid down the slide. Then he giggled and crawled right up to the colorful foam bumps that served as stairs. I have never seen him scramble with such excitement, crow with such pride, or giggle with such delight as he did on that little gym. He never knew such fun existed.

When their names were called, they had to clamber to find their shoes, but were soon headed back to the cheery land of coloring and prizes (and teeth cleaning). I stood with Elijah at a two-way mirror, watching my kids happily take their places in their own dentist chairs in the large hygiene room. I cringed as the dental assistant left Toby unattended and led Hannah back to another room for x-rays. Toby sat still for about 10 seconds, then began to fidget. He leaned over the side of his chair to examine the underpinnings. He craned his head back to inspect the lighting. Then he hopped down, and I held my breath, but fortunately Naomi, who was seated not far away, barked something at him that spurred him back into his seat.

Hannah, in the x-ray room, was admiring her beautiful blue lead apron, smiling sweetly as she smoothed it down over her lap with her hands. Her eyes couldn't hide her excitement as the assistant placed the films in her mouth: something new! Anything new! How wonderful.

Emma clicked her heels together and pursed her lips as she sat on her chair: la-dee-dah...lets get this show on the road, people...that prize box is calling my name.

To my amazement, they each completed x-rays, cleanings, and fluoride treatments without a hitch. I could tell by the way Toby tugged on his bottom teeth for the dentist that he was sharing all about his new (imaginary) loose tooth, and amusing all who heard. Emma got lost trying to find her way back to her chair after pinning her certificate onto the "Kavity Free Klub" board. I saw the panic on her face and had to sneak my head in the door (against the rules) long enough to calm her and point her to her seat.

Toby emerged first, bearing a new plastic motorcycle that probably cost a hay-penny to produce in China and will not last past the first time Elijah gets ahold of it, but he was all grins. The assistant reported to me that he had no cavities, but did have a "huge mouth ulcer" under his top lip that looked to be possibly "trauma induced." He's a three-year-old boy, I have not a clue which trauma might have induced the gaping ulcer, but that does explain why he's been screaming in protest when I brush his teeth lately. She offered the helpful advice of encouraging Toby to gargle with warm salt-water, which provided me the best laugh I've had in a week.

Emma and Hannah both came out with a clean report card, and to their dismay, discovered they had picked the same plastic fish from the prize bin. They cannot escape their destiny to be identical twins.

Naomi bravely wore her sunglasses so the bright light wouldn't bother her while they cleaned her teeth. I could see her grimace and grip the arm rests, but she cooperated perfectly: no tears, no complaints. Ah, but here is where my maternal dental record was blemished: Naomi did have one small cavity, the first among my five children. I guess I can't be perfect forever. We will have to return in January to have that filled. With her new spiro-graph kit prize in hand, she didn't seem to mind the news that she'd have to return in January. In fact, I think the others might have been a little jealous.

Tonight, after his bath, I pulled Toby's Superman pajamas on him, ruffled his hair and said, "There! Now you're Superman!"

"Yes," he answered, "but I'm not saving any worlds tonight, because I have to go to bed!"

I agree. Today I saved four mouths of tiny teeth, but no more tonight. All other worlds of responsibility will have to wait or perish. Supermom needs her rest.

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