The cusp of three-and-a-half-year-old Mr. Man had his first dentist appointment the other day. My husband and I have a standard protocol introducing new and possibly unpleasant things to him, and its efficacy is magical…Like a unicorn spontaneously appearing in my family room shitting cookies and telling me MPOTUS and his dream team are in prison.
(allposters.com read my mind; can’t you FEEL the magic…totally worth a house coated in glitter, right?)
Little Man has always struggled with transitions, even for small changes in activities. As a little wee man, if he were enjoying swings, good luck getting him off…out of a bathtub…out the door. It never mattered. Announcing anything requiring him to shift gears almost always led to a refusal and meltdown.
For the longest time it was enough to countdown minutes; I still do. It’s a bit absurd. We call them “Mommy Minutes” because they have no actual relationship to real time. A Mommy Minute is probably more like a minute-and-a-half in real time…because I have shit to do. The process begins with me announcing five minutes remaining of an activity, then I periodically announce one minute less in intervals suiting me. The last announcement will be thirty seconds before I ask my son to count from ten. Once he accomplishes his part, I almost never have an issue ushering him to the next task. Occasionally, I have to follow-up with a mild redirection or limit, but I can’t remember the last time there has been a full-out heel digging and head spinning.
(Linda Blair pictures were freaking me out, but Anthony Hopkins is hot and beats the hell out of the Mitch McConnell look alike that kept popping up…You’re welcome.)
It doesn’t have to be minutes either. I’ve counted pushes…bites…taps…anything. The point is that he needs time to shift gears. He probably inherited this rigidity from me. It’s interesting because he’s pretty easy going and laid back. I would have expected him to be a worrier or a generally anxious kid; he isn’t.
That said, for a bit around when Warrior Queen was born we were having trouble getting Mr. Man to sit for a hair-cut, and few things make a Mommy feel like more of a humiliated failure than when she and her offspring are bounced from a bargain hair salon amongst a crowd of bystanders. That was our family’s hair-cut bottom, and Little Man was in desperate need of trimmed locks.
(You got me Flickr, this guy’s situation might have been worse, but only because my experience isn’t on the internet. And, really, I’m just one delicious chocolate cake away from an impressive pants split.)
My brilliant husband spent the following week talking about getting a hair-cut. General things: what happens…random details…how long it takes…why it’s time to get one…Mommy and Daddy have them. There was nothing poetic about the conversations, and some were quite clumsy. Often he passionately refused during these conversations. If he became weepy, we’d stop talking, and move on to other topics. But, the next weekend my Mr. Man sat on Daddy’s lap for a hair-cut without issue. When he was finished he skipped over to me screaming, “I did a good job!” We haven’t had a problem with hair-cuts since.
(The hair-cut was miraculous! Thanks, The Wolf.)
Little Man abhors the doctor even more than a hair snipping…even if it isn’t an appointment for him. But, after a week of talking about it, my brave boy managed his most recent physical despite reddening eyes and a shaky voice as the visit progressed. Fortunately, no vaccinations that round, but I’ve used this approach for his last blood test checking his lead levels. Whenever we leave appointments that potentially throw his disposition askew, my husband and I tell Little Man how brave he was, and how proud we are of him. We often talk about bravery in our home…feeling fear, but pushing on anyway.
This leads us to the dental appointment. The tricky thing with this situation is that I wasn’t sure what would be happening. He’s three; how can they clean the teeth of a three-and-some-change-year-old kid? I don’t make promises I’m not sure I can keep, so I feared my responses would be ungratifying. Will it hurt? Probably not, but I’m not sure what they are doing exactly. It will probably just feel weird. I focused on their expertise working with kids his age. He asked if he could sit on my lap during the appointment. I’m not sure, but I could commit to before and after. Blessedly that was enough. My intermittently cautious kid was nervous the night before. He didn’t say, but we had trouble getting him to settle the night before, and he woke early.
It was a strange morning. Getting him ready we spoke more of the appointment…went over the same concerns…would it hurt…the lap situation. Mr. Man pauses at the end before saying with an intellectual, high pitched lilt in his voice, “I don’t know. It sounds suspicious to me…” That one prompted a cascade of tears blurring my vision for five minutes…and side cramps.
(It’s a little known fact that Socrates was really a preschooler.)
We needed to be out of the house first thing, but my son climbed into my car forty-five minutes before it was time to manage our exit shuffle. I hadn’t even wrangled a shower yet. He gave me a bit of push back before allowing me to carry him back into the house.
(Usually this is Warrior Queen’s spirit animal, but not on this occasion. Thanks for the token, Pinterest!)
Entering the house and left to his own devices while I prepared for our day, Little Man resumed business as usual. He tormented his sister for a bit…tormented me a bit less…all in a day’s morning ritual. I showered, finished making snacks for the day. Suddenly, the house was quiet. Little Man disappeared once again, finding his way into his car seat. I went ahead and buckled him in, but he didn’t want me to go. I squeezed myself on the edge of the car floor in front of him.
(Looks comfy cozy, doesn’t it? Sick Chirpse knows I’d do just about anything for my children…)
He kissed and held my hand telling me how much he loves me. We laughed. I asked him if he was scared. He said he was. We talked about bravery some more. He said he is brave; I agreed. He asked to check my teeth; I complied. I’d managed to ignore the pain in my hips and tushie, but eventually the tingling jabs were intolerable. I smooched Mr. Man, and provided one more snuggle before leaving my precarious perch. My little man did not stop me.
There were no tears or tantrums as we entered the office…no apprehension. I didn’t know what to expect, but from the immediate first moments they were pros. Pediatric dentistry is no joke, but this crew had it down. My son was marvelous for the entire time…cleaning and all that included dental floss! I didn’t bring in my phone incorrectly assuming this first appointment was probably a meet and greet with a quick check to see if anything is rotting.
I couldn’t help but wear a smile so wide that my face became sore; quietly gazing at my little man as he sat on folded legs wearing the sun glasses they gave him because of the bright lights. The hygienist won him over by allowing him to fondle the various instruments. My son agreeably opened his mouth like a dinosaur, even though he didn’t seem exactly sure what that meant. He tried to answer questions about juice and gummy snacks, but was unable. Mr. Man has a bit of juice a couple of times a week, and I don’t think has ever eaten a gummy snack; this was one of the rare times I felt I kill it at this whole parenting thing. It isn’t as though I feel I’m terrible at it, but every once in a while something happens that makes me feel like I should be carried off by a team of smartly dressed athletes.
(I can still hear the chants, “Mommy…Mommy…Mommy…”)
We left the appointment with my son holding my hand telling me how brave he is, beaming I whole heartedly agreed.