Saturday, December 26, 2009

Teething Days

I took the kids to the dentist for the first time this week. We were overdue for my daughter, and I've been thinking that with everything else my little guy is going through with his cerebral palsy, that we'd better make sure he got off to a good start with his teeth.

I also thought that as my wife coordinates most of my son's many appointments, that it would be a small gesture of fairness on my part to take care of this first visit and let her take a rare break.

I tried to choose a day when work would be quiet and I could take the morning with them. I thought, that maybe, if I seemed unhurried and relaxed, that some of it might rub off on the kids. It wasn't quite as quiet at work as I'd hoped it would be, but I kept the appointment and tried to not look down at my phone too often.

"Why do we have to see the tooth teacher?" my daughter asked me as I tried that morning to get her into the car and off on time for our appointment.

The pediatric practice suggested that we not say anything in advance that might frighten the kids. My daughter loves her pre-school, and especially her lovely teachers, so I thought I might make the dentist a little less frightening by likening him to folks she was at home with.

"He knows all about teeth," I said, trying to keep it straight, "He'll tell us how to take care of your teeth and your brother's."

My son sat opposite her in his child seat happily oblivious to all the goings on; he's too little to know what's coming for the most part. He'd had a good night's sleep, so he was in good spirits.

I was very fortunate in our choice of an office - they were wonderful. We were the first appointment of the day and they took care of us quickly. My daughter sat in one chair and my son sat in my lap in the other while two hygienists quickly chipped away their tartar and polished and treated their teeth with fluoride.

My daughter was a real champ and declared, after getting her disney toothbrush kit, that she wanted to go to the dentist every week.

My son made no such declaration. His general happy go lucky expression evaporated the moment the hygienist's scraping instrument touched his front teeth and his eyes looked up at me as if to say (in bold italics) - BETRAYED... BY MY OWN FATHER!

He writhed and twisted and cried while I held him gently and they quickly examined his mouth. It was a tense five minutes, but, blessedly, it was over quickly and my son's good mood returned.

"Getting his second set of first year molars," the dentist said after giving the little guy his approval of good health, "You can see them coming in."

"Uh oh," I thought to myself, "I was hoping we were done with that."

"When will he start to kvetch?" I wanted to ask, but kept the thought to myself. I kept my questions focussed on follow ups and to do's for the kids.

I was grateful when the visit was complete. Only one of the kids was uncomfortable and both left happy - compliments of a little toy they each got to choose on the way out. I also, in hindsight, got a rare heads up that some sleepless nights were on the way.

I don't know if it was timed that way by fate, but the boy started pulling at his ear the afternoon we returned home. He's proceeded to run a light temperature and go completely off his schedules for the remainder of the week; food, sleep, you name it. He's been looking like one of those mandrake roots from the second Harry Potter film every time we put him down to rest.

"Maybe we can take him back to the tooth teacher," my daughter said earlier tonight, when my son was crying and fussing after trying to put him in his crib at 7:30 p.m. We'd explained to her that he was uncomfortable because his teeth were hurting.

"I've thought about it, but I don't think the dentist baby sits," I said to myself silently (we haven't slept either and I'm getting a little grumpy).

I smiled as best I could and told her that her brother would be fine.

Their both sleeping now (for how long I don't know).

When I think about this little incident with his molars, I find it amazing how much angst teeth cause; the getting and the losing and the caring for and the fixing. I'm grateful for the good dentistry we have in the U.S.A., but I wish things could be simpler and less painful.

I wonder too sometimes how much like those molars, the first years of being a parent are; how the kids just put pressure on you and make you uncomfortable until you cut your teeth. I imagine that some of that don't-know-when-it-will-end-pain-but-damn-does-this-hurt-now-discomfort that my son is feeling is similar to what we feel when we want them to become a little more independent, but they stubbornly hold onto us like the little clinging vines of flowers.

I just went up to check on him. Sometimes I do that when I'm writing about the kids. Take a little break for thought and to make sure they're okay.

He's sleeping face down into the pillow - poor little guy - probably to put some counter pressure on those gums of his, but he's sleeping. His little breaths and his small bent shape make him look like a teepee gently swaying in the wind on the open plains at night. I hope he sleeps peacefully. I hope those teeth come soon ... for all of us.

Good night.


Cathy said...

LOVE the analogy of teething to parenting. Very apt.

Happy new year!

David Sexton said...

Thank you Cathy. Happy New Year to you too! Hope you are well.