Dads and Scary Dentists

Let me start this by saying that my husband is a wonderful man. A man who knows me and loves me well. He washes dishes, does the Costco run, plays football with the boys in the backyard, changes dirty diapers, reads bedtime stories, makes pancakes the size of my two year old’s head, and other really fun and helpful things. He tries really really hard to get things right…most of the time. He cares about my sanity, perhaps more than I do. (Which is probably because my lack of sanity affects him more than it does me.)

When the twins were born, in all his amazingness (and what am I saying–out of necessity), he took complete responsibility for morning and nighttime parental duties for the three older boys. He rocked it.

He had those boys dressed, fed, lunches packed, and out the door to school by 7:40 every morning. He even picked up two neighbor kids along the way. He did this all before I had even gotten out of bed. Did they have fruit snacks for breakfast? Sure! Did they go to school in mismatching clothes? Of course! But they were never once late to school, and their little lunches full of every sort of imaginable prepackaged food brought delight to their innocent hearts when they sat down to eat.

At night, he got that bedtime routine from 20 minutes down to about 5. He had those kids in bed before they could say, “bedtime story?” He was the master. He pretty much singlehandedly silenced the whining and endless cups of water. I’m not sure how he did it. To this day, I am almost scared to mess with his routine. It goes so well. There is so little complaining, so few requests. If I enter the room all of the sudden I am playing the  bartender fetching three cups of water, at, of course, three different times, whispering prayers, and listening to very important things that they forgot to tell me until just now. Fifteen minutes later I am dragging myself from their room like a hostage escaping the wreckage.

In short, he’s amazing. But there’s one thing the master doesn’t do. One thing that gets to me. One thing he won’t do, despite my continual urging. He will not brush or “check” their teeth.

“I don’t do teeth,” He’s told me several times.

This completely and utterly baffles me. Why? What is so hard about brushing children’s teeth? He will wipe stinky, slippery poop off of a kid’s bottom, but he will not stick a little toothbrush in their mouth and wiggle it around for a few minutes?

I don’t understand. But here’s what I do know.

You cannot pump a two year old full of fruit snacks all day, and give him a toothbrush with a glob of blue fluoride toothpaste on it at the end of the night and call it good. There’s no way those teeth are getting clean. I know. I know because I know two year olds. That toothpaste gets swallowed faster than the time it takes to squeeze it on there. It never even comes in contact with the teeth. It just doesn’t.

And just because a child is say,  6, or maybe 7, doesn’t make him much better. Sure, he may not directly swallow the toothpaste, but he will give his teeth a cursory sweep and then let the toothbrush hang from his mouth like a cigarette while he reads a book forgetting all about the Captain America toothbrush dangling from his lip.

But the man won’t do it. He draws the line at teeth brushing.

The annoyance soon gave way to worry, and I began to see scary visions of our next dental visit in which a very condescending and judgmental dental hygienist (we’ve met before) would give me such looks and say such words that would leave me to feel like the absolute worst mother on the planet because my  three boys had a combined total of one hundred and thirty-five cavities.

So I did what any wonderful wife would do: I told my husband he had to take them.

The day of reckoning was going to come and I wasn’t going to be the one getting the stink eye from the dental hygienist because my two year old has seven cavities. I wasn’t going to subject myself to such derision, especially when it would be so wholly undeserved. The “master of everything other than brushing teeth” was going to have to face Ms. Judgy as she explained the importance of diligent flossing.

There was a teensy part of me that thought an upcoming dental appointment might in some way instill a little healthy fear in him, and he may actually start caring about our children’s hygiene. I wasn’t so lucky. I totally underestimated the fact that my husband is a boss and unhappy middle-aged women who want to make you feel like a failure don’t bother him. The stink eye? Bring it. He’s not phased. (And that’s what I love about him.)

He had no qualms then about bringing the boys to the dentist. He put it on his calendar. It was settled. They don’t tell you when you’re newlyweds that 10.5 years into marriage the definition of true love is going to be taking three children to the dentist. But it is. Be still my heart.

Well, wouldn’t you know, sickness and other variables caused us to miss said dentist appointments and it defaulted to me to bring the boys to the dentist, lest another 6 months pass and allow for an additional hundred cavities to develop in their young mouths.

When the day of dread finally arrived, I dressed my best (you know, jeans and a nice cotton shirt) and held my head high. I was ready to defend the fiery arrows those piercing eyes would shoot my way because I hadn’t flossed my toddler’s teeth every morning and night. (Should I mention I have twins? Five kids? Blame my husband?) I didn’t. Like a lamb before the slaughter, I was silent. My big girl underwear were working that day.

And an amazing thing happened. Well, a couple actually. Number one: Ms. Grumpypants wasn’t there. The second is possibly the biggest miracle of them all. We walked away with absolutely no cavities! I smiled a genteel smile when they shared the news. I knew it all along. I mean, we haven’t been that remiss.

So let’s hope it stays that way. But, if it doesn’t, we all know who’s to blame.

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