Long ago when I imagined my future children, I pictured raven-haired curlytops full of laughter. I did not, as it turns out, imagine that my curly hair would be the exception rather than the rule, or that the sheer level of DRAMA and ANGST associated with the difficulty of being a child would make for quite so much glaring. Live and learn.
Monkey did get my eyes, and Chickadee definitely has my ears. I mean, we share genetic material, and it’s evident. (Something that always tickles me about genetics: If Chickadee is with me, people swear she is my spitting image. If she’s with her dad, people swear she is his spitting image. This is my daughter, the shapeshifter.) Unfortunately, poor Chickadee got something else from me, as well: A smallish mouth, with largish teeth. That means that three years ago she had teeth pulled, and then she had a gum graft a few months after that, and now she has braces and yesterday she had MORE teeth pulled. Fun!
[Dear Chickadee: Sorry for all the years you’ll spend in therapy getting over your dental phobia. I’ll help pay for it. But, um, look how awesome it all turned out! Honey? Speak to me, honey!]
Now, whereas Monkey has had some issues with the dentist and orthodontist because he has sensory problems and he just finds hands and wires and loud noises in his mouth rather overwhelming, Chickadee is a completely neurotypical kid who now completely hates both the dentist and the orthodontist because THEY KEEP STICKING NEEDLES INTO HER GUMS and doing things like RIPPING HER TEETH OUT WITH PLIERS. I really don’t know that we can call it a phobia when, honestly, the child is justified. Nothing good ever happens to her at the dentist.
[Sudden brilliant idea: I periodically drive the dog to the vet for no reason at all, just to let the receptionist give her a biscuit. It’s designed to make her (the dog, not the receptionist) think that the vet is a happy place, not just a place where she gets muzzled and has things shoved in her butt. Perhaps the next time I have a new piece of clothing or a couple of bonus chore bucks for Chickie I should take her to the dentist and let HIM give it to her! Same principle should work out there, right?]
Anyway. Chickadee’s anxiety about the whole thing meant that I picked her up from school and 1) she’d barely eaten any lunch and 2) she was talking a mile a minute because she was nervous. But we went on over to the dentist and they got her into the chair and strapped on her orange-scented mask and I waited for her to get all goofy and incoherent like she did the last time she had laughing gas.
Except that she stayed pretty much fine, this time, which was fine until they started doing the novocaine, at which point she started crying and carrying on, and I turned into THAT MOTHER, the one who firmly suggests that they turn the gas up, WAY UP, to make her more comfortable.
See, here is one of the biggest regrets of my mothering career: When Chickadee had her gum graft, the oral surgeon we saw for that was not the same one who’d done her prior tooth extraction. And this doctor assured me that sedation was unnecessary and he does these all the time and it would all be fine and blah blah blah, and when it came down to it and she was screaming and crying the doctor told me she was “just being dramatic” and really, she couldn’t feel a thing. My daughter IS dramatic, and so I believed him. I later found out that gum grafts are incredibly painful and she probably did experience a lot of pain, and not only did that jerk of a doctor let that happen, but I let it happen because I didn’t know any better. And that sucks.
Now my kid is terrified of dentists and my position is that PAIN IS UNNECESSARY, so if the crocodile tears start to flow, it no longer matters to me if she’s faking or genuinely experiencing pain: Your job, as the person I am paying, is to MAKE HER STOP. Fortunately, they turned up the gas and proceeded with the novocaine shots verrrrrry sloooowwwwwly, and finally she was ready for the extractions.
Pliers in your mouth make a lot of noise, it turns out. I had been sitting across the room, initially, but once they started working on her teeth, Chickadee’s arms came up and started flailing around while she whimpered—more scared than anything else—and I ended up sitting by her head and trying to stay out of the way while I stroked her hair and chattered quietly in her ear. They were about halfway through taking out the first tooth when the LAUGHING part of the laughing gas hit her, and so as a monster molar was ripped from her gums, my daughter was finding me extra-hilarious and laughing loudly enough that someone from the hallway stuck her head in to make sure everything was okay.
Statements which are hilarious when you are my daughter on laughing gas:
“I am giving you a scalp massage.”
“That’s funny? Oh, look. A bug. Here in your hair.”
“I bet we could’ve had Otto do this at home in the garage for a lot less money. I mean, he has pliers.”
“Clearly I am the greatest mother ever, because you find me hilarious.”
On both teeth there was at least one broken root tip, which meant that first the tooth was pulled out with pliers, and then the dentist dove back in with a very pointy thing and poked around until he extracted a root shard with a comforting comment such as, “Holy Moses, have a look at THAT deadly thing!”
Everything continued to be hilarious right up until we had to wait a few minutes at the pharmacy for her pain pills, and then things were slightly tragic because the numbing was wearing off, but then we went home and filled her up with pudding and narcotics and she ate her weight in mashed potatoes for dinner, so I am pretty sure she’s going to live. And she now has NO BABY TEETH LEFT so as far as I know there is nothing left to pull.
This morning we had an interesting philosophical conversation about rules, as it is technically a violation of her school’s handbook for me to allow her to take Tylenol to school with her. Technically, I think the administration can shove it if they really want me to believe that I am endangering her or anyone else by letting her stick a single, over-the-counter caplet in her pocket so that she can have another dose of pain relief with her lunch. I mean, sure, I’m not going to send her in with Hydrocodone, but Tylenol?
So I told her to make sure no one sees her take it. And then I told her that if she got caught I was going to pretend not to know her. Before she could protest, I told her that her teeth are looking particularly beautiful today, and then I locked her out of the house.