Bravery Ends Where the Dentist Begins
If I’ve learned one thing as a parent, it is how to nonchalantly cajole my children into situations that – if I were in their shoes – would cause me to quiver more than the cellulite on my thighs.
Whether it concerns skiing down an icy pitch or eating lima beans, I begin by reassuring them they will live to tell the tale, and that it will be good for them in the end. In the middle I may regale them with stories (completely fabricated) to send my point home. And although I try to avoid it, it usually ends with a bribe. The turnaround time from patiently explaining attributes to desperately tempting them with candy is about one minute.
I have this act down-pat: “Be brave! You can do it! I watched a two-year old do this last week! Seriously, we will celebrate with Skittles when this is all said and done.” Change a few nouns, adjectives and bribes, and this accounts for most of my conversational life.
Yet, when I find myself in their shoes and on equal footing, I crumble faster than my shortbread recipe. Since the show must go on, meaning they must be tricked into various scenarios, I have resolved to never let them witness my cowardice. You know that old adage, “Never let them see you sweat?” After my recent trip to the dentist, I have adapted this to “Never let them see me with a dental dam.” If they saw how their tough-talking mother behaved, I would never be able to drag them to the dentist again.
My dentist has been wanting to replace one of my fillings for five years. I have put it off for excellent reasons: I’m too busy, I tell him. There are groceries to be bought, children to be chauffeured, nails to be filed. He usually rolls his eyes, but this time he wouldn’t waiver, and booked me for the following day. Something about a crack and an emergency – he wouldn’t take no for an answer.
Before I could vigorously floss my teeth to remove a week’s worth of sesame seeds, I was back at the dentist, waiting for the major procedure. Replacing a filling is not as easy as it sounds. It involves needles. And pain.
They called my name and the funniest thing happened: I found I was rooted to my seat, and rendered immobile. I did, however, manage to overcome my sudden nausea and held on to my digesting oatmeal. The dental hygienist was smiling and gesturing, and all I could do was shake my head and babble. The receptionist got involved, and then my children’s hygienist, Molly, walked by. For ten years she has witnessed me encouraging/bribing my children, and she got a kick out of seeing me on the receiving end of the drill. Pun intended.
Sometimes it takes a village, but that day it took an office to get me to walk down the hall to my very own torture chair. I asked William, my dentist, to explain the procedure, and once he finished his detailed answer I asked him to explain it again, slowly this time, at which point they bound and gagged me with the dental dam. Before they snapped the plastic in place, I begged him to be liberal with the happy gas, and encouraged him to be all he could be, professionally, on this day.
I attempted to lose myself in an old episode of ‘Friends’ that was playing on the ceiling as they pricked and prodded and drilled and suctioned. The happy gas made me a little loopy, but it’s no champagne. I tried my best to breathe through the plastic and keep my drool in check, and when things got dicey I quelled my screams by digging my fingernails into the arms of the torture chair they thoughtfully provided. I vaguely recall Molly and the receptionist peeking in to see how I was faring. Finally – sooner than I expected – they were done, and although my mouth was frozen into a sideways elliptical shape, I was free to go.
As I sprinted down the hall, I thought what doesn’t beat you makes you stronger, and congratulated myself on my valiant effort. Then William called after my retreating backside, “The temporary tooth is beautiful – just avoid solids on that side until we do the other half of the procedure.”
The receptionist handed me a tissue for the saliva that was dribbling down my chin. Seeing the sorrow in my eyes, she fed me the same annoying line I feed my children, “Don’t worry, it will be over before you know it!”