Friday, July 17, 2009

Receptionists, Cavities, and Banter Busters

Several weeks ago, I took all four kids to the dentist for their annual cleaning. That was the day I discovered that my two-year old daughter, Ella, has great promise as a future office administrator. She has many of the attributes that make for a great office manager or receptionist. She feels quite at home with phones and computers behind a large desk. She is social. (If only she could talk! We’re still working on that.) She is helpful. (She is always right there to lend me a hand when Daniel needs to be cleaned. What I mean is she tries her darndest to wipe his butt herself. His poopy butt. It would be cute if it wasn’t so disgusting.) She’s great with phones. (Talking issue aside.) She is friendly. (To a fault.)

When we walked into the dentist’s office, you would have thought she was on her way to work. She marched, her little arms swinging with purpose, right up to and then behind the receptionist’s desk where she was inevitably picked up and allowed to write reports on the computer, scribble messages on an incisor-shaped notepad, calculate expenses on the calculator, and babble importantly on the phone.

(Sometimes she confuses calculators with the phones. I’m sure this is something that will be worked out when she goes to business school.)

That was also the day I found out Caleb had more than one cavity in his six-year old mouth. I’m not going to say HOW many cavities. I’m pretty open about stuff, but I won’t go there. I will say that they were all baby teeth.

When the dentist informs a mom her young child has a cavity, the mom immediately feels a sense of responsibility and subsequent guilt. I think my reaction is common of any mother’s reaction to this type of situation. I went through three emotional responses after I heard the devastating news:

1) I got defensive.

“He brushes his teeth at least twice a day! Sometimes more! He doesn’t drink juice, and when he does, I dilute it. A lot. Like ¼th juice to ¾’s water. And it’s 100% juice, too. Without added sugar.

I have soft teeth. See?” (I open my mouth and show the bemused pediatric dentist my fillings.) “It’s genetic. Completely genetic.

And I’ve got four kids, y'know. I mean, I don’t have time to supervise every brushing.”

2) I expressed guilt and remorse.

“He eats fruit roll-ups! I should never buy fruit roll-ups. And he doesn’t use a battery-operated toothbrush! I will buy them in bulk from now on. Should we be using a mouth rinse? I’m so, so sorry this happened. I take full responsibility. I can’t believe I allowed this to happen! What kind of a mother am I? I am the crappiest mother in the world. I will do better. I promise to do better. I will go to dental school. Is that a good idea, do you think? I’ll do whatever you tell me.”

3) I got anxious.

“How much is this going to cost?”

None of the other kids had cavities. I am not a complete failure.

Today, Caleb had his first cavity filled. (This is going to be a summer-long project.) I went in with him where I desired to sit in the corner immersed in my book so I would not have to hear the drilling.

I have to say that certain people need to recognize particular social signals. If you try and engage someone in conversation by asking a question, there are obvious signs that tell if they want to talk to you, too. If they put their book down, have a big smile on their face and speak more than one sentence in reply, you’ve got the start of a potential tête-à-tête. If that person glances up from their book, gives you a one-word response and then puts their head back down again, you have run into a banter buster and should abort the conversation mission immediately.

Needless to say, I was dragged into inane conversation where I was forced to look in Caleb’s direction and witness spittle and teeth bits flying from his mouth.

Caleb was stoic. Not one complaint. He was still as a corpse. After his last visit to the dentist, he picked vampire teeth from the treat box. Today he chose a bird whistle.

There was never any little boy, mouth full of cavities or not, more deserving of vampire teeth and bird whistles.

Bird whistles are loud, though, are they not?

1 comment:

Joyce said...

What a brave little boy! I'm very proud of him.