Monday, November 7, 2011

30 Days of Thankful--Day 8--Dentistry or Creative Parenting--Whatever

Today, I am thankful for Dentistry. Well, sort of. We're going to the dentist tomorrow and the orthodontist's office Thursday, so consider this a tribute.

I am personally terrified of the dentist. I used to be almost paralyzed by this fear, until I sort of grew out of it. I had the misfortune of having my orthodonture administered by a complete sadist. No fishy or bunny or duckie paintings anywhere in sight. No friendly women in pink scrubs who called the instruments "Mr. Thirsty" and "Princess Paint". Only a couple of foreign men who could say "open" and "vi-dah" (wider) while shoving metal onto my teeth. Lovely. It's my 1984 fear (If you don't get the reference, you need to read more.)
Seconds before braces

The three older shorties never had this fear. I refused to allow that to happen to my children. I interviewed and toured every single dentist's office in a 100 mile radius from my house. (I'm not joking; we drive 46 miles one way to the pediatric dentist I finally settled on and 36 miles one way to the orthodontist.)

At the house, before the first visit ever happened, we made a game out of going to the dentist--we played it when they were really young so that they'd know every single thing that was coming at the actual visit. By the time they were five, all three could go back by themselves for cleanings. (This is why I'm always in the running for Mother of the Year.)

Getting the braces, still smiling.
The Little Flower has been a special case. She came so early that the enamel on her baby teeth didn't form correctly, so she's had one problem after another through no fault of her own or ours. It just is was it is. So, she requires a little Valium to go see the man, but she goes. Okay, so she's stoned, but she get in the chair on her own. Mostly. Well, there's no screaming, kicking, or hitting. That's pretty close to perfect when dealing with Lillian.

Naynuh is the only Shortie in braces so far. The Fashionista appears to have dodged that bullet, but it's a close call for The Number One Son and The Little Flower. Time will tell.

Right after the first braces were applied. Still smiling!
Naynuh started braces at seven, because her jaw was so out of line. She also had too many teeth and a crazy overbite. That very first visit I cracked jokes from beginning till the end. I told her to stick her hands in the air and yell, "WHEEEE!!!" She wanted to know why on earth she should do that. "Because we just put a trip to Disney World in your mouth and I want to see you smiling and laughing, Young Lady!" (This is how we roll.)

She started at the Orthodontist's office willingly enough, but after a few visits, this unique form of torture just became too much, and she started to cry when we rolled closer to the final destination. I don't blame her. She's eleven and been in braces almost one-third of her life.

With braces, still. Years later.
So, I had to come up with new, interesting forms of bribery motivation. At first, it was all positive reinforcement. (This kid has eaten milkshakes at 9:05 in the a.m. after brackets were added and can rank the taste, ice cream types, thickness, and quality of shakes from Pelham to Jemison like a pro.)
Over four years, the treatments ramped up and required greater motivation. She's really too big to spank now, so I am currently employing the Do it Or I'll Dance discipline method. It's so effective that I'm considering writing a book.

Basically, if she starts whining, I start head bobbing and moving my feet; my right hand begins to drift into what appears to be the start of a wicked car dancing episode. That's usually all it takes. You see, the threat is that if E doesn't lie still and take it like a man, I'll break down all over Dr. Boggin's office. I mean a hand waving, hip swaying, shake your milkshake kind of a throw down like you can't touch this.

Lilly at the Dentist. High as a kite.
The key to a threat working with your kids is that they have to know that you  mean it. Clearly, I am the kind of mom who would dance in public at the drop of a hat in order to humiliate my children. She hasn't cried, moaned, or even complained one time since that first threat. All I have to do is start nodding with the beat of whatever jam is on the Muzak and it's Compliance City.

The real reason I'm thankful for the dentist isn't the clean teeth or cavities filled or even teeth straightening--those are spectacular bonuses. It's really more that the entire experience has honed my parenting skills into a finely tuned art form. Submission through potential humiliation. Oh, and the end result? Not only straight teeth, but we laugh from the beginning of the dental experience until the end. :-)

Now, I just have to dig up what exactly will motivate The Little Flower, because as of this moment, she's more likely to break it down in the dentist's office than I am. But today, in this second, I am thankful for creative parenting and dentistry in that order.

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