Taking my boys to the dentist is a chore that is not fun for anyone. They tolerate it because they have to but it is not without complaining the entire ride in the car. I have learned to give them no warning. It is better to announce it just before we leave. My stomach is usually in knots with stress by the time that we walk through the large glass doors into the beach-themed pediatric dental office. As we check in, I flash a big smile at the faces of my scowling children.
As my older boys went back for their cleanings, I sat in the waiting room with my 2-year-old. He played at the train table while I sat quietly near him, reading a book with my leg crossed over the other and rolling the ankle gently from side to side. It was relaxing, almost. I ridiculed myself for letting my nerves get the best of me. The visit was almost over. My 7-year-old emerged from the back with a shiny gold token in his hand for his prize. As he placed the token in the machine, I heard the thump of the bouncy ball dropping and rolling to the bottom of the machine, waiting to be claimed. My son lifted the tiny door and the blue sparkled ball appeared. He held it up with two fingers, turning it in the light. I saw him shrug his shoulders and hand it to his little brother who squealed with happiness. The prizes seem to no longer hold the value that they did when my kids were younger.
Next, the door with the painted palm tree opened and we were called back to room with my 5-year-old. This did not surprise me. After every cleaning, the dentist would usually talk to me about the check up and praise the condition of my boys’ teeth. But this time I was shown an X-ray and the dreaded words rang through my head--cavities!
As my other two sons pointed out the painted ocean animals on the hallway walls, the dentist quietly told me what he found. As he spoke I looked at my son’s sweet face. Even in the chair that was scaled down to a children’s size, he looked younger than five. He sat still with his little hands folded in his lap. He looked straight ahead, occasionally blinking his golden brown eyes.