Yesterday Jake and I went to the dentist. He was scheduled to get sealants on his four permanent molars. As we pulled into the parking lot I assured him, once again, that this would be an easy appointment. Even easier than getting your teeth cleaned. "When you're finished," I promised, "we'll go right to the store and buy candy." Jake was all for it.
Jake settled into the dentist's chair and I took my place in the corner on a small, rolling chair. The hygienist started the procedure and things were going well, for about 3 minutes. Then came the placement of a cotton roll and another type of absorbent pad and Jake started to whimper. The whimper escalated to a low intensity wail as the hygienist repositioned the cotton roll and pad and reminded Jake that she can't put the sealant on if his tooth gets wet. She worked a minute or two despite Jake's mild wailing but then stopped, looked at me and said, "I can't do this if he doesn't settle down," with frustration in her voice. I rolled forward, wiped a tear away from my boy's face, said a few encouraging things then I rolled back into my corner.
An assistant was called to the scene and they started again, positioning cotton and drying the tooth but before the tooth was properly cleaned, Jake began crying again. The hygienist and assistant assured him that nothing would hurt and he should just relax. This bit of information didn't comfort Jake and from the corner of those big, blue eyes dropped a couple of real tears. I looked at him lying stiffly in the dental chair, scrappy legs, scuffed sneakers, hands tucked nervously beneath his body and I knew he needed to be rescued.
We're outta here Jake. Those cotton rolls are the worst. I remember the way they taste from my own childhood. And that other cotton pad has those sharp edges that cut into your mouth. Ouch. They're pulling your lips and telling you to open big and commanding you to not swallow. It's all too much. I hate this place. Everything smells weird and there's too many mystery tools on that tray behind your head that you can't see. Don't look at it, just trust me, it's scary. Let's make a run for it, we'll go get that candy and pretend all this never happened. Who needs sealants anyway? I didn't have them when I was a kid and look at me now. Those fillings in my molars are holding up just fine. On my count, we bolt for the door. Are you ready?
I rolled up to my boy and asked the hygienist to please give us a moment. I pulled Jake to a sitting position and put my hands on his saying, "Take a breath, Jake, just breathe and let's talk about it." He tried to nod and breathe slowly but wasn't quite ready. "It's OK Jake, nothing they are doing hurts but I know the cotton tastes bad, doesn't it?" He managed to nod yes. "And that other cotton pad feels sharp in your mouth, right?" Again with the nods and Jake began to breathe easier. "It's very important that they keep your tooth dry because the sealant paint won't stick to a wet tooth. If you can't settle down then we need to leave. That's OK if we have to leave but then we will go to the other dentist (referring to the pediatric dentist) and you'll need to drink the special medicine (a wooze-inducing potion) for him to put the sealants on your teeth." I could tell that he was taking all this in so I kept going. "So you have to help me decide what to do. Do you want to try again here or do you want to go to the other dentist and take the medicine? It's your choice."
My big, little eight year old who wanted to be brave told me, "Try again. Stay here." "OK, let's try again." I squeezed his hands and helped him lie back down in position. I didn't roll back into the corner. I stayed really close and kept his right hand in mine. Small boy, big moment. The ladies began again and offered encouragement and left the frustration out. I gave a play-by-play for Jake and told him "Now she's got the mirror and you're feeling the metal part, now she's painting the stuff on and you're doing great keeping everything very dry, now she's getting out the special light to dry it and it kinda looks like a mini light saber." Doing great Jake, doing great.
I was overcome with pride for my boy's bravery which led me to ante up the reward from gum to something much better. "Jake I am so proud of you that I think you've earned a special prize. I'm thinking we'll finish up here and head over to Target." He squeezed my hand. Now you're talkin' Mom. "Maybe a new Lego set?" "Oh yeah," he managed to say through an open, cottoned mouth. Talk of the trip to Target got us all through the remainder of the procedure. Four teeth with sealants, done.
I gave Jake a hug and told him I was so proud that he tried again and did it. Maybe it seems like he is a wimpy kid and the tears were unjustified but it was real to him which means it was justified for me. We went to Target for that victory purchase and he cruised the Lego aisle debating over different sets. He settled on a very expensive set which I declined to purchase. "But Mom, it was FOUR teeth and it was hard," he reasoned with sincerity. Truthfully, the trip to the pediatric dentist and the magic potion would cost five times as much as that Lego set but I did have to draw the line. "Christmas wish list," I offered and then redirected him to some reasonably priced rewards.
"How did it go?" Andy asked when we got home. "A shaky start but Jake really pulled through," I said. And me too, I thought. Today was real mom moment. One of those times when I realize I am the grown up, I am the one who (supposedly) has all the answers, I am the one who (allegedly) makes everything better. I too pulled through at the dentist's office and my reward is watching my boy grow up right in front of my eyes.