It’s been 6 months since our last visit to the dentist. By ours, I mean Asher’s visit. Ever since that day 6 months ago, Asher has not forgotten that he did not care for the toothpaste that the dentist used to brush his teeth and that he would not like the dentist to brush his teeth with the same kind that she used the last time. And ever since that day, I have promised him that we would bring our own toothpaste and ask the dentist if we could use it. We did, and she did. A weight was lifted off Asher’s shoulders and he was able to let the dentist poke and scrape as much as she needed.
He brushes far better than I ever did or do. We’ve got him brushing with a battery-operated toothbrush and brushing until his 2-minute egg-timer runs out of yellow sand- the longest 2 minutes either one of us experiences throughout the course of the day. The dentist told him that he is old enough now to floss. We flossed that night, and Asher can’t wait to do it again and again.
The fear that either I’ve instilled in him or he has willingly accepted is profound. Asher is petrified that his teeth will fall out if he doesn’t brush well. If I tell him that he needs to reach in the back and get behind and underneath each tooth by God he does. “Will my teeth fall out now?” “Not this time, Asher. You brushed all of your teeth in every direction.” “What will happen if my teeth fall out?” “You won’t be able to eat.” Well it’s true! I’ve also been successful wiping his face clean when we’re out and about. I tell him that the squirrels are going to smell the (insert treat here) and try to bite it off of his face. I wouldn’t want them to bite his face by mistake. That would hurt. What?!? It could happen!
We do need to be careful with this first-born, lover of rules and order. Everything we say becomes sacrosanct. Gabriella took Asher grocery shopping the other day and Asher was particularly interested in a package of marshmallows. He didn’t know what it was but it looked like something that might be tasty. Gabriella was quick on her feet but hadn’t really considered the consequences. I’m sure I would have said something similar. “Well, that’s a treat, Asher, but it has corn syrup in it, and we try not to eat too much corn syrup. It’s not good for us.” And that’s all she had to say….that one time. Ever since, Asher has asked about the corn syrup content of every treat and packaged food. We tried to explain that a little bit is ok as long as we eat a lot of healthy food that makes us strong. He wouldn’t hear it. He was very distressed to learn that every piece of his Halloween candy that he had worked so hard to collect contained corn syrup. “It’s ok, Asher. Just a little won’t hurt you!” God forbid the kid doesn’t eat a piece of candy every now and then. I still have a big bowl of Halloween candy left that Asher just can’t bring himself to eat. Ok, I admit it. He did manage to plow through the chocolate bars without too much concern leaving behind the Lemonheads, Skittles, Hot Tamales and the High School Musical Milk Chocolate Flavored Strawberry Pop Rocking’ Candy.
Recently, I arranged for Asher to stay after school because I had to be in Manhattan and wasn’t able to get back for dismissal. A couple of teachers were kind enough to hang out with him which was Asher’s idea of heaven. He would much rather entertain grown-ups than have to play with kids his own age. When I picked him up, the teachers couldn’t wait to tell me all about their lovely afternoon together and about the conversation they had over M&Ms. They offered him some M&Ms as a snack. “Do they have corn syrup in them?” “I don’t know. Let me che…yes, they do.” “Ok, well then I can have 2 but no more than that.” Not only is he now aware of the evils of high fructose corn syrup, but he’s self-regulating at the age of 5! So now I’m THAT mom. I tried to explain that it was an accidental teaching as opposed to a strict code of nutrition, but they were too amused to care. I shouldn’t complain. I have to enjoy the influence I have over him while it lasts. But it’s a lot of responsibility. I don’t want to look like that mother that doesn’t let her kid enjoy kid-life, but I do want him to learn about healthy eating habits. As far as I know, we’ve been lucky – no allergies or food senstivities. He should have a Kit Kat every now and then. At least I know I won’t have to worry about Levi enjoying himself. He won’t listen to a thing I say.
I didn’t want to ask the dentist because I knew in my gut what the answer was. “When should I start bringing Levi for checkups?” “2 years old is a good time.” “Really? That won’t go well.” “Well, we do expect some tears. We can handle it.” “He’s not exactly the most amenable child. How long can I wait to bring him in?” “I’d say 3, but really we can start any time now.” During this time Levi has sidled up to Asher and I’m not paying attention to the brotherly exchange. “I don’t know. He’s just not as accommodating as Asher, and I think I’d rather wait until he was a little older. I can’t even tell you how much I sweat when I have to take him to get his hair cut.” And then, on cue, Levi punched Asher in the arm. Hard. I actually only heard his hand whale against Asher’s arm and witnessed only the last 25 degrees of the arc he formed when swinging his entire arm in a perfect semi-circle to maximise impact. “OUCH” said Asher never once considering hitting back. “Two very different children, I see.” “Indeed. I’ll be waiting until he’s 3. Say you’re sorry, Levi.” “SAH-WEE.” The dentist and her assistant were instantly charmed. He’s a cute little monster and pretty quick. We’ll have to see if I get anywhere with the face-biting squirrels.