Trying new things can be scary, especially when you’re only three.
When I teach my Life101 class, I tell them that one of the ways they know they’re an “adult” is their willingness – AND FOLLOW-THROUGH – to make their own doctor and dentist appointments. This is one aspect of adulthood that shocks them; often it causes them more consternation than actually moving away. I was married almost three years before I finally went back to the dentist once I had left the fold of my parental dental insured every-six-month routine. Hubster gets most of his dental care through the army, so I’ve been on my own. However, now I have a new incentive to become a better dental-goer: children with teeth.
I also have a child who has spent the majority of his young life avoiding all things that scare him, with a list including fireworks, haircuts, books with giants in them, and haircuts. My stylist Terra prides herself on doing great jobs with kids’ first haircuts, but my kid broke her record. His first haircut around 18 months old he survived, with tears. The subsequent three haircuts we had to leave before getting anything off. She didn’t even use a razor, or even a spray bottle – just the scissors close to his head freaked him out. Picture your dog when he jumps out of the car only to realize you’re at the vet — that’s the balking he would do when we opened the salon door. If we could get him in the chair, it wasn’t just tears, it was active dodging, and he cried as if the scissors were actually hot pokers. It was frustrating and heart-breaking all in one.
|He had to sit on my lap – and no cape
Last summer in desperation I created the Mommy Salon; I’d give him an afternoon bath so his hair was wet. Then we’d go on the front porch, and I’d play Finding Nemo on the iPad. I would cut off as much as I could before he realized what was happening. Sometimes it would be ten minutes, sometimes he’d sit still for 45. Cutting fingernails and toenails were even worse. We continued to try to book appointments with Miss Terra, and talk about it for weeks leading up to it: where he was going to sit, how he wasn’t going to cry, how it wasn’t scary and Miss Terra was nice. Finally, last fall, we successfully got a proper haircut out of him. We promised him he could go to the bookstore and pick out a Pete the Cat book, just like he read at school. This bribe worked, thank goodness.
We feared if he couldn’t manage the intimacy of hair or toenails cut, how would he ever do a dental visit? His successful haircut last fall gave us hope. I spoke to my dentist, and their office suggested bringing him to my next cleaning so he could watch and see what was done, but not do anything himself. We prepped him by reading about Curious George going to the dentist, and he was excited about it until the morning of, when he didn’t even want to get out of the car.
Thankfully, my hygienist was very understanding. She got him a MagnaDoodle from the waiting room and set him up on his own little chair and table in the exam room. He colored and talked her ear off while I got my teeth cleaned. She gave him a giant set of plastic teeth to practice brushing on, and he pointed out all the parts of the room that Curious George also saw at his visit to the dentist. He was very entertaining and warmed up immediately to everyone in the office. At the end, he got to pick a prize from their treasure chest.
At my dentist’s suggestion, I scheduled a double appointment in six months: I’ll go first and Spartacus can watch again, and then he’ll get a turn in the chair. At that point he’ll be four and a half, and hopefully he’ll be six months more mature and it might actually go okay. He’s at least now been IN a dentist’s room, and that is a major life milestone for young Spartacus.