Monday, May 13, 2013

the difference it makes

     This week, the kids visited the dentist for a routine cleaning. Pat was able to go with us for the first time ever. As things got started, I tried to prepare him for what was going to happen. "Israel does great," I said. "He thinks going to the dentist is a special treat." And sure enough, he climbed into the seat happily, laid right down, and watched the kids' programming on the TV screen over his head while waiting for the hygenist to come. Teeth cleaning? Loved it. X-rays? Cool. Sealant? Awesome. There's a kid to make you proud at the dentist.

     It's almost as though someone in the cosmos didn't want me to become too conceited during trips to the dentist, as though I had done all the right things to have the kid who is enthusiastic about dental care. Because of this, I was not only given that child, but I was also given THAT child: the one who totally freaks out the whole time. Eden always talks it up about how she's going to have courage or how she really likes the dentist all the way there, but when it comes time to deliver, it's a whole different kind of delivery. And sure enough, she was doing just great in the waiting area and all. "Does it usually start out worse than this?" Pat asked.
     "Nope." I said. "It always starts out fine. But just wait. I have never been here when I have not had to hold her legs down the whole time and she screams so loud and high that it'll make your ears bleed." The lady sitting down to do her job nodded in affirmation. "You've heard it, then?" I asked.
"Yes, I think so."

     At that moment, I realized I had never had the opportunity to look any of the other adults in the room in the eye during my daughter's trips to the dentist. (And there was always more than one, with different people holding various limbs, astonished by how one flailing toddler/preschooler was nearly stronger than all of us combined.) After the ordeal, I never had the desire to look them in the eye, but bowed my head in shame and left as quickly as possible. I had never seen her face.
     Since I had parental back-up this time, I decided to take the time to get to know her name and face. Her name was Abigail. "Look, Eden! She has the same name as your friend!" I tried to chat it up about this wonderful discovery, hoping to provide some sort of connection or distraction for my daughter. I was glad to have Pat with me so I would not have to bear this experience alone. He had no idea what was coming. Abigail and I braced ourselves. So did Eden.
     And then the craziest thing happened. My daughter shut her eyes tight and stiffened up and just took it. No screaming. No kicking. Just one little girl deciding to take it. She let Abigail clean her teeth. She let the dentist look them over. She took the floride with no problem.

     I could not believe it. "Pat will never believe the horror stories now," I thought! Abigail gave me a look that said, "Of course it won't happen now that she has an audience." "Write it down!" I said. (So I am.) Incredible. I could tell she still hated it, but WOW! What a difference in how she dealt with it!
     On the way home, after praising her over and over, I asked her what the difference was. "Why did you decide to have courage this time?"
     And, sure enough, it had everything to do with Pat: "Because Daddy was there."

     I'm not gonna lie: part of me is a little mad that none of my pep talks or soothing words ever did anything to help the horrible situation of Eden at the dentist. Pat didn't do anything special. He offered no reasons why it was going to be okay. He just sat there and held her hand. (SO much better than having to hold her hand AND her leg! I may be a tad jealous.) But another part of me understands: sometimes we just want our Dad. It is easier to find our courage when we can see our Dad there with us. No words from anyone else can take the place of that.

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