“Oh my God, my son is going to kill me. This is not brain science, you’re not performing open heart surgery, you’re not painting your masterpiece, you’re not even learning how to play the guitar. You’re just brushing your teeth…so f@#king brush your teeth!” These are the thoughts that rattle through my mind every time I walk my 3.5 year old son into the bathroom to brush his teeth.
Then I breathe and I quickly remind myself that every move I make as a parent creates memories in my child’s mind and even worse than that, it influences his behavior as well as teaches him how to act in this world. I don’t want my son’s character to be defined by my impatience to calmly teach him how to brush his teeth. I want him to grow up confident, unafraid to try new things and always supported by his epicly-awesome-supermom.
So instead I whip out my high school cheerleader voice and improv a cheer to pep him up, “Let’s Go! (clap, clap) Big Boy! (stomp, stomp) You can do this! (clap, clap) Rock those teeth! (stomp, stomp) Brush them, brush them! (clap, clap) You’re the man!”
Now, beaming with excitement and full of pride, my son braces himself and steps onto his kiddie-step so he can reach the sink. He stares in the mirror for a good long 30 seconds probably thinking to himself, “Dude, I’m awesome, I’m going to brush the shit out of my teeth.”
He preps his workstation. 1) He fills his water-glass and places it away from his hand so he doesn’t accidentally hit it. 2) He pulls his toothbrush and toothpaste out of their holding container and places them on the counter immediately in front of him for easy access. 3) He picks up his toothbrush with confidence and holds it under the running water…..
F@#king running water. I hate you running water. It’s so exciting…thrilling really…even down right dangerous…at least for my son it is. He zones out and needs to experience that water running, running, running over that toothbrush like it’s been in the desert wandering without water for days.
After carefully examining the toothpaste, which hasn’t changed tubes in a month and he sees twice a day, he flips open the top and slowly, slowly, ever so slowly… s-q-u-e-e-z-e-s out the toothpaste. “Ugh,” I exhale realizing I’ve been holding my breath as well as holding back my internal crazy. “Sweet!” I think, we are moving on to the actual toothbrushing.
Kill me now. As if he’s second guessed his decision to squeeze out that toothpaste, my son must now take a step back and make sure it’s not, you know…poisonous or anything. He must taste it.
This is when I get to interject with a friendly-reminder, “Don’t swallow that, we don’t eat toothpaste.” He just smiles at me with that secretive grin, “I’m just tasting it, mommy.” I flashback to many months earlier when I found him on the kitchen counter after having eaten his entire new bottle of training toothpaste. He had that same shit-grinning-grin.
Satisfied it’s not poisonous, we move forward to the actual brushing. “Yes!” Now, if you haven’t seen a 3.5 year old brush their teeth, envision you, a right-handed adult trying to brush your teeth with a broken left hand….you’d suck and so do they.
I hear myself cheerleading again, “You’re doing great buddy, get the back, get behind the teeth, top and bottom, awesome.”
That’s when I slide in there on cue and do a quick brush-brush around on his entire mouth. And every single time I do this, it makes me reflect back on my own life and our life in general with a sense of total amazement at how far we’ve come growing from children into adults.
Because all of us, even you…at one time or another couldn’t even brush your own teeth.