The Dentist

You would never guess it from my parenting style, but I am a perfectionist. I am the person who wants to be the best at everything and, as is often the case, I am not and it drives me crazy.
Every detail of my life is viewed as either a success or a failure.
Success: I graduated with honors.
Failure: I did not graduate valedictorian.
Success: I have a beautiful home.
Failure: It is never clean.
Perhaps my lifelong battle with this unrelenting need to be perfect is what drives my attitude when it comes to parenting. I never want my children to adopt this kind of mentality because it is so.unbelievably.annoying.
I try to mask my perfectionist tendencies around the kids, and Monster’s first trip to the dentist put it to the test.
I scheduled a regular cleaning for myself, as I hadn’t been since I was pregnant with Eliza. I go every six months, but once Eliza came around I simply forgot.
No big deal, I thought. I have never had a cavity and, aside from my total disdain for flossing, I usually get good reports from the dentist.
We decided to get my teeth cleaned first so my slightly nervous 3-year-old could watch and get comfortable with the idea of a stranger’s fingers in his mouth.
Big mistake. Huge. Colossal.
After the hygienist took my X-rays, there was a flurry of activity. Whisperings. Glances. Shuffling white shoes down a carpeted hallway.
The dentist came in and asked, “So, what did your last doctor tell you about your bone loss?”
Bone loss? What the what?
“Because it has been so long since your last cleaning, you have significant tartar build-up. Let me show you a video about it.”
Yes, please let’s take five minutes to watch a video that makes me feel even worse about my oral situation. Not to mention the baby is restless and my wide-eyed son is now horrified.
“Kathryn, I suggest we do your cleaning later. We also found two cavities. I need to block out much more time for you.”
I could not hold back the tears. How could I have let this happen? I brush twice a day. I eat the right foods. Yes, I need to improve my flossing habits but how has this led to the black mark that is periodontal disease?
The dentist softened and said, “Look, I see this all the time, especially in mothers. You tend to neglect yourself. Your children’s teeth look great, but yours need some help. Do not be upset.”
Do not be upset? I now have to arrange for childcare for another appointment because my orally-challenged self could not take five minutes a day to run some string through my teeth.
Do not be upset? Do I need to outline for you the various other parts of my life that have suffered miserably over the last few years? I may as well have tartar build-up in my house, on my thighs and all over my hair. Just about all my relationships have cavities.
Do not be upset? I have to gulp that huge rock in my throat that wants to erupt into a snorting, sobbing mess so you can now pick over my son’s teeth and shame me for not flossing those well, either.
“Did you really expect to go your whole life without a cavity?” the dentist asked with a smile.
Yes! Yes, I did. I also unrealistically expect my stomach to regain its elasticity and to never again battle the back acne that plagued me during my pregnancies.
My son did beautifully during his time in the chair and chattered the entire way home about how the dentist is “really fun.”
Failure: My mouth is basically a toxic wasteland.
Success: My children have no idea.


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