I hate brushing teeth, whether they belong to me or someone else. At least when I scour my own, I get gratification after two minutes, running my tongue over polished enamel, falsely imagining how happy my hygienist would be.
With kids, there is little reward for many tasks, including brushing their teeth. Let’s face it, they don’t give you hugs and kisses like they do when you give them an ice cream sandwich. I’m also pretty confident that no middle-aged children giving a eulogy have ever proclaimed thanks to their mother for teaching good oral hygiene.
Now, before someone calls Child and Family Services (or worse, my dentist), I will admit that I brush my kids’ teeth most nights. I approach it like I approach vacuuming: do it quickly, forget the corners, and put it away as fast as you can. But the two minute rule? I mean really. In order for me to brush my own teeth that long, I need to multitask. I used to walk around the house and putter, but that grossed out my husband. Now, I read a book while I brush, which passes the time brilliantly. It ain’t so easy with five-year-olds.
When my kids were two, I asked my dentist if Will and Viv were old enough to brush their own teeth. She peered over her surgical mask and said, “No. Not until they can write their name really well.” I immediately regretted not giving them shorter names, like Jo or Bob. To rectify this, I started precision printing classes with them the next day. I have two problems with her answer, though. First, did she mean write as in print, or write as in cursive? I’m going to assume the former on this one. Second, what does “really well” mean? My brother still doesn’t print his name very well – and he’s forty-six. I know for a fact my mom doesn’t brush his teeth anymore.
When I was growing up, I don’t remember my mom brushing my teeth, ever. And I still have all my teeth. A dentist once told me I have good saliva, which I’m pretty proud of. I always meant to get the phrase printed and framed.
Well, my kids have a dentist appointment in a few weeks, so I better start cramming. I can always rely on both of them to be honest when the dentist asks them how frequently they clean their teeth, so I will attempt to manipulate the truth by brushing twice a day in the two weeks preceding the check up.
And I haven’t even mentioned flossing.
Or the fact that William regularly sucks the toothpaste tube dry.