My daughter Lainey is five years old and I love her. We recently received some bad news at the dentist office.
Lainey had mentioned a toothache while eating ice cream, and a week later she sat in the adjustable chair, mouth open, wearing sunglasses and staring into a spotlight.
“See this cavity?” The dentist said, aiming her inspection mirror at a crater.
“Yep.” I cringed.
The dental hygienist finished Lainey’s cleaning while the dentist scowled at me.
“Does she floss?” The dentist asked.
“Eh.” I shrugged.
“She has cavities between all her back teeth.” The dentist said, pointing to an x-ray.
“Bad news, Lainey.” I groaned. “Eight cavities.”
Lainey hopped out of the dentist chair and did a little , totally unfazed.
My mood worsened when I saw the impending bill— over $400.
“Do you know what $400 can buy, Lainey?” My wife asked that night. “That’s 40 Barbie !”
She arranged 40 crayons on the dining room table so Lainey could visualize the quantity.
“Just go to the bank and get more money.” Lainey smiled.
“It doesn’t work like that.” I said.
My wife explained how money pays for mortgage, electricity, heat and food. Any surplus income was treasured, and possibly spent on fun stuff like visits or —not dental repair.
“For $400 dollars we could have spent the day at Disneyworld!” I declared.
Lainey stopped smiling. The importance of brushing was sinking in.
Over the years, I had brushed Lainey’s teeth and then she took over. We purchased the mouthwash, the flossers and even a singing toothbrush. But most times Lainey brushed her teeth for 30 seconds, and her tongue for 3 minutes.
Lately discipline seems constant — telling Lainey to hurry, don’t touch, be nice, clean up, or be tough. She values responsibility, garners it, and neglects it. The transition from little girl to big kid is fickle.
The fact is I’m to blame for her rotten teeth. My wife and I didn’t hover close enough as she brushed and we fed her too many sweets. Man, did she love those desserts! Her happiness was hard to resist, and may have been worth $400.
But not a penny more. Time to use these cavities as leverage, and change bad habits before her adult teeth arrive.