Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Bend and Not Break

Yesterday was not a good day. I started with a hopeful attitude, recognizing the truth that my outlook helps set the stage for my kids when they are forced into something that they must do but don't want to do (dental cleanings) and I desperately wanted my good attitude to carry us through. It did not. Sometimes cruddy things happen to us, and there is no rhyme or reason to it, and we have to roll with the punches that come swinging for us.

Emotionally I feel like I've been walking uphill both ways in the blowing snow for a number of months now. I'm tired and I want to go back to feeling good and happy and normal again. I don't want to strain so hard against myself. Sometimes things are easy, and sometimes they are not, and I want the circle of life to bring me back to the simpler side of the equation.

William's dental appointment went sideways about three minutes in when he had an x-ray taken. The thing he bit on hurt his cheek and he burst into tears. After that came the whimpering of, "I'm scared" before the hygienist even began cleaning his teeth, and then the outright sobbing complaint, "I don't like that taste!" before the dentist even came to check his teeth. I went weak in the knees with relief when it was done, and he had no cavities.

Then it was Ava's turn. She makes me so proud as she never complains about anything, but she's had the worst luck when it comes to her dental health. We didn't floss her teeth when she was a toddler, and she loved fruit gummies and we bought them in huge boxes at Costco and gave them to her regularly, and the result was a number of cavities between her teeth as a three and four year old. We took her to the pediatric dentist when she ran into a crabby and tense hygienist at our family dentist who didn't want me to come into the room with her for a filling, and that was the only time in her life that she has cried hysterically and they weren't able to do the work that she needed.

The pediatric dentist worked gently with her to get her over her fears, using nitrous gas and terms like "sleepy juice" instead of "needle" and now she is like a rock star in the dentist chair. It is just bad luck that she had a tooth growing in at a wicked angle and needed to have it pulled and then an appliance built to hold the space in her mouth until the adult tooth grows in. She handled all of it very well, much better than her mother, who was a quivering emotional mess during all of the dental work.

For months we've had a sense of dental calm. Her cleaning was fine and she had no cavities (thank you, children's flossers!) but as the hygienist was finishing up she noticed a sore on Ava's gum above a tooth that she had a cavity fill on years ago, and when the dentist came back to investigate, it was determined that the tooth was abscessed and draining from the sore, and would need to be pulled.

My heart dropped. Another extraction that I would have to help her through, to dig deep and find strength that I don't feel I possess right now. But as a parent you don't get a choice. Our kids are looking to us to get them through these scary and difficult things, and we must rise to the challenge. Feeling like it doesn't really factor in. The fact that I feel frail and vulnerable right now doesn't change anything for her. She still has to have the tooth pulled, and I'll have to be strong for her.

Parenting is rough. I think I feel this abscessed tooth so personally not because of guilt, but because it seems unfair. Ava always complies and it's not hard to get her to do anything, but I'm tired of putting her through pain and discomfort. I'm ready to look at false teeth for her, but apparently the dentist doesn't consider that when they are seven years old. I know in my head I need to suck it up and move on, that these things happen, and of course she could have a much bigger health problem. My mind is not the issue here. It's always the emotions that trip us up.

I read recently that it's better to bend than break. I am in the midst of a huge series of personal changes, and learning to bend takes some practice. I'm grateful that I'm not brittle and hard anymore, and that my risk of breaking is less real now that I am more pliable and soft. The downside is that everything hurts more because of that vulnerability, but I still believe I'm on the right path, and don't want to go back to how I used to be.

Today, the kids and I are taking a mental health day. It's minus 41 with the windchill, and by tomorrow the weather is supposed to turn warmer. For today, I want to stay warm and safe, pamper myself and the kids a little, and not push myself too hard.


  1. I'm sorry for Ava and William! And especially for you. I am learning how hard it is to see your children in pain - I hate it too!

    I'm glad you are staying home. Hopefully you get some relaxing time in and you have a much better day today!

  2. Thank you so much. We have had a wonderfully relaxing day writing letters to Santa, doing baking for the Christmas exchange, playing free apps on the iPhone, building blanket forts, and enjoying staying in our PJ's. It was exactly what we needed.

    I'm guessing that it never gets easier to see our kids in pain, and have to help them through it, even when they are adults themselves. Thank you for your kind and supportive words.