Last week Vivi, my seven-year-old, threw down the gauntlet to me. (Or at me?)
Anywho, a challenge was offered, and I promptly accepted.
It was approximately 7:15 a.m. on a Tuesday morning and the kid hadn’t properly brushed her teeth in days. The sweater-like build up was both on the front AND inside of her bottom teeth and quite frankly, this is when I felt like as a parent, I needed to step in.
So, I did.
It didn’t go well.
Backstory: The 7-year-old has a loose tooth on the bottom which is apparently quite sensitive and tear-inducing when touched and she has four teeth missing on the top. Her gums are experiencing a high proportion of toothbrush-on-gum time. Which, can’t feel good. Still, dental hygiene is a thing and you gotta brush what ya got.
So, Vivi won’t let me look inside of her mouth so I can give her a detailed, specific strategy for how to get rid of the fur on her teeth.
Because you know, kids are reasonable.
Instead, she is trying to stiff-arm me and is CRYING for me NOT TO TOUCH her.
I am standing in her pastel bathroom yelling in my stern Mom voice, “I AM NOT GOING TO TOUCH YOUR MOUTH. MY HANDS ARE BEHIND MY BACK.”
Confession: At this moment, I want to lie to her face and yank open her mouth to look in it.
We do this for 5 more minutes. Me trying to peer into her teeny mouth. Her screaming at me. Me promising not to touch her sensitive tooth.
FINALLY, she shows me her teeth and by this time, we’re almost late for school and I’m yelling, “I don’t CARE HOW YOU DO IT, just get the white stuff off of your teeth. Use a tissue. Scrape it with a washcloth or your finger. I don’t care.”
…still, she won’t budge.
Her: “It’s my body. It’s my mouth. RESPECT MY BODY. You’re not respecting me.”
Oh dear, what have I created…
“VIVIENNE, I AM NOT EVEN TOUCHING YOU BUT IF YOU DO NOT CLEAN YOUR TEETH I WILL BRUSH THEM FOR YOU AND YOU WILL NOT LIKE THAT. I CAN GUARANTEE IT.”
[We may or may not be screaming at this point.]
Finally, I give up.
I don’t care.
May all of your teeth fall out, little one.
May your foul breath cause your teachers to pass out.
She’s irate with me. Tears streaming. I’ve pushed her past her 7-year-old breaking point. She grabs her backpack and rushes to her Dad’s waiting car so that he can whisk her to away to a safe place: school. Away from her crazy, yelling mother. On the way out, she screams to me, “I AM NOT COMING HOME. I AM MOVING IN WITH PEOPLE WHO WILL LOVE AND RESPECT ME.”
…and guess what I said?
I was super calm and said, “Vivienne, we love you and we believe in you. We want you here. And we respect your opinions. You go ahead and brush your teeth when you feel ready.”
OF COURSE, I DIDN’T SAY THAT.
Instead, I stood in the hallway to our open garage door screaming like a Mom who has had enough, “FINE! I’ll bring your stuff to school pickup today so that you can take it when you go live with your new family!”
That 4o-pound pipsqueak had me screaming that high-pitched screech like my Mom and my Grandma put together at 7:40 in the morning on a Tuesday wearing my pajamas in the garage, with the door open.
[Meanwhile, Craig and Lila are saying NOTHING. They are wallpaper. They just want to leave without a bullet grazing their ears.]
It’s the highest of the highs and the lowest of the lows.
Anything I had ever conjured about how it would be. It’s far better than that. And, well, sometimes worse.
I’m proud to say that when I picked her up at school, we smoothed it over and hugged and the Full House “everybody hug” music turned on.
But that didn’t happen either.
That little thing wouldn’t even look at me. And when she did, she had hurt eyes. Sigh. I even hugged her and told her how sad I had been all day that we fought that morning. And that I was so sorry that happened. And you want to know what her response was? “I’m not sad.”
I AM RAISING A VERY INDEPENDENT LADY. I believe the books today call this, “strong-willed.”
Not until her big sister calmly pointed out that she was being… um, a jerk, did she apologize to me later that evening. And then of course I apologized.
And I wrapped her into my arms and felt her body give way and smoosh into me and I smelled her baby hair and it was over.
I confirmed that I don’t, in fact, want her to move out of the house and in with a new family.
And then, we found ourselves back in the bathroom… me gently guiding her as she ever-so-gently tapped and buffed her teeth clean. With me cheering her on. Not touching her. Respecting her.
We got there.
It’s just that sometimes you have to take the long way around.