Three kids went to the dentist. One kid was just fine. One kid was skeptical but cooperative. And one kid cried and squirmed, and blew snot and spit bubbles everywhere.
My oldest is seven and I worked through his fears with him over time. He went from being exactly that kid in that dentists chair to being the chatty know-it-all that befriended everyone and that weasled an extra prize out of the dental hygenist.
My youngest will be two in about three weeks. She squirmed a bit and wanted to grab at everything, but she was cooperative, she laughed at the “funny mask” and popped up at the end with a slobbery grin and said “THANK YOU” before asking for a PINK BALLOON to match the green and red ones that her brothers had.
In the middle was Mr. Middle. Three and an introvert. He doesn’t like being touched, he doesn’t like loud noises, and he’s hesitant around strangers.
He was the “bad kid”.
No one at the dentist TOLD him this. They’re wonderful at that office. Very child-focused. They take as long as a child needs to feel comfortable. In Mr. Middle’s case that comfort just wasn’t coming. He didn’t find their mask funny, he found them scary. He didn’t think that the whirling brush tickled. He thought it was scary. He didn’t want them to brush his teeth with the toothbrush that he chose from the drawer of kid’s toothbrushes. He… Didn’t want them to count his teeth. He wanted nothing to do with any of it.
He simply did not want to be there. He found it overwhelming and scary.
This is the type of kid that people don’t brag about. That they feel embarrassed of, that they second-guess. That gets labeled as “bad” by the not-so-nice people and that the nice people apologize to after the dental cleaning is done.
But no one usually says “I’m PROUD OF YOU.”
I did. I said it to each of my children. I was proud of how independent my oldest was. I was proud of how well my daughter handled it and how she interacted with the dental hygenist and dentist. And I was proud of my yelling crying snot bubble.
I’m proud of this child that lay on my lap and made his fears and thoughts known. I’m proud of how he opened his mouth and let the dentist do what the dentist needed to do, even if he was scared and wanted to run away and hide. I’m proud of how he didn’t bite down, he cried and he voiced his fears and he used his words and told us what it was that scared him. So next time we have a plan. Next time we’ll use the noise-protection earmuffs that Grandpa bought the boys for Monster Truck rallies. We’ll bring a marker and ask if we can draw a smile on the masks. And we’ll remember that even if we’re scared it’s okay and we’re in mommy’s or daddy’s arms safe from harm.
My two “good” kids did not “have a hard time”. Mr. Middle did. He had a very hard time, and he came through it to the other side. To the here. To the after. To where he found the words to tell us exactly what it was that scared him.
I might be proud of their behavior, as it makes me look good and it makes life easier for everyone. But I am proud of my middle child. He passed through something rough. I am proud that he trusts us enough to not hide his feelings. I am proud that he listened to and agreed to solutions for the next time around.
And if the next time around is the same? I’ll be proud of him still.
Learning and overcoming fears doesn’t look like the end-product. When my seven year old was three he didn’t look as calm as he did today. And my daughter? She’s just a strangely fearless little bean. Mr. Three has a fear, and he’s working on learning and moving past that fear.
Today this was what learning looked like. Today I am proud of his progress and his journey.