I’m this close to giving up on teaching my daughter to brush her teeth.
Oh, she says she wants to brush her teeth. Quite frequently, in fact. But once we get in there? Once we get her on her stool, gather up the toothbrush and paste, and get to work?
A giant, fiery ball of apocalyptic destruction.
And I’ve had it.
The problem is that Audrey doesn’t brush her teeth. She thinks she is, but she’s not. She just sucks the toothpaste off of the brush. And once that’s done, she puts the brush in the water and sucks it off instead. She loves it too. She smiles and bobs her head. Sucking paste and water off of her brush is a good time.
But it’s not brushing her teeth. It’s just passive minty freshness. Thanks to this lack of passion for proper dental hygiene, I’m forced to get in there and clean those teeth myself. And this is when the bomb goes off.
I could say she kicks and screams and leave it at that, but that wouldn’t be a true picture of what she uses to fight me when I sit her on my lap, wrap up her arms, and go in and actually scrub those teeth. What Audrey has is an armory, stuffed to the gills with weapons. Tools of destruction like the following:
- She kicks. Might as well get this one out of the way. She definitely kicks me when I brush her teeth. Thankfully she hasn’t yet discovered Daddy’s “Tender Spot” so it’s not yet a painful byproduct of the process. But some day it might be.
- She screams. Getting this one out of the way too. Audrey has discovered the power of screaming to get her way and teeth cleaning is no exception. This is worse than the kicking too because Daddy’s “Tender Spot” here is his ears. And they feel the full brunt of her wrath.
- She spits. Oh yes, she spits when I brush her teeth. It all just comes bubbling out onto my hand, pants, etc. Oh sure, it’s minty fresh spit, but it’s spit all the same. Gross.
- She blocks me with her tongue. This is a new one. She forms a wall with her tongue, making it very difficult for me to get that brush in there to do its job. And it’s very effective. I mean, what do you do about a tongue? You can try to get around it, and eventually you will, but it adds many precious seconds to the chore, all of which are filled with kicking, screaming, and spitting. Stupid smart tongue.
- She pulls the brush out of her mouth. Remember when I said that I have to put her in my lap and wrap her up before I brush her teeth? This is mostly to prevent her arms and hands from getting in the way. But despite my much greater strength, it’s very hard to pin down both arms of a struggling 2-year-old while also maneuvering a toothbrush around tongues and spit. Plus with the kicking and screaming, one hand will inevitably worm out of my grasp and go straight for the brush. Gah.
By the time I’m “done”—a point in time where I determine that it’s “good enough”—Audrey’s mad and I’m mad. Sometimes she storms out of the bathroom. Sometimes she flails around on the floor. Sometimes I storm out of the bathroom. And sometimes I consider flailing on the floor. It’s just awful and it all makes me want to just give up.
But then a breakthrough. Or so I thought.
One day I decided that I would get smart about all this craziness. These smarts meant that Audrey and I would take turns. This involved me going in to brush her teeth first, letting her know in advance that her turn was coming. Once she got all spitty and such, I gave the brush to her and let her do whatever she wanted with it. After a little bit I took the brush back, went to work, and then repeated the process. I was amazed how well it worked. She didn’t get nearly as mad, I didn’t either, and her teeth were very clean.
I breathlessly told this to my wife once she got home and she was thrilled. She too deals with this problem quite frequently and the thought of it all being in the rear view was a welcome one. So that night she tried it. And it failed miserably. More kicking, more screaming, more spitting and tongue shields. Complete disaster.
Not one to give up that easily I tried my once-successful tactic again and again over the following days. And they all failed. Audrey and I were mad all over again and I was back to grumbling about not caring that her teeth were going to fall out.
“Fine. Let Your Teeth Fall Out. See if I Care.”
And that’s where we are today. Tooth brushing is still one of the most dread-inducing moments of my day. Nothing has changed. Now, I know she has her baby teeth. I know they’re going to eventually fall out anyway. But that doesn’t mean I should let her teeth go uncleaned. She’s going to have to get in the habit of tooth brushing at least twice a day anyway. Plus who doesn’t like clean teeth? But all that logic goes right out the window with Audrey. It just doesn’t work.
So where do I go from here? Well, seems to me I have two choices:
- Keep at it and hope that the problem eventually goes away.
- Or seek the advice of people who actually know what they’re doing.
I’m going to go with number two here. I’m done waiting for the problem to resolve itself. I’m done with the kicking and spitting. I’m done bitterly wishing my daughter’s teeth would just fall out. It’s time to really get smart about the whole thing. It’s time to do some research on the matter and put a new plan into action. Good or bad, it’s time to confront this head on.
I’ll keep you posted.