See that? That’d be a toothbrush piled high with a generous dollop of sparkly toothpaste.
It’s oral-hygieny heaven.
It is also apparently an instrument of torture devised by the devil himself.
My kids won’t touch one. Not the boring one the dentist gives them. Not the battery-operated vibrating one that set me back a night at the movies. Not even the Hannah Montana one that plays a pop tune while you scrub.
Instead, they sit there on the various countertops. Upstairs. Downstairs. In the cubbyhole by the back seat of the minivan. (Just in case, I guess???!!!!) They’re everywhere, relics of some ancient persecution ritual. And they are never wet.
Well, never may be putting it a bit hyperbolically. They do see action every once in a while, the operator grudgingly forced to complete the insanely simple toothbrushing procedure at gunpoint. But if not coerced into action? My kids just let it slide.
They don’t know that I know this. If you ask them before you tuck them in if they’ve brushed their teeth, like they were asked, nay told, by She Who Must Be Obeyed when they were sent upstairs, they’ll chirp, “Why, yes, father! We have brushed our teeth! See?” Mouth gaping wide, plaque build-up hidden in the darkness of night. So I’ll try the famous Uncle Buck line about having a friend down at the crime lab check their toothbrushes for recent activity. But they’re on to me: they know none of my friends are cool enough to work at a crime lab. “That’s so CSI, dad!”
Today, the hammer fell. Their dental hygienist, the one with the smile that isn’t really a smile but a mask hiding her discontent with it all (every time I see her, I can’t help but think of Laura Linney’s character from The Truman Show), sat me (I had the pleasure of going along this time, for my wife claims she has had enough) and the middle two down and gave us yet another Meet Jesus speech. She showed us pictures . . .
These are happy teeth. They are happy because they are brushed twice a day, for two minutes each time, using fluoride-rich toothpaste, the aforementioned toothbrush, and plenty of good old fashioned (gentle) elbow grease. These . . .
. . . are sad teeth. They are sad because some idiot didn’t brush them. Evah! From this, you don’t recover. Evah!
“Have a nice day!”
If you’ve been around The Cheek for a while, you may recall that I am not the one to talk to if you’re looking for a success story in favor of consistent brushing. Rather, I am the bad example, the paragon of what not to do regarding all-things-pearly-and-white. I smoked.* I seldom brushed. I used floss only when I needed to dig out some Snickers bar residue. I neglected my teeth for years and I paid a hell of a price. And yet, even as I neglected to develop my own, I have tried to instill in my kids the habit of brushing. Sure, it’s fun for a while. It’s new! The toothpaste tastes good! The brushes come with Spider Man and Barbie on them! But somewhere along the line, they seem to have given up. My kids are 8, 10, 11, and 15. There is only so much hand-holding you can do . . .
So how to reverse this. I’m up for ideas. How do you, Dear Tweaker, get your kids to brush? Don’t have kids? What has worked for you then? Can my years of being a poor example be undone in a way that makes brushing less of a chore and more of a healthy, positive discipline?
Meet Jesus speeches aren’t much fun. And I don’t want my kids to have to hear another one . . .
* Did you notice? “I smoked.” Past tense. This is my 193rd post, and only the second one I’ve written smoke-free. I’m trying to quit. Again. As my diminutive Zen master Yoda says, “Do or do not! There is no try! Watch the papers . . . this could get ugly!