Our youngest son Luke, who turned 3 last summer, recently had his first teeth cleaning at the dentist. I was prepared for the worst.
Prior to this, every time Luke came with us for his older brother James’ cleanings he was a mess. He apparently thought James was getting tortured or attacked despite reassurances from his brother and all of us that that wasn’t the case.
It was no use, Luke was convinced the dentist was a dangerous place, and he wanted nothing to do with it. Never mind the bright colorful paintings of sea life, fun toys in the waiting area, movies to watch during the cleaning and super cool sunglasses. And since we take our boys to Collins, Bross & Associates Pediatric Dentistry in Annapolis, there’s also the famous “prize machine” full of cheap trinkets that miraculously calm any crying child. But nope, dangerous place, according to my 3-year-old.
Ironically, this is the same pediatric dentist I went to as a child and adored. In fact, they had to finally ask me to leave when I tried making an appointment at the age of 22. I’m still a little bitter about it. But I was thoroughly impressed at how they handled Luke’s anxious first visit.
The hygienist made a point to let Luke pick out the movie to watch, even though he and his brother were both getting cleanings that day. She also let Luke watch while she worked on James. I was very proud to see James reassuring his little brother that it didn’t hurt and was nothing to be afraid of.
When he was done, James hopped down, patted the seat and said, “Okay Lukey, your turn!” I held my breath. With a slightly nervous smile, Luke climbed up and proceeded to do wonderfully for his first cleaning. What a trooper! I was also pleasantly surprised when James trotted off to get his x-rays taken without even turning back. He returned skipping into the room holding his cool “teeth pictures” that he proudly showed off to Luke.
It’s a pretty surreal feeling when you watch your children start becoming braver, especially when it’s not a result of anything you’ve done. James has always been my cautious, codependent little guy. He still doesn’t do well with change or new situations, and I’ve done a lot of hand holding with him over the past five years.
But I’ve watched a change in him since he’s realized how much his little brother looks up to him. He sees the impact he makes on Luke, and I can actually see him become braver for the sake of helping his younger brother be brave. Sure I’ve dropped the subtle hint now and then, statements like “well maybe if you tried it first, your brother would see how cool it is?” or “See your brother is giving it a try, how about you?” But there’s no way I could have planned that dentist appointment to go that well, even if I’d tried.
That was all them. Buddies, amigos, brothers.
Mandy Watts is a stay-at-home mom who lives in Crownsville with her husband, Justin, who runs their family business, and their two sons, 5-year-old James and 3-year-old Luke.