The Dentist

(Writing from May 20, 2011.)
This is what it is like to get a five-year-old boy to the dentist for his 6-month check-up in my world:

6:30 am: He wakes up. Drinks his morning cup of milk. Refuses to eat breakfast.

6:45 am: I nag him to put on the clothes I picked out, and then we go to the bathroom where I brush his teeth twice with his electric toothbrush so they will be clean for the dentist. He refuses to use the toilet before we leave, insisting he doesn’t need to go.

7:15 am: We walk to the car where I strap him into his car seat, or “trap him” as he calls it. He turns on his Discovery Kids MP3 Player boombox and proceeds to play a song his father wrote and recorded over and over again during the drive to the dentist. He also does this every single morning and afternoon during the rides to and from school. Needless to say, I love his father very much, and think he has a beautiful voice, but I am really tired of hearing him sing.

7:30 am: My son informs me from the backseat that he has just pooped his pants. When I ask him how this happened, he tells me that he “gambled and lost,” which is code in our family for when you think you only need to fart and are mistaken. Very disgustingly mistaken.

7:31 am: I rage silently, wondering like I do in such moments how I went from playing guitar and singing in rock bands in Los Angeles to wiping up the shit of another human being in Oklahoma.

7:32 am: My son asks, “Well? Are we going to turn around the car and drive home for new underwear for me?”

7:33 am: I rage silently. More rock band versus poop contemplation.

7:34 am: I tell him that we can’t cancel this appointment last minute and there isn’t enough time to run home as we are now more than halfway there, so we’re going to try to clean him up when we get there. If the mess is too bad, we have a spare pair of underwear and shorts in his school backpack we will use.

7:35 am: He turns his father’s song back up so we can both enjoy it all the way to the dentist. The car continues to reek of shit and frustration.

7:45 am: We arrive at the dentist’s office 15 minutes early. I pat myself on the back for being so neurotic that I am 15 minutes early to every appointment, because today this quality has enabled me to clean poop off of my son’s buttocks and still be on time. Yes, today, poop has validated one of my neuroses, and probably not for the last time.

7:50 am: I walk with my son to the elevators and take them to the 4th floor. We enter the ladies’ room and crowd into a stall together. I wipe him off and am pleasantly surprised to discover that his underpants are cleanable. I can work with these Scooby Doo doo-doo stained drawers. The emergency pair of Wall-E underpants in his school backpack can remain there in case they are needed later.

7:55 am: We walk into the dentist’s office with 5 minutes to spare. The receptionist has just arrived and is putting her purse on her desk. She tells me in a chipper voice that they have a staff meeting in the back and leaves. The office is completely empty, so my son runs to the Thomas the Train table and begins to play. I grab an In Style magazine and sit down on a nearby couch, excited to indulge my superficial magazines fetish, as I stopped subscribing to all magazines two years ago to save money. (Well, except for one. I can’t give up Elle Décor. I need to be able to look at beautiful places, even if I can’t afford them.)

8:00 am: My Type-A starts itching as nobody reappears from the back to staff the receptionist area. “I hold others to the same high punctuality standards to which I hold myself” is what I’ll tell you if I’m trying to make myself look kinder, but really, if I’m being honest, I’m a little bit bitchy about lateness. I don’t like it when people waste my time. People can make all the excuses for their lateness in the world, but what someone is really saying by being late is that they consider their time more important than everyone else’s, and that’s rude.

8:05 am: Still waiting for the receptionist to return from the staff meeting. Wondering what’s happening at a dental staff meeting that is more important than keeping an 8 am appointment with one of the customers who pays for said staff. Start visualizing scenarios messing with receptionist’s desk while she’s in the back. Might enjoy placing a random object from the waiting room directly in the middle of the desk, such as a magazine opened to an odd advertisement. Or a potted plant. Will feign innocence if confronted, despite the fact that we’re the only ones here. Will suggest ghosts if accusations continue. It’s good to have a back-up plan.

8:06 am: Son stops playing with train set and runs over to me with a frantic look on his face, exclaiming that he needs to poop. Now. We run out the door and down the hall to the restroom.

8:07 am: I stand in a dingy, dirty public restroom stall while my son has explosive diarrhea, trying to lean as far away from him as 3 feet will allow in an attempt to escape the smell. He will not let me leave the stall because I made him use the ladies’ room and he feels like he’s not supposed to be in there without me by his side. Lucky me.

8:11 am: I help him clean up (i.e. wipe his ass) and we hurry back to the dental office. He plays with the Thomas toy and I wait, annoyed that I actually worried about getting here on time for his 8 am appointment.

8:17 am: Finally, the receptionist calls my son back for his appointment. I settle in for trashy magazine reading, mellow overhead music listening, and people watching of those now entering waiting room.

8:18 am: I think about what the opposite of a “wonderland” might be, and what John Mayer might sing about my post-pregnancy body. Would my body be a scary theme park, or perhaps some sort of roller coaster ride for the very brave and foolish?

8:24 am: I try not to twitch visibly as I listen to a woman whose son is playing with the Thomas toy call it “rasslin’” instead of wrestling, and pronounce the word “cement” as “SEE-ment.” I decide she probably calls it “EYE-talian” dressing too, and try to focus on my crappy magazine.

8:35 am: I wonder why they aren’t done looking at my kid’s teeth. They’re tiny — like little white Chiclets. They aren’t even doing x-rays today. How long should this really take?

8:40 am: I send my husband snarky texts about how long the appointment is taking and the excellent people watching I’m experiencing in this waiting room. He suggests “Your body is Silver Dollar City,” or maybe, “Your body is Six Flags” for my own personal John Mayer ballad, and I don’t really know how to take it.

8:45 am: The dentist and his assistant call me to the back to discuss my son’s teeth. My boy runs circles around us while we talk as I try to get him to be still, to no avail. I am trying to listen attentively to the dental people, and he is fully aware of this, taking advantage of my diverted focus. The dentist and assistant both comment on how “active” he is, with big, sympathetic eyes when I agree that, yes, he never stops in a weary, haunted voice. The dentist tells me he is the father of 6 boys and it occurs to me that a man with 6 kids is actually giving me sympathetic looks about the rambunctiousness of my child. I am momentarily humiliated by this realization, but then I have to stop my son from lifting a glass coffee table into the air to “show us how strong he is,” which breaks my shame spiral.

8:46 am: I interrupt the dentist to tell my son that the boomerang they’ve given him as a reward is an outdoor toy only because he’s started throwing it across the room.

8:47 am: Dentist and assistant recognize that conversation is pointless because my crazed, manic child will destroy the waiting room if I don’t stop him, and we part with pleasantries.

8:48 am: I make the appointment for his next 6 month checkup while he runs to the waiting room. I find him there hiding magazines inside the toy box “as a funny joke.” I would normally get the magazines out and put them back where they belong, but feel justified wasting the time of whichever employee will have to do this chore because they’ve made me wait so much this morning. I leave them. We walk out the door and head down the hall to the elevators.

8:49 am: My son screams, “I lost my boomerang!” and runs frantically back down the hallway to the dentist’s office. He finds the boomerang, and we leave again, after he shouts, “We found it! We found my boomerang!” to the entire waiting room, and the receptionist who manages to somehow look condescending and amused by my psychological discomfort at the same time. She is clearly not excited for us.

8:55 am: My son snarfs down an entire bowl of dry Cheerios in the car during the trip to his school. I drop him off and drive home.

9:15 am: I arrive at home. I am already exhausted. I decide that parenting a hyperactive 5-year-old boy is kind of like playing in a rock band with a coke-head, so really, my life isn’t all that different than it used to be, right?