Anyway – not only did my parents feel that oral hygiene and health care was a waste of time and money … but my Mom also feared doctors and dentists … and was very vocal about it (still is). I remember having to have a tooth pulled, and my Mom cried the whole morning of my appointment (right in front of me – I was five) … because she didn’t want the dentist to hurt her baby. She also sobbed the day that my brother got glasses (after teachers told my mother that he truly could not see what he was doing and it was causing him migraines in school). Mom was so afraid that he was going to be picked on for his glasses, that she told him he didn’t need to wear them if he didn’t want to. So, he never did. (Hmm. Would you if it made your Mom cry?) They also left it up to us whether we wanted to go to the dentist or not for our yearly check-ups. So – we opted out of them. What kids wouldn’t? And I don’t think, in all my 21 years of living with my parents, that I ever saw them make an appointment for themselves with a doctor or a dentist. Unless you count Dad’s vasectomy. No check-ups. No paps. No fillings (not if you can just wrench the teeth out yourself!).
Now I am 36. And some things have changed. Dad regularly goes to the doctor. Has been for some years now. Thank God too – as that is why he is alive today. His wonderful doctor (referred by me) caught his heart attack and got him in for a quadruple bypass before his heart was about to give up. But Mom, well, she still avoids it all. She has probably only half her teeth left (Dad too) and could have all manner of illnesses (as she has all manner of symptoms) but won’t go for a full work-up no matter how hard I beg. She says she rather die not knowing what killed her. That could be funny I suppose — if she weren’t your Mother.
And what about me? And my Brother? How have our parent’s lack of self-care affected us? Well … my Brother has been regularly visiting doctors and dentists for all of his adult life. Like most of what our parents have shown us (have I mentioned how much I do dearly love my parents?) … we strive to do the opposite. Don’t all kids? But some things have stuck with me through the years … no matter how hard I try to shake them off. And two things Mom taught me well was to fear dentists and to undervalue the need for self-care (okay … three things… I still eat chocolate for breakfast). So, I have steered clear of dentists for many, many years. And believe me, my teeth have suffered greatly for it. But not any longer …
I am a Mother now. I am a role model. I want my son to value self-care. And heck, I deserve good teeth, too. So, I found an awesome dentist … successfully applied for Care Credit … and am now on the road to a healthy and gorgeous set of teeth. I know that this is a wonderful treat for me (and great progress in my self-care growth) … but most importantly, I am recognizing that my son will only learn to care for himself if he sees it modeled for him. His Daddy is great at this — always eating good foods, regular visits to both doctor and dentist, plays sports, etc. So now it is time for me.
I have taken Isaac to the library to pick out some great books about teeth: Your Teeth by Helen Frost … an excellent all around introduction to the science and care of teeth … and Rotten Teeth by Laura Simms … for pure entertainment. And we have started a homeschooling unit on dental hygiene … so I think we are off to a good start. Every time I have a dentist appointment (nearly every week until mid-January!) I get very excited and talk to Isaac about how great it feels to take care of my body. Role modeling isn’t easy … but it is part of good parenting … so even when the dental work hurts, I smile and tell him what a great job I am doing! Let’s hope it pays off … as his first visit will be coming soon … let’s see if he smiles and thinks it’s wonderful (fingers crossed).