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By Lynda Hollenbeck
Oral hygiene is rarely high on the list for children, particularly the male kind.
Most little girls, who are more fastidious by nature, don't object to a regular tooth-brushing routine. But a boy child can be another matter altogether.
Little boys and dirt tend to go hand in hand anyway. And the ones I raised were always so eager to get to their next activity that they gladly would have skipped toothbrush time altogether.
A friend who takes an active role in her grandchildren's lives recently shared a tooth-brushiing moment.
One of her grandchildren, who was born precocious, has definite ideas about tooth-brushing, world peace, ending homelessness. You name it; he's got the answer.
She wrapped him in a towel as she helped him out of the bathtub and suggested that he brush his teeth since he was already there by the bathroom sink. He demurred.
"That's not how I do it," he told his grandmother. "I put my pajamas on first and then I brush my teeth."
"Well, you could go ahead and brush your teeth tonight while you're in here and then put your pajamas on," the grandmother said.
He wasn't having any of it. "But that's not the way I do it," he argued.
About to assert authority, the fatigued grandmother was struck with a moment of self-realization. "I like to do things in a certain order, so I figured it shouldn't be any different for him," she told me as she shared the incident.
Now persuaded, she agreed to delay brushing the teeth for a few minutes in order for him to get into his sleeping clothes.
Flash-forward to a pajama-clad kid at the sink. My friend decided this would be a good time to share a lesson on the importance of good oral health.
She told him about a child who is around 4 and throws fits nightly in protest of toothbrush time. According to my friend, the parents have capitulated to the little rebel and don't force him to brush.
I should note that my friend's grandchild has a flair for drama. Aghast at what he had heard, the boy replied, "Well, that's just bad parenting."
My friend has learned to keep her composure even when tested by such commentary.
"So what do you think is going to happen to him by the time he's your age?" the grandmother said.
The boy didn't hesitate before replying, "Well, he's not going to have any teeth."
This really disturbed the boy, who told his grandmother that he had decided to write the child a note and tell him he'd better brush his teeth or he was destined to be toothless.
Then he thought better of it. "Oh, wait, Granny," he said. "Most 4-year-olds can't read."
What to do, what to do ...
Granny was on a roll and decided to share another example, this time involving the reluctant tooth-brusher's older sibling.
"This child doesn't like to study and won't do his homework, and his mother and daddy say they can't make him do it."
This was just too much for my friend's grandchild.
"Well, now you just need to call the police," he said.
All of this talk about young teeth brought to mind an incident that occurred with my oldest granddaughter when she lost her first tooth. It had been dangling for days and would have come out with one quick yank, but she refused to allow anyone to touch it.
Eventually, nature took its course. When it happened, she was at her house and called to tell me about it.
"Mimi, my tooth came out!" she exclaimed.
"Oh, that's wonderful," I said. I asked if it hurt and proceeded to ramble on about the experience, but was interrupted when she said, "Well, Mimi, don't you want to come over here and look at this tooth?"
Silly me. I should have been in the car already.
Recovering quickly, I told her, "Of course I do. I'm on my way."
Naturally the tooth went under the pillow that night in anticipation of a profitable visit from the Tooth Fairy. The child was not disappointed.
A friend's daughter had a somewhat irrational fear of this generous childhood visitor. She wanted to reap the rewards of the exchange of tooth for cash, but wouldn't agree to the fairy coming into her room.
Her mother was instructed to write the fairy a note, asking said fairy to please not enter her room. The money was to be left outside the bedroom door.
The fairy apparently agreed because this went on throughout that period.
I also remembered a moment of horror I experienced when son Allen was losing teeth. By the time we were at this juncture, he was third in the line of children and I had saved several teeth. I suppose I did so for sentimental reasons, though it seems rather silly now.
The shortened version of the story is that, somehow in straightening Allen's bed, I lost his tooth. When I determined it wasn't going to be found, I recalled my stash of teeth and pulled one out as a substitute. I tried to tell myself Allen wouldn't notice the change since he had already checked out his tooth thoroughly.
My delusional state didn't last long. He burst out of his room and yelled, "Mother! This is not my tooth!"
"Well, of course it is, Allen," I lied.
I wish I could remember how I resolved the fiasco, but for some reason that part of the event won't come to me.
Of course, the main thing Allen wanted was the financial benefit of the transaction, which did happen.
The moral to the story is: Don't switch out an upper tooth for a lower one. You'll get caught every time.
Lynda Hollenbeck is senior editor of The Saline Courier.