Latest News

Do Zen and Pediatric Dentistry Go Together? A Tale of Awestruck Angst.

If you were to tell me the activities on today’s agenda a week ago, I would have thought that Satan and his worst demons had collaborated on the itinerary. Dentist. Mall. Chuck-E-Cheese. Gordon leaving me at home with Both Things for a two-day conference. Laundry.

Even just the first item, Dentist, would have been enough to strike fear and compulsory cheese-eating. The last time I blogged about taking Drew to the dentist, I described in great detail chasing him down the office hallway and extracting him from beneath the wing chair in Dr. Doss’ personal office. Since that fateful embarrassment of a day, I’ve diligently bought books about going to the dentist, and even played Dentist with Drew each night before bed like a religious rite.

“But Drew doesn’t WANT to go to the dentist, Mr. Mommy!” he whined. I had broken the news to him after school yesterday in my best casual-preppy voice, as though I had just swallowed something cashmere dipped in chocolate. And then I heard myself promising all kinds of bounty, until the ultimate prize started welling up inside my throat like vomit and I could no longer hold it back: Chuck E. Cheese.

“Drew, if you don’t freak out at the dentist’s office tomorrow, I will take you to Chuck E. Cheese.”

And the angels were silent.

“But mommy, I have to ride the train first,” he replied cautiously. (The Forest Park Train, of which he is terrified, is the standard reply whenever he begs for Chuck E. Cheese. By now, he knows that Riding the Train = Partying at Chuck E. Cheese.)

In my recklessness, I was willing to wave the stipulation. All bets were off. What had I become? Who am I? What am I?

The short account of the dentist visit is as follows: fretting, brave facing-it, X-Ray success (a triumph!), silence from the back, cautious optimism, a summoning from the waiting room, holding drew’s big-boy hands, our fingers intertwined while he counts his teeth aloud with Miss Debbie, his voice quivering in abject terror, the giraffe sunglasses askew on his face that are there to keep the bright light from burning his retinas; a brief freak-out that he quickly reigns in like a marine fighting in the heat of battle, more fretting, another brave face, and then…Maddies’ turn!

Thing Two, by contrast, might as well have had a martini in one hand and a Pottery Barn Catalog in the other. She draped herself against my body like a human blob of silly putty and allowed herself to be subjected to everything but a root canal without batting one gorgeous eyeball. Imagine a two-year-old sitting all Zen-like while having her teeth polished, sprayed, flossed, picked at, and fluoride-d. The dentist seemed to ponder if deity had been among us that day.

Drew watched this miraculous display of chill from a chair in the corner of the room. He had been sort of gleeful, waiting for her fear that never came. He was finally out of the hot seat and was thirsty for blood. Was he disappointed? Ashamed?

He approached us during the exam, put his little hand on the edge of the chair, and simply said, “Good job Maddie. You’re not freaking out.”

And with that, I knew I that whatever else Drew is not — Buddha, army general, train conductor — at least I know that he is a very, very good sport.

For more, visit

. Follow me on