When you worry you make it double
Don't worry, be happy
-- "Don't Worry, Be Happy" (Bobby McFerrin)
Yesterday I had a message on my cell phone reminding me about Erik's "Happy Visit" (apparently we have graduated from the "Fun Visit") to the dentist scheduled for this morning. I could feel my face fall as I listened to the cheerful voice and felt my mood turn stormy. After our last appointment, I was ready to demand a copy of our records and make an angry exit today. I tried to keep an open mind, but I found myself a little more than tired of trips to that place. I have lost count of how many times I have been there just in this calendar year.
I made sure not to tell Erik where we were going until this morning at breakfast, and he seemed to take the news well. When we arrived, we were led into the private room with the big, orange chair once again, although the wide door was left ajar. Erik was already creating a lake of hot tears, telling us all, "I don't want to!" The hygienist gave Stinky Dog a ride in the chair, acting as if we were in the middle of the most magical place on earth, and pulled out the usual tricks that seem like a complete waste of time to me. The only thing Erik seemed thrilled about was the suction tube, which I previously told him was a little vacuum. He expertly used it on Stinky Dog's face and shook the stuffed animal, indicating that Stinky was quite ticklish.
The dentist made his entrance, upsetting Erik even more. He placed his large hand on my shoulder and greeted me warmly. He seemed more connected with Erik and less distracted than he did at our last visit. He talked to me through his conversation with Erik, telling him he would only do what I approved of doing, and this made me feel better. We ended up abandoning the large exam chair. Instead, the hygienist lowered a small chair on wheels, and I sat in it, holding Erik firmly on my lap. Erik was now hysterical. I put one hand on Erik's forehead and pressed the back of his head against my shoulder. His screams intensified. I smiled at the dentist to signal him it was okay to proceed, and he rolled his own chair closer to me. My knee pressed into the crotch of his expensive slacks, and I tried not to notice. We locked together like this, sandwiching one angry patient, and I held Erik's strong hands down. I decided it was just best to get this unplesantness over with.
It wasn't necessary to use the metal device to lock Erik's jaw open after all. It remained a silent, threatening presence atop the paper-covered tray. Instead, Erik cried so hard that his mouth automatically opened, allowing the dentist to paint the back teeth with the cream-colored fluoride varnish and wipe off the excess with gauze pads. The dentist soothed Erik and reminded him the world wasn't perfect.
This I know.
After the short but messy procedure, the dentist tenderly wiped the tears and snot running down Erik's face. Erik ceased sobbing and actually thanked the dentist on my cue, obviously not holding a grudge. In fact, when the dentist asked for a hug, Erik quickly gave him one, almost collapsing into his arms. We collected our balloon and toy car from the frog bucket, and I returned to my chair back in the waiting room as promised to let Erik stim on the spinning toys for five minutes. Another mother attempted to make eye contact with me, but I was feeling less than social and looked away. I'm sure Erik's screams were more than audible from any chair in the building, and I couldn't imagine what she was thinking when we emerged and my 4-year-old crawled around on the floor, giggling with delight and spinning everything that wasn't glued down. It's not embarrassment I feel but a sense of disconnect with the world on occasions like these. Erik looked at the other children in the room and brightly spouted, "Hola, amigos!" and "Hello!" The younger girls echoed a pleasant greeting on their way by. The older boy looked annoyed and ignored Erik altogether. Typical. It will be a miracle if I can get through Erik's childhood without slapping a stranger's child. So far, so good. But I'm not making any promises.
Soon I dragged Erik from where he was sprawled on the floor, and I made it to the car with just minor protests. As I buckled him into his car seat and deposited the putrid pile that is Stinky Dog on his lap, I took my palms and placed them on each side of his face. I paused for a moment and looked into his eyes, holding him there almost too firmly, and I kissed him very hard on the forehead before I shut the door and walked around the Jeep.
Our next "Happy Visit" is a whole three months away this time.