I have written about Matilda's teeth before (first in Bilirubin Teeth and then in Teeth Stories) if you want to revisit where the story unfolded. Last month, Matilda was eating some fruit snacks when she ran up and handed over a big slobbery mess of a red fruit snack topped with a tooth like a crown on it's head. Matilda was thrilled, she knew this meant a visit from the tooth fairy. I knew it meant a visit to the dentist.
After a visit with the dentist and a chat with the transplant team, Matilda and I were off on an adventure to get a couple caps on her teeth. Matilda, with a smile on her face, knowing we were going to have a fun day, and me with a pit in my stomach knowing that this was the first of many appointments before all of her teeth could be fixed.
It is no longer a cosmetic concern, it is preventing infections, protecting her permanent teeth, and reducing pain. The appointments have the potential to be long, exhausting, and even traumatizing.
When it was time to hop in the chair, Matilda was asked what her favorite princess movie was and her response put the biggest smile on my face. "Ah... princess, no. Movie, yes! I could go for Despicable Me right about now." Then she leaned back and giggled as she took a ride on the chair to get into position. The dentist walked in and started telling me what to expect when Matilda abruptly interrupted him - "You know (which is how she starts just about everything she says), I am going to get a cat in the mail. A fluffy cat, and he will be mine. This dog right here is Parker's, but I am borrowing him because I love him, too." She was calm, collected, and at peace while he went over all of the tools he would be using. By the time he was ready to get started, everyone in the room was laughing at all her funny responses.
During the procedure (including the shot to numb her mouth, which I know is not painless), Matilda was so compliant. She tilted when asked, opened wide, kept her hands on her belly, waited patiently, and continued to say the funniest things.
She was the sunshine in a room full of nervous adults waiting for the worst.
The hygienist turned to me at one point and asked, "Is she always like this?" I replied with pride, "Yep, she is a pro." Right from the beginning, from the first shot I personally gave to Matilda, Tyler and I decided that it was best to treat medical appointments and procedures like they were no big deal; no more complicated or dramatic than brushing teeth or washing hair. There have been situations where that has not been easy, when I wanted to break down and cry in front of her or sympathize with her that what was happening was awful. But today, at this appointment, I could see the payoff.
When all was said and done, the dentist told Matilda that he put beautiful princess crowns on her back teeth. She looked concerned and scolded him, "I didn't want princess teeth! I wanted shark teeth!" So, he excused his mistake and continued to "replace" those crowns with proper shark teeth, as requested.
Matilda is not like other children. Her life will be full of procedures, needles, and cloudy days. The best thing we can do as parents is to teach her how to turn it around, to teach her to maintain a sunny disposition, to take on challenges head first, and to cope with the unexpected. We aren't asking her to mask her feelings or hide her tears, but instead to celebrate the victories with humor, with understanding, and with pride in herself.