Today we celebrated cavities.
It’s not something most parents would commemorate and honestly a few days ago I wouldn’t have either. But after a dentist visit free of meltdowns for my five and six year old, and learning they have seven cavities between them, we stopped for cupcakes. That might seem counterproductive but it made a lot of sense in the moment.
Part of the struggle of a split visitation schedule and co-parenting is that you’re never exactly sure that teeth are getting brushed as often as they should be. Or toes washed. Or tangles untangled. And being who I am means obsessing over what ifs. Especially when I have zero control because that’s the best time to worry, right?
After learning about the cavities I had this moment where I questioned everything about my parenting abilities. I’m mom, MOM in all caps and super serious, and I should be making sure cavities don’t happen. I should always be armed with bubblegum flavored toothpaste. I should be brushing their teeth more. I should be following them around with floss.
Logically I know cavities aren’t the end of the world, I had my fair share growing up, maybe it’s a rite of passage. But right then, in the harsh white light of the dentist’s office, surrounded by everything that was so clean and orderly, it was hard to be reasonable with myself.
Most of the time I feel the need to overcompensate for things. The kids eat less sugar at my house, have less screen time, maybe they eat more vegetables, and I end up saying no a lot more often than yes. I’m probably not the fun parent. But I still want to be, you know? I want us all to stay up past bedtime watching cartoons and eating ice cream straight from the container with giant spoons.
But collecting seven cavities between two small children is a good reminder that I can’t let things slide. I might be the only one making sure it’s getting done (whatever it is) and if that means I’m not the fun parent then oh well.
A few weeks ago I was helping my son get ready in the morning, rushed and still half asleep, when he said, “You take really good care of us Mom.”
It was a huge moment for me and on days I feel like I’ve failed I’m going to remind myself that they know they’re loved and they can feel everything I do to keep them safe and happy. Even if I’m not the fun one.
Today though we compromised.
We’re celebrating cavities as learning experiences and eating lots of extra sugary things after dentist appointments. Maybe this will be our new tradition. And afterward we’ll race to see who can get their teeth brushed first.