Sorry to not post in a long time. We have so many things going on that it’s impossible to know where to start. It’s been very stressful these past three weeks, a few major life changes, the normal chaos, and I’m still training for a marathon in the midst of all that. We’ll go into those gory details another day.
Wanted to mention that a little over a week ago we had the J-Man’s every-six-months dentist visit. Last time we went to the dentist, we wrestled with all the issues around restraints and how to get him through the actual process and keep both injuries and emotional trauma down as much as possible. There was the inevitable reflection on whether to use the papoose board to hold him during the cleaning and exam. We received feedback from several people, and most of that feedback echoed our hope of never having to use anything like that with him and looking at it as a last resort.
One of the benefits of all the running and training I’m doing is that my body is significantly stronger and more resilient. But what I’ve learned is that I don’t have to somehow do restraint by muscular force, for lack of a better term, because as strong as he is that would probably just hurt both of us. Besides it’s not something I think is desirable in any situation short of someone being in danger. Becoming the kind of stronger my body has over the past several months has allowed me to be physically comfortable while holding him in situations like this for longer periods of time. It’s the interesting idea that you become stronger, and as a result, you can use less overall strength to do something. All those stronger core and stability muscles do wonders in situations like this. But before I go all Richard Simmons or something…
So we arrived at the dentist’s office, and they had already put the papoose board on top of the exam chair. This got me really anxious, and I think they noticed. They emphasized that they put it there just because in the event Mary and I decided we absolutely had to use it, it already being there would make it much easier. I didn’t feel like they put any pressure on us to use it, and everyone seemed to have a “let’s do everything we can without it first before we consider it” perspective.
It did have a perhaps unintended benefit. The board is a little wider than the chair and stiffer, so it gave the J-Man more surface area to lay on, me more room to hold him while the hygienist cleaned his teeth, and a stiffer surface that wouldn’t make me have to wrestle the chair too. So Mary held his feet, I had his arms and torso, and the hygienist cradled his head while she worked. Everybody talked calmly and kept encouraging and praising him, and I hummed Kumbaya to him. (I’m not kidding. He likes that a lot now.) The hygienist and the dentist are not fazed by anything, and they have such calming and affirming voices that if you removed the screaming panic from the room, they might induce a pleasant narcolepsy in most people. We almost have this down to a system.
Of course he protested strongly and loudly, but noticeably less so than last time. Perhaps he was more comfortable with the process, the way we were holding him, the stiffer board under him, or some combination of those and other factors we didn’t even think of. You never can tell in situations like this.
We really thought he did so well, and he recovered quickly – albeit grumpily – plus his teeth were great, so we called it a highly successful trip to the dentist. Normally we just aim for no major injuries – minor ones are usually acceptable – and no permanent emotional scarring. So this was positively triumphant by those standards.
We were greatly relieved that we didn’t have to even consider the papoose board. There may come a time when some serious medical situation arises where we have to use some sort of restraint. I dread that possibility more than I have words for. But we’re learning that often a combination of the J-Man’s growth and resiliency, our surprising-to-us levels of parental competence and experience, and the reserves of courage he’s learning to draw on in very tough situations come together at the moment when we really need these things to. And repetition, even if it’s six months apart, does seem to help, too.
Next mission six months from now: Both kids will have to go to the dentist. Ack! Stay tuned…