Tuesday, October 4, 2011

No Cookie? Syndrome

Yesterday afternoon I had the most fun I’ve had at the dentist…EVER. It was Finny’s first dental appointment and it was so much fun, I half expected the dentist and the hygenist to break into song while giant molars kicklined around the room in pink feather boas.

Up until this point, whenever I had mentioned going to the dentist, Finny greeted the idea as he greets many ideas these days with trepidation and pessimism: “But I don’t wanna go to the dentist!”

So, I told him how great it was going to be and how exciting it is when the dentist gives you a new toothbrush. This turned him around a bit. “Okay, a new toothbrush? Okay.”

But, as we approached the dentist’s office, I started to realize that there was some confusion about where exactly we were going. You see, for the past six months or so, I’ve been visiting the orthodontist to do a little work on my bottom teeth and Finny and Charlie often come with me to these little appointments. My charming and lovely orthodontist office has all sorts of wonderful goodies that accompany each visit, as a means, I’m guessing, of motivating the fourteen-year-olds who are suffering through braces. If you show up on time, take care of your retainers, AND wear your awesome orthodontist T-shirt, you get three wooden nickels which can buy you any number of valuable gift cards to Wendy’s, Macy’s, etc. I, by the way, at 32 years old, am the only one with the guts to actually wear my T-shirt. I want those nickels. Finny, it turns out, wants those nickels too. Not because he has any sense of what they can buy, but simply because they are fun to roll around in his little hands.

The other treat that accompanies the orthodontist visit is the cookie oven. At the end of each visit, each patient is given his or her choice of a warm chocolate chip, brownie chip, or peanut butter chip cookie. Because I have my retainer stuffed back in my mouth, Finny is often the one who reaps this benefit and so he has come to love going to the orthodontist.

So, yesterday, as we approached the dentist office and he was telling me how excited he was to get his cookie, I realized, he did not quite understand where he was going. But, it did not matter because his dentist, as it turns out, is the most fun human being on the planet. And Finny, yesterday afternoon at 4:45 p.m. was the second most fun human being on the planet.

When they called Finny’s name, he immediately abandoned his hard work on the waiting room abacus and marched down the hallway, elbow swinging. When we got to the room, he was aghast at all of the amazing things there are to see and do in a dentist office:

First, the chair: Oh, so big and cushy and it goes up and down!

Second, the overhead light: even cooler than his broken flashlight at home!

Third, the toothbrush: which vibrates and buzzes while it cleans his teeth, even if it does come with some funky, grainy, cherry toothpaste.

Fourth, the cup of water: it’s purple!

And finally, the dentist himself! Man, was he a treat! He was taking pictures of Finny, and buttering him up like this kid was just the coolest thing to ever step into his office.

“Hey pumpkin, buddy, baby, kiddo! You have the best eyes I’ve seen all day! You win the award—best eyes—here you go. Hands down. And look at those shiny teeth! Those are the shiniest teeth I’ve ever seen in my life! Can I brush your teeth? Wanna see my cool toothbrush? Press this button. Isn’t that cool? Wanna see my cool toothpaste? Wanna hold it? Buddy, you are the best! You are the greatest!”

“Yeah, I am!” Finny’s humble response.

I must say I have not been this entertained in a long time. I wish I’d had some popcorn. It was a show! And I can’t wait to go back..and neither can Finny, which the dentist told me was the whole point: to get him to LOVE coming to the dentist.

But, even though both Finny and I fell in love with the dentist and all the amazement that came with him, I couldn’t help but recoil a bit at the lavishness of it all. I told this little boy he would get a new toothbrush and he was jacked! But, what happened instead was an absolute explosion of…excess.

When he sat down in the chair, he saw four giant rolls of stickers. “Oh!” he beamed, “Stickers!”

“Yeah,” said the hygenist, “Do you want some? Two? Four? Six?”

“He can have one,” I shyly interjected. Feeling that one would tickle him pink, but six would spoil him rotten.

“Come here!” said the hygenist, “Let’s pick out your new toothbrush.” Wait a minute, I thought, this was supposed to be the grand finale, the ultimate reward for the visit, not the first thing out of the gate!

“Which one do you want?”

Finny, being the sensitive little man he is, was enchanted by the princess toothbrushes: “Snow White! Belle!” But those were for 5-7 year olds.

“He can have one to take and one to play with,” offered the hygenist. But, I thought, he just needs one.

Then, at the end of the visit, when our heads were just spinning with the fun of teethbrushing, the dentist got right in his ear and told him he was special, so special that he gets some extra toys from the dentist, but shhhh…don’t tell the other kids.

Great. I thought. Just what I want my three-year-old to think. That he’s more special than everyone else.

The hygenist opened the drawer of toys and Finny’s eyes got wide. There were bouncy balls and koosh balls and parachute dolls and stuffed teddy bears. This was better than stickers, better than lolli-pops, better than a toothbrush—these were real, live toys.

“Oh, wow. Okay, Finny pick out your favorite one,” I offered.

“Ohhh, he can pick two,” smiled the hygenist. And I couldn’t help but cringe a little bit. A treat stops being a treat when there are too many damn treats! I thought. But I held my tongue and watched as Finny picked out a purple koosh ball (he already has the same one at home in green) and a parachute man.

Well, mission accomplished, I thought. Finny officially loves the dentist.

He marched out of the office, elbow swinging, with two stickers, two toys, two giant 8x10 pictures of himself, a bag of floss and two new toothbrushes. This little boy could not be happier. And so, when we reached the receptionist desk, he smiled, and announced:

“Okay, I’m ready for my cookie!”

“Oh, honey, you only get cookies at the orthodontist. They don’t have cookies at the dentist.”

“But I WANT my cookie!” he frowned and burst into tears.

Lollipops at the bank and the hairdresser, stickers at the doctor’s office and the grocery store, cookies at the orthodontist, toys with his happy meals, and Christmas morning at the dentist.

And he gets even more toys than the other kids…because he’s special.

Finny is, in my opinion, simply delightful. He’s funny, he’s cute, he’s smart, he’s friendly, he’s caring. BUT, he is not more special than the other kids, and he does not need to leave every building he walks into with pockets full of candy and crap.

He is special just the way he is, and if you tell him he’s more special than everyone else, you’ll ruin him. And if you give him a sucker for every minute he’s a good boy, he’ll no longer be a good boy. He’ll be a brat.

I love when other people love my kid and I especially love how adorable his dentist was with him yesterday. But please don’t give him any more stuff.

Finny, right now, is overjoyed when he finds a pine cone. I don’t want him to kick and scream when he can’t have the whole forest to go with it.

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