Riley’s fervent adherence to school rules has been a bit of a surprise this year. Given the two extremes, I’d much rather deal with a kid who is maybe a little too rigid about school than one who’s constantly getting in trouble, but his attitude hasn’t been without its challenges. At a recent parent teacher conference, his teacher confessed that she worried about him a little — he did just fine in the classroom, but in less structured environments (like the playground) he’s sometimes a little … lost at sea. He worries about whether other kids are doing the right thing, and has on occasion tattled on another kid for doing something he perceives as wrong — for instance, there was a blowup a couple weeks ago when a boy wasn’t “letting girls go first” on the tetherball, and being mean to one girl in the process, and Riley told on him. That all erupted in a giant freakout from the other kid, screaming he didn’t want to be Riley’s friend any more, and his teacher — bless her heart — actually ended up telling the other kid that she’d already known, to save Riley the trauma of being The One Who Got Him in Trouble, and …

Well. Anyway, so we’ve been talking a lot about problem solving (and it’s all so difficult, because he gets teary-eyed and comes back with “But the teachers say to tell when there’s a problem!”) but my point here is that Riley’s oddly serious about certain things, and one of those things is brushing his teeth. There was a program at the beginning of the school year, I guess it involved a film and other things, and ever since he’s been so, so diligent about brushing and flossing. “I don’t want to get cavities,” he says. “I don’t want to have to get that drill.”

Given this newfound focus on oral hygiene, it seems particularly awful that what I thought was going to be a routine dental checkup yesterday turned into Riley’s First Tooth Extraction.

He had this shark-row thing going on his lower front teeth — two loose but stubborn baby teeth, with the permanents crowding right behind — and while one finally fell out, the other was just hanging in there. We set up the appointment to have it looked at, and I told him that’s all they were going to do, but I was suuuuuuuuuper wrong.

JB took him to the appointment (he’s always taken the boys to their dental cleanings, because, I can’t lie, I’ve always been too terrified of their reactions). I got a few extremely tense text updates during the two-hour process, but the real story was in how he looked when they got home: white-faced, with a sort of ‘Nam thousand-yard-stare in his eyes. (I’m talking about JB, here. Riley was tear-streaked but already ready to show me his tooth.)

They’d decided that since the tooth definitely needed to come out, it’d be best to just get it over with, and as soon as Riley got wind of what was happening he completely lost his shit. There are times when my sensitive boy reacts to something (a scraped knee, say) with so much drama that I have zero patience for it, but a tooth being pulled? Yeah, that legitimately sucks a whole lot. I can’t even imagine what all went on in that room — the screaming, the panicking, the entire team trying to calm him, JB having to physically hold him down, the failed nitrous, the fact that some of the cherry-scented stuff they put in the nitrous managed to get in Riley’s EYE — but it took so much out of JB he said it was the hardest thing he’d ever done as a parent.

“When it was finally all over, I just … I don’t know, I hugged the dentist,” he told me. “I just really needed a hug from someone right then.”

Poor Riley. Poor JB. God, when you have a tiny baby and your entire being is dedicated to keeping them safe from harm, no one ever tells you that someday you will have to restrain their terrified bodies while someone pulls a tooth out of their jaw. PARENTHOOD, MAN.

PS: Here’s a picture Riley drew of some of the instruments they used. According to JB, the team tried to tell him one device was a “tooth hugger.” Riley shot back, sobbing: “THOSE ARE PLIERS!!!!”

Screen shot 2012-11-13 at 1.54.13 PM

The Tooth Fairy was woefully unprepared last night, but she rush-ordered this, because 1) he loves How to Train Your Dragon, and 2) c’mon. TOOTHLESS.


86 Responses to “Bad milestone”

  1. Bubbley on November 14th, 2012 9:07 am

    Riley is probably already telling his tale like a war story in school, so I don’t feel bad for him, ANYMORE. But I really, really feel awful for JB!! I don’t know if it will EVER be funny for him. :(

    I had to lay down on my then 6 year old while he was ace bandaged onto a board in the ER so that we could stitch his…I can’t even remember if it was his lip or his head. All I can remember is the big, sad brown eyes crying and him saying, over and over and over and over, “Mommy-please-don’t-help-them-please-don’t-lay-on-me-please-get-up-please-let-me-go-please” A THOUSAND times. It’s still not funny, three years later.

    On the other hand, he remembered his “please”s!!

    I lovelovelove that Riley wasn’t taking the “tooth hugger” crap. :) :)

  2. Halyn on November 14th, 2012 9:09 am

    Poor Riley, Poor JB! I bet the dentist needed that hug, too. I hate to admit it, but I had to laugh at Riley calling them out on the pliers. As soon as I read “tooth-hugger,” I snorted with skepticism and thought “Please-the son of JB knows pliers when he sees them!”
    I don’t what to tell you about the rules monitor thing that Riley has going on right now. Just keep doing what you’re doing–Riley seems to respond to your patience and kindness in the matter of his sensitivities. My daughter was just like that at his age, and it just took time and gentleness and understanding to get past it. She is a very typical 12 year old now. She’s still tenderhearted, but in a good way, not an oversensitive way, and has lots of friends and is very happy–so there’s a light at the end of this particular tunnel.

  3. Angella on November 14th, 2012 9:10 am

    Aw, man. Graham had to have a tooth pulled, and even though he’s as calm as they come, it was a little scary for both of us. Hugs to you all.

  4. Jessie on November 14th, 2012 9:15 am

    1)what the HELL, NK 2) I am so sorry that you all had to go through this, especially Riley but holy shit did the bit about JB hugging the dentist break my heart and 3) I was a very sensitive, very serious child who was always very concerned with right vs. wrong (I still am but at the age of 37 I can appreciate the gray areas) and I am not saying it has been the easiest way be (although it’s not as if I could help it) BUT I will say that I am a good, decent person and I am ALSO a barrel of laughs. For real! and totally modest apparently.

  5. Amanda on November 14th, 2012 9:29 am

    Whew. Dental horror story. I’m most traumatized for JB.

    What I really wanted to comment on is the rule follower. I have one. He’s in sixth grade now. He sort of relaxed as he moved on through elementary school and went more with the flow. He moved to middle school this year and holy shit we’re a mess. I know know know that his idea of rule following is his way of making sense and keeping control of a situation in which he feels uneasy. It’s just haaaard because it’s black or white for him. You’re either following the rules or you’re WRONG. And he loses faith in adults that he perceives as acknowledging the wrong but not DOING something about it. Oy. Our boys are just trying to put everything into boxes so that they can understand it all, but it makes me a nervous wreck and him as well.

    Riley is likely in full safety officer effect since he changed schools this year. He’ll probably ease up and then go at it again when there’s another change.

    Good Luck!

  6. laziza on November 14th, 2012 9:52 am

    Oh, dude. I’m so, so sorry. Those parenting moments are the worst. I literally would have been sobbing myself. Poor Riley, poor JB and poor you.

  7. Joanne on November 14th, 2012 10:44 am

    It’s so funny that JB hugged the dentist – my husband took my son, who is Riley’s age, to the dentist a few weeks ago because he had to have a tooth pulled. He had a baby tooth that got so cavitied (?) that it had abscessed, it was a MESS. My son has autism, so we are never sure how much it means to him if we tell him in advance what’s going to happen, so it felt sneaky even if it wasn’t. They gave him the drugs to make him sleepy and when he got really shlumpy, they had to carry him back into the dentist and strap him in so he didn’t fall out, ugh, ugh, it’s awful, right? But he was fine, and he had to go back a week or two after to get a checkup and he didn’t flip out or anything. Now my three year old has to go this Friday and SHE was such a kook during her exam that they have to sedate her and I am NOT looking forward to it but – I mean, I have to do it. I think it’s so much better in cases like this to get it over with. It’s not like you lied and tricked him, you thought they’d just look at it but he had to have it done and now it IS done, that’s what I’d focus on. Ay yi yi, it is literally always something with these mofos, right?

  8. Joanne on November 14th, 2012 10:45 am

    Oh! What I meant to say is that my husband sort of loved my son’s dentist, too. He kept talking about Dr. Kevin this, and Dr. Kevin that and I was all, jeez, okay, what did you go to war together or something? But they kind of did, ha!

  9. Susie on November 14th, 2012 11:17 am

    OMG, this post felt so real that I literally CRIED for all three of you. You’re absolutely right — nothing in parenting prepares you for having to watch and/or take part in something that HURTS your baby. See, now I’m crying all over again just thinking about it. Geez.

  10. Ginny on November 14th, 2012 12:27 pm

    I haven’t taken the time to read all of the comments, but here is one word for any future tooth/dental trauma that might come your way: SEDATION. It has saved my impressionable (& dramatic) daughter from scenes that would be just like this one.

    I really feel for all three of you, these are the heavy-lifting parts of parenting younger kids. I hear even heavier lifting will ensue when those teen-age years hit. I’m so optimistic huh? :/

  11. willikat on November 14th, 2012 3:11 pm

    Ok, I am sure that was HORRIBLE. I’m so sorry that had to happen. But I did laugh just a little teeny bit at Riley’s response to “tooth hugger.” No one is gonna pull the wool over that kid’s eyes! What a smartypants–I love it.

  12. telegirl on November 14th, 2012 3:31 pm

    When our son fell at age 2 and got a cut that needed stitches right next to his eye, we had to go from the pediatrician to the hospital. There, they actually had us help wrap him up in what looked like a pillowcase and my husband had to hold him down while he screamed as they gave him a local and then stitched him up. My heart died a little that day. Hugs indeed, being party to hurting your child–no matter the fact that it is for the better–truly sucks.

  13. Melissa on November 14th, 2012 5:12 pm

    Those are some of the worst moments in the life of a parent! When my youngest was 18 months he was hospitalized for complications with his asthma and it took me and two nurses to hold him down so they could put in his IV. He was screaming and gasping. Definitely one of the worst things I have ever had to do.

  14. Nancy on November 14th, 2012 5:32 pm

    If it’s any consolation, he likely has an extremely successful career ahead of him in quality assurance. (Speaking from experience, I’ve always been a rule follower, and now as Director of QA for a medical device manufacturer, I get paid $$ to tell people when they aren’t following rules.)

  15. Melissa on November 14th, 2012 6:21 pm

    OMG sounds like when I took my son to get tubes in his ears but much worse. Poor Riley and poor JB….I love that he hugged the dentist. And to the commenter that says you could have said no….WTF? Want to make things worse? They absolutely did the right thing. As terrible at that was, Riley will always remember how JB was there with him through it. In life you encounter awful things. Better to have a bad experience with your dad who loves you than to have some infection issues later. Anyway, stepping off my soapbox…

  16. Kate on November 14th, 2012 7:47 pm

    I really like your blog and my brother is a lot like Riley

  17. Anonymous on November 14th, 2012 8:55 pm

    wow. I’ve said it before but our kids are alike in so many ways. Rigid rule followers. It drives me insane because I can see the need to BEND! As a teacher: BIG vs. small problems (small cna be solved w/o an adult. BIG means somebody got hurt.

    Kelso’s choice=google it.
    My son needed stiches and was so hystercial the doc looked at me and said he would refused to do it, he needed to go to the hospital to be put under. I caught his eye and said, LOOK IT, I hold him down and you get in and just DO IT” Never pretty but then we turned it into a Star Wars episode and it ended well.

  18. The Digitorialist on November 14th, 2012 9:50 pm

    All that drawing makes me think of is the evil dental villain from that Dustin Hoffman movie, Marathon Man. :)

  19. Clarabella on November 14th, 2012 11:14 pm

    Man. That is ROUGH, but…at least it seems like Riley’s being a bit resilient about it? It always surprises me how resilient kids really are. Cliche, I know, but…true. As bad as I felt for Riley, though, I choked up when you said that about JB needing a hug. I KNOW that feeling. Like, I just need another adult to acknowledge that was traumatic for me as a parent. Phew.
    Also, I had to get my front two teeth (bottom) pulled when I was 6 (same shark-teeth reason), and while I had an AWFUL dentist (no, seriously, she was investigated for some kind of malpractice after I was her patient), I am not scarred for life. In fact, the babying I got for it is all I remember. Hang in there, Riley.
    (Also: aside: my 5YO loves How to Train Your Dragon too, and that exact Toothless is on his list to Santa!)

  20. Clarabella on November 14th, 2012 11:15 pm

    P.S. Is it weird that, for whatever reason, Riley’s drawing reminds me of Little Shop of Horrors? Yes? I thought so.

  21. Sarah on November 15th, 2012 6:32 am

    Oh!! This made my heart break just a little bit as I have a 3 year old who needs to be held down for basically ANY type of appointment where people he doesn’t know are required to come near him. It’s horrendous. It’s taken 4 people (me, husband, doctor, nurse) to hold his head still just so they could look in his ear! I die a little inside every time. My poor husband has actually refused to come to hair cut appointments because he can’t handle how upset he gets. Apparently the one time the hairdresser told my husband that if he maybe walked away our son wouldn’t freak out so much….the text I got was “he’s screaming and the hairdresser just told me to eff off. I think we need to leave before I punch someone.”

    Ah, parenting.

  22. Em on November 15th, 2012 6:47 am

    That’s it. My husband is going to take our daughter to all of her dental appointments!

    Gah! What a nightmare. I hope Riley (and JB) have recovered.

  23. Trina on November 15th, 2012 10:34 am

    Our sons sound like opposites with rules. I can tell you it is just as hard to be on the side where the kid sees shades of grey in everything. I would love for Riley to teach Coyle a little kindness, and in turn Coyle to teach Riley his laid back, let it slide a little attitude. I struggle every day to teach my son empathy and compassion, if anyone has any ideas I would love to hear them.

    I liked the idea above about small issue, kids deal with it, BIG issue needs an adult. Riley is super smart, I bet that would click with him.

    And Toothless is adorable!

  24. Susan on November 15th, 2012 10:51 am

    Parenting is harder than anything you ever imagined. But you will get through it. And, for the most part, enjoy it! Someday you will look back on experiences like this and say, “Damn, that sucked”. (unless you suffer from amnesia. Hey, I can’t lie). The good news is, as you already know, it’s so worth it!
    Oh, and worst advice ever to a parent (or a kid, or anyone else for that matter): “Just say no”.

  25. Amy Neto on November 15th, 2012 11:50 am

    Yeah, you could have said no and then you’d be faced with lots more treatment and money down the road. I used to work in a dental office and now work for a non-profit dental organization. JB made the right call to go ahead with it then, but it doesn’t make it easier. And the team is trained to deal with it, but let me tell you, it doesn’t make it easier on them either. An hour or so of stress far outweighs the alternatives!! And awesome tooth fairy save!

  26. Emily on November 15th, 2012 12:55 pm

    Oh, how awful. Poor Riley and poor JB! I think *I* need to go out for ice cream, just from reading this! Parenthood, man.

  27. Marcie on November 15th, 2012 4:06 pm

    This is totally unrelated to this post, but is this you?

  28. KIm on November 15th, 2012 8:11 pm

    We always tried to teach our daughter about telling by asking her if she was telling to get someone out of trouble or into trouble. If it was into trouble then she should think twice. We told her she doesn’t have to even out the universe!

  29. Tess on November 16th, 2012 10:38 am

    Totally off topic… but imagine my surprise at seeing one of my favourite bloggers.

    4 down, natch ;)

  30. sheilah on November 16th, 2012 12:44 pm

    I saw the buzzfeed link and wondered if you were aware of that as well. Hilarious photo, but…?

  31. sheilah on November 16th, 2012 12:46 pm

    They did credit from where they got the photo…

  32. Linda on November 16th, 2012 3:58 pm

    It’s credited now, only because a Stir editor got in touch with Buzzfeed on my behalf — prior to that, it’s never been credited in the many for-profit places it’s been posted. Not much I can do except wish I was getting a portion of that ad revenue … :)

  33. Erin@MommyontheSpot on November 17th, 2012 5:22 am

    Poor guys! I can’t imagine!

    As for the tattling, my daughter can be the same way. I gave her some guidelines for telling: if someone is being hurt, either physically or their feelings, it might be a good idea to tell. If not, just stay out of it. Pretty vague, but I think it might be working.

  34. Faith on November 17th, 2012 2:26 pm

    I just don’t know if there’s a painless way to handle a situation like this. You could maybe have postponed the procedure in order to prepare him a bit, but then would the lead-up have caused more anxiety? With a kid like Riley, it’s likely, so I definitely think JB made the right call. But I can’t even imagine, still, how difficult it must have been for him to push Riley through it. I guess some life experiences are just scary and painful, but we do them because they’re best overall, and that’s the takeaway lesson for Riley (and JB too, heh.)

  35. michelle on November 21st, 2012 10:52 pm
  36. Jo on December 10th, 2012 12:09 pm

    OMG- toothhuggers! TOOTHHUGGERS!! I don’t know him but that Riley man is cracking my Sh** up! Serious hilarity. I can just picture him all Dude. Seriously? Don’t mess with me. I know from PLIARS! I am so glad that this post has the redemption of humor- even if it was of the gallows variety. Cause I’m pretty much in JB’s camp (needing a hug) after reading this post! I’m totally sweating the fear of the experience JB had- when I take my 3 year old boy in to have 5 cavities filled on Thursday. Though I guess I could just say no to having the work done. But that doesn’t make sense- I mean if I could say no then he wouldn’t have cavities in the first place, right?

Leave a Reply