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August 24, 2007

First Visit to the Dentist

AndreaHaving three very curious boys ages 4 and under can turn simple thing like going to the grocery store or doctor and  dentist appointments into logistical nightmares. Any trip out of the house requires advance planning and preparation to minimize potential problems, but there are times when even the most thorough planning isn't enough to mitigate unforeseen challenges.

For example, earlier this month I took my two oldest boys ages 4 and 3 to their very first dentist visit. I'll just call them George4 and George3, after their favorite curious monkey. I feel like a bad mom for not taking them to the dentist sooner, I just had this nagging worry that they wouldn't sit still for it and would start crying, struggling, kicking, falling out of the chair, all of which they do when they don't want their finger and toe nails trimmed. My concern was based on years of experience, so I spent a couple days prepping the boys. I said things like:

“You’ll get to sit in a big chair.”

“The dentist will tell you to open your mouth wide, like this. AHHHHHH.”

“The dentist will count your teeth and make sure they are healthy.”

We repeated this over, and over, and over until they could say it along with me.

So on the big day, we went into the dentist's office and George4 and George3 sat down on the waiting room floor to play with a bead toy and the baby, George-1 (11 months old), played quietly in the stroller. I filled out mountains of paperwork, trying to write as fast as I could. This is one of my big gripes with many professional offices. They require stacks of paperwork for new patients yet do not send it to you in advance or even bother to make it available to download off their website. In this day and age, especially in a technology corridor like the DC Metro area, making forms available on a website should be a no-brainer. End of soapbox.

The beads only held their attention for about 30 seconds, then they became interested in the water dispenser and began filling cups of water and spilling it on the floor. After redirecting them to the beads and some magazines, I went back to filling out the paperwork while keeping one eye on the boys. They were rolling around in the floor for a few minutes, then George3 jumped up and went back to the water dispenser.

“I get some water,” he said proudly.

“No, leave the water alone, please.” I was desperately trying to get him away from that machine. He ducked under my arm and ran around me, spilling water as he went.

I managed to get the cup and shooed them away from the machine, but then they began to run in circles chasing each other. I let that go because we were the only people in the waiting room, but I beginning to regret not bringing the portable DVD player along.

After turning in George4's paperwork I started on George3's, and that’s when the boys discovered the fire extinguisher, which incredibly was mounted on the wall at child's level near the office door. I sternly said that was a “no touch” item, not safe, and got them back on the other side of the room and in the floor with some books. I went back to working on George3's papers and 15 seconds later an alarm went off.

George3 had set off the fire alarm, which was located right next to the fire extinguisher, at child's level, without a plastic cover.

I dashed across the room and started pushing the lever back trying to turn off the alarm, but of course it wouldn't stop. The dentist and all her staff rushed into the waiting room and stared as I looked helpless and said, “My son pulled the alarm. I don’t know how to shut it off.” The receptionist helpfully said to push it back in, and I demonstrated how that wasn't working. One of the men in the pizza parlor next door came over to see if everything was OK, and he started laughing when we told him what had happened. Apparently a child had pulled the alarm in his store the first week they were open. He said the fire department would respond to the call and reset it when they arrive.

Just peachy.

I sat the boys down in chairs and sternly said that touching the button or the fire extinguisher was a big safety violation.

“We don’t touch the button. Don’t touch.”

George3 smiled and waved his finger, “No play with the button.”

“No, don’t touch the button. Don’t touch!”

I had to repeat myself several times to get him to say, “Don’t touch the button.” In the meantime, the alarm was still sounding VERY LOUDLY.

The wait for the fire truck seemed forever, but in reality it was only about five minutes. Three firefighters came in, all dressed in their gear. They saw us sitting down in the waiting room and the receptionist still sitting at her desk and surmised that this was a false alarm. The receptionist and I explained what happened and one of the men cast a stern look in the boys’ direction. The boys were just silently watching, their eyes as big as saucers.

The firemen walked through the office to check everything and a few minutes later they finally shut off the alarm. One of the firemen stopped to speak to the boys before he left.

I gave George3 yet another stern look. “Do you have something to say to the firefighter?” He just looked at me curiously.

“Say you are sorry for pulling the fire alarm.”

George3 looked the firefighter right in the eye and said, “Sorry for pulling fire alarm. No touch button.” He shook his little finger for emphasis.

The firefighter glanced at me and I nodded my head meaningfully, hopefully communicating that I wanted him to put the fear of God into my sons.

“That’s OK. Just remember you only pull the alarm if there is a fire.” The fireman looked at both boys, and they nodded with very serious expressions on their faces.

George4 chimed in, “Yes, only pull for fire.”

After the fireman left, the boys sat up in their chairs to look out the window and watch the engine drive off. I sincerely hope that they understand that pulling the fire alarm is not safe. To them it probably seemed like, “Hey, I pull this and the fire engine comes! Cool!”

Andrea also blogs at Andrea's Recipes.


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