I was having a bad day. Last night I found a dark spot on my daughter’s molar, after all my meticulous tooth-brushing mania of late, and I was feeling like a failure at motherhood, wondering why someone hadn’t fired me yet.
I went through the stages of grief. (I think there are six, but I only remembered four when I was thinking about this and four is really all the energy I have to write about anyway.)
1. Denial-It’s not a cavity. It’s just a brown speck. We just went to have her cavities filled less than two months ago. It can’t be!
Okay, it’s not brushing off. Maybe it’s the filling! Maybe they make brown fillings! Maybe it’s an off-whitey brown.
(A bit of history: at the last visit my six-year-old daughter had FOUR cavities. I could sort of understand since it had recently been Valentine’s Day so we were drowning in candy, but I had also been vigilant about their brushing twice a day, with my husband or I finishing up afterwards. After that distressing month of fillings, however, we had been trying so hard! We’d been brushing twice or three times a day, plus eating hardly any sugar, and brushing after any sugar at all. The thought that she still had a cavity after all that work was completely depressing.)
2. Anger – How can this happen? I’ve been trying so hard! Why didn’t that dentist tell me what to do! Something’s wrong! Maybe she’s malnourished! Why aren’t they helping me figure this out!
This progressed to anger at myself: I am a terrible mother. I can’t even keep my kids’ teeth from rotting out of their heads. I can’t do any more than this. I’m going to give up. Wait, I can’t give up. Why can other mothers clean out their vents and closets and cook freezer meals and go running and homeschool and blog, and I can’t even keep my children’s teeth from rotting?
What’s wrong with me?
At this point I called my friend sobbing and she prayed with me and told me I’m a good mom. That helped a little. My poor toddler kept looking at me with tears running down my face and asked, puzzled, “Wha happen?” I felt even worse for traumatizing my children, but I couldn’t help it.
Okay, I realize I sound like a complete basket case at this point, but I’m so tired. It’s my husband’s last (maybe) hardest week at work, so he leaves before we get up and doesn’t get home until we are all in bed. Half of the lightbulbs in the house are burned out, and the back doorknob fell off this morning when my daughter tried to open the door. Things are falling apart all over the place.
So, this was just confirmation in my mind that I was failing and couldn’t really pull this whole motherhood thing off. And, while I was thinking about it, why could I think I could homeschool my children when I can’t even take care of their basic needs? If I put them in school I could afford to spend an hour a day brushing teeth. (I know none of this is logical, and I knew it then, but I didn’t care. It was how I felt. )
3. Grief- I cried and cried, and cried some more. We had lunch with my husband and I told him the news, and that we had a dentist appointment at one o’clock, and that I was clearly a failure as a parent. He told me I did a good job and who cares about cavities anyway. He pointed out that my teeth are full of cavities and they still work, which is true. We’re doing the best we can. Which was nice of him and all, but he sort of had to say that; he’s married to me. It did help a little though.
4. Acceptance – As we drove to the dentists’ office, I resigned myself to the fact that she had at least one cavity, and I had to just try more to use that blue rinse I just ordered. And the plaque tablets. And the firefly toothbrushes. And the tiny flashlight to inspect. (And floss, and rinse, and three times a day supervision of brushing.) It was just what we needed to do. And I almost believed it didn’t mean I was a failure as a mother. I was getting there.
Then we went ahead and prayed it wouldn’t be a cavity, which is sort of a dumb prayer because either it is or it isn’t, but I figured God could retroactively answer my prayer and make it NOT be a cavity, because He is God, after all.
Then we went to the dentist, and I waited for the news, pretty certain that I wouldn’t cry because I’d gotten all my crying out. Guess what?
It wasn’t a cavity.
What? What else could a brown speck on the surface of her molar be?
I know! What?
Apparently some of the latest filling had “leakage,” whatever that is, and got stained, so they just scraped it off, put more filling on, filed it down, and it’s done. Even typing that, the whole thing doesn’t make sense to me, but the important thing is: it isn’t a cavity!!!
And I know that I’m doing the best I can and there’s more to being a good mother than dental hygiene, but I just wanted to tell God Thank You. That was really nice of Him. I really appreciate it. It was a very nice surprise.
And also, as all this was going on, we had to run home and put some milk in the fridge, and I had to check my email because I’m obsessive like that lately, and I had an email from San Francisco Book Review saying they had chosen my book for a review and it was ready. I was thrilled that it had been chosen for a review, because that is a feat in and of itself, but also terrified. This is the service our library uses for reviews; they review all kinds of general audience books, and they would probably tear it apart, I thought. They’d call me out as an amateur.
I was thinking, as I clicked on the link, that probably it would say that I had no business writing and that I shouldn’t quit my day job. But little did they know I was actually failing at my day job, I thought wryly. Then the page loaded.
What? Was I on the right review? Yep. That was it.
Again, relief. Again, thanks. Not feeling adequate, but very thankful and humbled.
Because… “They did not gain possession of the land by their own sword, nor did their own arm save them. But it was His right hand, His arm, and the light of His countenance, because He favored them.” Ps 44:3
And I just wanted to say Thanks.
I am so grateful these days for so many things.