Tag Archives: parenting

Tooth-brushing Party

In one of my less-than-proud parenting moments, I happened to look closely at Owen’s teeth a few weeks ago and realized he had not been doing a stellar job of brushing.  Probably for a while.  An examination of Quinn’s teeth revealed the same.

Just when I think I have this mothering thing slightly in hand, the children remind me that I’ve dropped a ball somewhere.

I definitely thought I was past the parenting point where I had to teach people to brush their teeth.  But I guess a reminder was in order: as my boys in particular get older, I’m learning that hygiene issues I thought we’d covered in toddlerhood need some attention and tweaking.  I hate to gender stereotype, but these are not things I had to re-teach Bridget and that’s the truth.

I’ve also noticed that my teeth and all the children’s teeth aren’t quite as white as I’d like.  Gabe was actually the one who pointed it out a while ago.  He expressed a bit of self-consciousness over it and I agreed we could use some whitening.  I started to research natural methods, though, because I don’t like chemical treatments if I can avoid them at all.  But I sort of forgot about it without ever really doing anything.

When I saw the state of the younger boys’ teeth, though, I decided that an overhaul of the tooth-brushing and whitening situation was long overdue.  So I instituted a nightly tooth-brushing party.

The fun in this house is just non-stop, you guys.

But in all honesty, calling it a party DID make it more appealing to everyone involved.  It seems dumb, but that sort of thing can make a difference when you’re forcing your kids to go up to get ready for bed twenty minutes earlier than normal in order to complete a multi-step tooth brushing process every night.

Here’s what we do for our “party”:

We set a timer, brush for two straight minutes making sure to hit fronts, backs, sides, and all around.  Previously I had just been sending the kids up to brush on their own and I think they must have been giving it about 20 seconds without supervision because the first night we used a timer they were SHOCKED at how long two minutes lasted.

Then we floss.  I cannot tell a lie, I have flossed more in the last two weeks than I probably had in the previous two months.  The tooth brushing party is good for us all!  I do have to help Owen and Quinn get each and every little space, but that’s okay with me.  The more they do it, the better they’ll get at it.

Then we do the last step in the party process: tooth whitening.  I researched some natural tooth methods and found one that I had all the ingredients for already in the cabinet so that was the one we tried.  I used this recipe and it’s kind of weird – it looks like tomato paste but smells like peppermint (I added peppermint essential oil to make it a more familiar tooth-brushing flavor for us all).  But despite it’s strange appearance, it absolutely has made a significant difference in the level of whiteness of all our teeth in the last two weeks.  I wish I had done before-and-after pictures! It was noticeable even after just the very first use.

We brush with it for two minutes, making sure to concentrate on the teeth that really need some whitening in the front.  Then before we spit it out, we swish it around in our mouths for a minute, kind of like oil pulling.  The kids all use it without complaining, which is all I can hope for.  Because of the turmeric in the recipe, it will stain clothes and skin, though, so we are really careful to clean it all up really well when we’re done.  

That’s it.  The whole thing lasts less than 10 minutes, which is certainly a time-investment we can easily make.  And we have been doing it at least 3-4 nights a week. (On the other nights, we just brush with a 2-minute timer.)

An added side benefit of this tooth brushing party is that we do it at about 8PM every evening before the younger boys go to bed, and since I’ve already brushed at that point, I am doing far less late-night-snacking after the kids are in bed!

It’s funny, I thought this new process was going to be a pain when I first realized that I really needed to be more involved in how the boys were taking care of their teeth.  But in truth I’m really enjoying it!  Over the past few years as our kids have gotten older and more self-sufficient, Matt and I have been less and less involved in the sort of bedtime routine we had when the children were all little.  It’s sort of lovely to feel like we’re needed again.  And it’s a calmer, happier bedtime process too I think.  Plus all our teeth look much healthier, cleaner, and whiter.

Viva la tooth-brushing-party!

Traveling Away

After eight days of being gone, my boy came home a different child.

I put him on a bus in England and watched him drive away, across a country, across the Channel, across half a continent.  I got a text message from one of the teachers the next day telling me they’d arrived safely in Italy.

Then I spent eight days scouring occasional Facebook posts from the school, full of pictures of children covered entirely from head to toe in layers of winter gear wearing helmets and goggles and scarves, for a glimpse of his face.

I saw him twice, smiling at the base of the mountain on the first day and standing with his arm slung over a friend at the bowling alley near the end of the week.

For eight days I didn’t hear his voice.  My house, despite the three remaining children, was strangely empty, weirdly out of balance.  We were missing a piece that made the parts a whole.

I knew when he stepped off the bus after eight long days that he was a new man.  I could see it in his face, in his smile, in his body language.  In the way he said goodbye and thanked the teachers who’d chaperoned the trip and got his own bag out of the bottom of the bus.  He’d found an independence he’d never known, and now it was his to keep.

Still the same at heart, though, he flung his arms around me right there in the parking lot of his school and hugged me and kissed me hello in front of all his friends because if there’s one thing this boy isn’t, it’s embarrassed to show emotions. Thank every god there is for that, because I needed every last hug he had to give.

As he walked across the parking lot dragging his ski bag in his wake and shouting goodbyes to his friends, I had an uneasy realization that we’d crossed a bridge and left behind a little irretrievable piece of childhood.  

We went home and he showered for the first time in several days and I put on the first of at least three loads of his dirty ski laundry and made us both a cup of tea, and we sat on the couch and I gratefully listened to every last detail of the skiing and the sledding and the food and the two 12-hour bus rides.  I soaked in every word and smiled at the odd details an 11-yr old boy remembers and feels the need to share (“our instructor had really cool hair” and “the pasta at the hotel was a weird shape one night”).   And he hugged me, a dozen times at least, and said that even though he was never homesick, he did really miss us. 

Parenting is a series of heartbreaks.  When we do it right, we teach them how to stop needing us, how to move away and become themselves, and in doing so we make ourselves obsolete.  I know it’s for the best; that doesn’t mean it isn’t difficult. 

But I’ll take a cup of tea together, some silly stories, and a few hugs for as long as he’s willing to give them.

Beauty and Shame

I’m thinking a lot lately about beauty standards, shame, body confidence, and how I want to be and how I want to parent.  It reminded me of something that happened on one of our trips last summer.

The beaches in Menorca are all topless.  Actually, at every beach we went to, bottoms seemed optional as well – many of the kids at the beach, up to even age 8 or 9, went naked.  And one older gentleman, deeply bronzed with nary a tan line to be seen anywhere on his body, was completely nude as well.

Shortly after we arrived at the beach the first day, I realized that it was topless.  I didn’t mention anything to the kids; I figured the less of a thing I made it into, the less of a thing it would be.  Bridget caught on pretty quickly though (to be honest, there were boobs everywhere) and shot me a wide-eyed look of shock. 

This seemed like a parenting watershed moment. My response would become her response.

So I shrugged.  “They’re just boobs,” I said. “It’s only weird if you make it weird. Every woman has them.”

She considered that and nodded. “And some men, actually,” she replied, “and they don’t cover them up!”  We both laughed.  And that was it.

As we were talking, though, Gabe walked over and caught the end of it.  He asked what we were talking about.

“It’s a topless beach,” Bridget said. 

Gabe hadn’t noticed, but his head whipped around at that, and, confirming that she was right, he turned back to me, mouth agape and eyes popping out of his head.

I repeated my statement: “It’s just a body part. It’s only weird if you make it weird. For everyone here, it’s totally normal to be topless at the beach.”

He looked around some more and then nodded.  He could accept that. 

Obviously though, Gabe went directly to both of his brothers and shared the information.  Two more sets of wide eyes and questions. Matt and I both made it clear that it was simply the way things were.  The boys asked why.  We said why not.  And that was it.

I realized over the course of the three days we spent on the beaches there though, how much healthier an attitude toward bodies everyone simply had, how much less shame there was all around.

There were women of every shape, size, weight, and age at the beach.  Nearly every one of them wore a bikini, and it didn’t matter what they looked like.  And many, many of those women took their tops off.  Old women, young women. Thin and fat, fit and not fit.  Moms and grandmothers.  Boobs everywhere. 

The women inhabited their bodies unapologetically. It was refreshing.  It was gorgeous.  It was so much healthier than the covered up shame you see in so many other places — England and America right on the top of that list.

I was jealous of all those women happily living in their own shapes and sizes.  I wanted to feel so completely comfortable that I didn’t think about sucking in my stomach or wish the bathing suit top I wore had a bit more padding or my butt took up just a bit less space.  I wanted to feel unencumbered.

I left my top on though, and I kept sucking in my stomach. 

Here’s why:

My children were not brought up in a place where seeing topless women is the norm.  They could handle it in Spain because, if nothing else in the last two years, they’ve learned to adapt to different cultural norms pretty quickly.

But having their own mother topless would not have sat well.  Not with them.  Not with me.  We can live with the norms of other cultures, but we live WITHIN our own.

So my top stayed put.  But I learned something about shame and beauty, and that will come with me wherever I go.

Pretty

When I was little, and didn’t want to sit through getting my hair brushed or styled, my nana would say “It hurts to be beautiful”. It’s a statement I’ve known all my life and one I still say to myself. 

And to my own daughter.

It’s a truth universally acknowledged and accepted.  If you’re a woman, it hurts to be beautiful. 

We color our hair, wear make-up, wax our eyebrows, our lips, our bikini lines.  Totter around on stilettos that make our feet bleed and bruise.  Cram ourselves into spanx and forego food for a day to fit in one specific dress.  Inject our faces with botox to eliminate wrinkles.  Undergo surgery to lift our boobs, tighten our necks, smooth our tummies, all to defy the effects of gravity and motherhood.

I’ve done most of those things.  In the end I’ll probably do them all.  If I leave the house without at least a bit of make-up on, you can be pretty sure the only place I’m heading is to the gym.  I’ve got a fair bit of grey in my hair, and I will continue to cover it up with dye for the foreseeable future.  I own — and wear — shoes that bruise my toes so badly that I can only wear sneakers for the next three days after a single night in them, and spanx that squeeze the thickest part of my thighs so hard they leave indentations that last for hours after I’ve taken them off.  I have worn clothes that made deep breaths difficult and eating impossible.  I regularly have hot wax smeared on my face and ripped off to remove the shadow on my upper lip and the caterpillar eyebrows I inherited from my dad.

I participate in my own torture, willingly, because I have been conditioned to believe that I am only beautiful if I do those things.

I hate the concept, but continue to play the game.  And I’m teaching my daughter to play it as well.  I wrestle with the messages and the practices, both as a mother and as a woman.  Am I doing the right thing?  Am I teaching her the right thing?  I’m uncomfortable with it all, but we live in a society that says “this is what it takes to be pretty” and so we follow along. 

Some of it I can paint as pretty harmless: I like make-up, and it’s fun to play with and it certainly doesn’t hurt.  Coloring my hair isn’t painful, just time-consuming, and I like changing my color to suit the season or my mood.  I enjoy getting dressed up and I don’t really mind sucking in my tummy for a while to make the line of a dress lie more smoothly.

But there’s nothing fun about getting the hair ripped off your body with hot wax.  Nothing fun about wearing shoes that bruise and pinch and underwear that squeezes and compresses and clothes that hinder your movement and breath.  I can’t pretend there’s any message but self-torture in there.  And yet I teach my daughter.

Society places a high premium on looks, and the standards to which men and women are held are comically different. 

Why doesn’t daddy look bad without make-up on? Because society hasn’t told him that he does.  His skin isn’t a blemish- and blotch-free poreless canvas, highlighted and contoured in all the right places.  He has circles under his eyes because he didn’t sleep great last night, but he doesn’t need to hide them.  His eyebrows are a bit scraggly.  He has grey in the hair on his temples.  He’s definitely not clean-shaven.  And yet all he has to do is run a warm wash cloth over his face, comb his hair, and he’s done.  Handsome even. 

Can you IMAGINE if men had to undergo the physical modification women regularly submit to in the name of beauty?  Good lord would our standards change quickly.

I have no answers, only questions.  I will still dye my hair and wear make-up.  I will still wear shoes that hurt and underwear that squeezes.  I will continue to have my hair waxed off.  And I will forever ask myself why I do it, what would really happen if I didn’t, and whether I’m teaching my daughter the right lessons.

It hurts to be beautiful.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...