Our pediatric dentist is like family. For nearly 14 years he has watched my kids grow from toddlers to teenagers. He has, in fact, watched me grow from a 20-something mom to a 40-something mom.
He’s a great guy who makes going to the dentist a painless experience for my kids. The dental hygienists are extra nice and careful, so much so that my kids have never cried nor complained about having to get their teeth cleaned.
The thing is, my kids are growing up. An obvious fact, but one to which I find myself closing my eyes.
I didn’t realize the depth of my denial until the pediatric dentist spoke with me about my 15 year-old-son. He had just finished having his six-month cleaning.
“Couple of small cavities that need taking care of,” he says. “It can wait until his braces come off in the next couple of months. I can refer you to an adult dentist then.”
An adult dentist?
You mean I can’t bring my taller than me, hairy, adult-looking son back to the comforts of your soothing pediatric office? Where Mickey, Minnie and all their Disney pals watch over him? Where the video games provide a perfect distraction while I pay through the nose for a bi-annual cleaning and yearly dental x-rays? What about those kid-sized dentist chairs that make the whole process of teeth cleaning less scary? I mean, we’re comfortable here!
I look up at my son. He is a bit taller than me, so, maybe, I wonder, he no longer fits in those pint-sized dental chairs. Maybe his overgrown facial stubble and his adult-like demeanor scare his neighboring patients.
Maybe I’ve missed the signs that he, too, feels a little too old for the pediatric dentist. Maybe Mickey and Minnie patronize him more than they comfort him.
At 15, though, he doesn’t need much comforting. Not from me, anyhow.
He no longer needs me to hold his hand and doesn’t look for a “good job, honey” after they finish cleaning his teeth. He no longer cares if I care whether he did, or did not, have a cavity. There is no toy in his dental goody bag, and his shirt doesn’t don the colorful sticker reminding him not to eat or drink for 30 minutes.
Ah, yes, all signs my oldest child is no longer a child. He is a young man, ready to leave cartoon characters behind and enter the bland dentist office for adult patients. He is ready for … the big boy chair.
I tell him so with a heavy heart.
“You think, mom?” he asks sarcastically, as if he’s known all along what I couldn’t see on my own.
I ignore his sarcasm. The reality of my son being too old for his dentist is surreal to me. What’s next, the pediatrician? Will the man who has taken care of my children’s health for 15 years boot us out? Well, three kids and 15 years of medical records do take up quite a bit of filing space.
It’s inevitable, I know. Kids grow up. Move on. Leave remnants of their childhood behind. Leave mothers behind, wondering — for the millionth time — how time went by so fast.