I opened my mouth wide.
All the way across the room a dentist inserted a mirror and a hook-pronged instrument into my son's bird-like orifice.
Self consciously, I closed my mouth, relaxed my jaw and silently willed The Champ to stop squirming. I pressed a foot on an imaginary brake. Instead, he just wriggled in a different direction.
There are so many times I wish I could take the place of my children, and this is one of those occasions: white-knuckling it through another pediatric dental visit.
It never gets any easier.
So many latex-covered fingers potentially wagging my way. Does he brush twice a day? Is he flossing daily? How about sweets?
So many questions. So many accusations.
But I'm the only one asking the questions. I'm the only one pointing fingers.
And sitting in the corner of the room, waiting for the official results, I have answered my own questions with unfiltered angst and absolutely no medical or dental training whatsoever. By the time the doctor dictates her findings to her assistant in the language of dentistry – a language in which I am not fluent -- I have already convinced myself The Champ will need fillings, a root canal and, potentially, dentures by the time he's six.
His sister, we already know because she was squirming around in the same chair just minutes before, will need to have four of her permanent teeth extracted to make room for four others that have no place to erupt.
I want to erupt.
Their cousins' parents – genetically blessed as they are – will be spending their orthodontics budget on college tuition.
We will be spending our retirement on straighter teeth. We know about that, however. We are prepared. It's the unknown that tends to throw me for loops, things that show up between cleanings.
“He looks fine,” the dentist says, negating my suspicions and adding that the Tooth Fairy will have to be notified because the boy has, “count-em, three” wiggly teeth.
I let go of my breath.
She smiled in my direction. It wouldn't surprise me if her internal anxiety meter proved sharper than her most pointy of tools. I'd even be willing to bet she can detect tense expressions and diminished respirations from three exam rooms away.
But from where I still sit across the room, I can also see it's Ittybit's turn to be tense.
She has so many questions: “Will it hurt? How do they get the teeth out? Will I feel it when it's happening? Will it hurt after it's over? Will I look funny?”
The dentist takes her time answering each one. She is technical, thorough and kind. Neither of us are worried as she leaves the room, headed toward her next appointment.
I don't even tense as the receptionist hands me the bill for that day's services and an estimated cost for the extractions, which will take place in a month's time.
But I can see alarm bells ringing in Ittybit's eyes as she looks over the paperwork and notices the yellow-highlighted figure.
“That's a lot of money,” she stammers, mouth all agape.
I shrug and sigh: “It is what it is. There are certain things you just have to grin and bear.”
“Now close your mouth, dear. I got this.”