Sophie could hardly wait for the day of her second visit to the dentist to arrive. Her first, six months ago, had gone splendidly. And she still remembered the appointment with great fondness. She repeatedly told me, “I’m going to tell the dentist that I eat jelly beans after dinner, but then I brush my teeth so I won’t get cavities.”
“That will make her very happy,” I assured her. At the library last Tuesday, Sophie asked, “Can we get the book, Charlie and Lola Go to the Dentist?”
“Soph, I don’t know if that book exists. We have to ask the librarian.”
So we did. It didn’t. But another character she is fond of, Vera, did have such a book. We ordered it through interlibrary loan.
The book came just in time, the day before Sophie’s six month check up. I was a little wary of reading this one to her. Vera Rosenberry writes autobiographical children’s books about her experiences with her sisters. They are very sweet and poignant tales of her youth, but the dentist one emphasized fear. When the dentist tries to polish Vera’s teeth, she bit him, hopped out of the chair and ran out of the office.
I didn’t want to give Sophie any ideas. I wouldn’t put it past her to imitate Vera’s behavior.
We had barely announced ourselves at the receptionist’s desk when the assistant popped her head out to call Sophie’s name. Sophie and I stood up to follow her to the examination room, when Sophie turned to me and put her hand up.
“No Mom. Just me.”
I was stunned. I had no idea how to respond. My face must have registered my shock and confusion, because the assistant looked at me with wide eyes and said, “It’s okay mom. You can wait here. She’ll be fine.”
Then Sophia marched through the door that was covered with brown paper and the words “We’re happy to see you here!” following the assistant without looking back even once.
I stood there for a moment, still recovering for the shock, before I began pacing. “It’s okay, Mom,” the receptionist told me, “this is a good thing.”
“But she’s three.” I had never even considered her going in for the appointment on her own. Then I remembered Vera. First each of her two sisters had been called back. Then Vera, who went in to see the dentist all by herself, while her family sat in the waiting room. It wasn’t the fear she had internalized, but the confidence. What she perceived as Vera’s independence.
I forced myself to sit and let myself feel awash in awe, shock and pride as I thought about who this person—my daughter—is.
Then I remembered the television hooked up to the dentist chair. No, I said to myself. You are not going to barge in there and insist on no television.
As if on cue, the dental assistant poked her head out, “I just wanted to let you know that she’s fine. And that when she saw the video screen she told us she’s not allowed to watch television.”
Okay, so what if it’s temporary. So what if she ignores every word I say ten, or even two, years from now. Right now, I’ve got naches. Full on Jewish parental pride. I’m bursting with it.
When she was finished, the dentist came out and gushed about the appointment. She jokingly asked if Sophie wanted a job putting other kids at ease.
“Actually,” I told her, “Sophie has aspirations of being a dentist when she grows up. She pretends to work on our teeth at home. I bet she’d love that.”
“I could really see her assisting here, as a teenager.” She sounded serious.
“Seriously. We’ll have to see if she’s still interested—but let’s keep it in mind.”
“Oh, I will” I assured her, my cheeks beginning to ache from my permagrin. “Sophie, you just got your first job offer!” I told her. Sophie poked her head out of the prize box for a second to consider this. “I don’t want to be a dentist. I want to be a mommy.”
“You can be both,” the dentist and I said in unison.