A Healthy Smile

Steph Rae
5 min readMar 10, 2021
Photo by Rudi Fargo on Unsplash

The first thing my son always does when he gets out of bed is brush his teeth. Not a cursory scrub, either. At least ten seconds is spent per tooth, and when each is shining, he spends another two minutes flossing. Finally, he swishes mouthwash with an energy matched only by a tidal wave, and then goes onto his next task: eating. It’s baffling. Life with a six-year-old, I guess. You’d think he’d eat before brushing, but nope, he then has cereal with milk. He’ll scream if he’s served anything else. I’m not sure he knows what cereal tastes like without the lingering minty aftertaste. Can you guess what he does after he eats? He brushes his goddamn teeth.

I think it has to do with his stuffed animals, honestly. He’s got a few rows of ’em, all lined up on his bed: Sharks, monkeys, tigers, crocodiles, even a zebra. He picks them out at the store specifically, and I bet you can imagine why. For their bright, shiny, teeth. He’s even got a little toothbrush for them, and every day before he goes to school, he pretends to brush their teeth. Not for the length he spends on his own, thank God. We’d never leave the house.

Maybe the kid wants to be a dentist. He’s never said so, and I’ve never asked, mostly because I don’t want to put the idea in his head. He always makes sure, though, that he’s standing in the bathroom doorway whenever someone else in the family brushes. He used to tell us how long to do it, or to remember to floss, but his older sister yelled at him once, and now he only watches, his intent eyes meeting ours in the mirror. Only, he’s still mumbling to himself, just not loud enough for anyone to hear.

Y’know how you watch your kid brush for awhile when they get started, make sure they’re doing it right? Yeah, I’ve stopped that. I know his mouth is going to be cleaner than a surgical table, so I don’t worry. I also get bored. It’s militant. But I had to remind him the other day to not brush too hard. He took a bite of food and it clearly hit a nerve or something because he made a noise and tried to pass it off as nothing. I tried to look in his mouth to see what the problem was, but he wouldn’t let me. You try prying open a six-year-old’s mouth; I’ll wait. I booked an appointment at the dentist, but it’s another month out. Free healthcare, right.

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Steph Rae

“It is absurd to divide people into good and bad. People are either charming or tedious.” — Oscar Wilde // 29 y/o fiction writer and editor from the Maritimes