I love getting little peeks into the strong foundation my child and I are building together.
We recently switched dentists. The new practice is bigger and we can often get same day appointments.
Now my newly 6 year old is understandably apprehensive about seeing the dentist. She worries about all doctor visits and I step in to offer information, support or answer questions, if she asks. Before we left home, she told me she is scared, and she might cry during the visit. I told her it’s absolutely natural and ok to express how you feel.
The dentist’s assistant begins cleaning my daughter’s teeth. There is obvious discomfort and it goes slower than typical, because my kiddo asks for breaks. I squeeze her hand and she cries a little bit. The assistant tells her, “Don’t cry, don’t cry,” and “you’re such a big girl,” and “you can be brave.”
I don’t care for those phrases.But I know my daughter can advocate for herself. And she does.
“I am scared. It’s ok to cry if I’m scared,” she mumbles, as the assistant stops and looks up at me, eyebrows arched.
I am not a confrontational person, and I really don’t like awkward situations where I have to assert myself. But because respectful parenting has really changed my outlook, I nod my head and say, “Of course, darling. It’s ok to cry. We have a one hour appointment, so don’t worry about time.”
The assistant stares at me, then down at my daughter who’s wiping her eyes and being her true, authentic self. She sighs and keeps cleaning, but doesn’t offer any more textbook phrases.
It’s not a fun visit, but it is necessary. The dentist gives us the all ok and before long we’re in the car.
I’m pulling out of the parking spot when she says, “Amma, why do the nurses and doctors always tell me not to cry? Why do they want me to brave, when I’m actually feeling scared?”
“A lot of times, grown ups say these things because they feel uncomfortable when children express emotions. They think crying is bad and being scared is wrong, but we know better, don’t we?”
“Yeah, Amma. You will never tell me that, will you?”
“No darling, I won’t. I will never tell you how to feel or act. And I will never ask you to lie about what you’re thinking, just to make me feel better.”
I drove home feeling so proud of my little girl. She’s only 6, but far more uncomplicated and self assured than any adult I know.