Welcome, Momma Crew! I had an unexpected surprise last year at the beginning of the summer. I was asked to become my niece and my nephew’s legal guardian. This meant adding two kiddos to our family of four. After careful consideration, and weeks of discussion, my husband and I agreed to do it. Our family welcomed Dora, my twelve-year-old niece, and Bug, my four-year-old nephew. Emmi and Andy, my twelve-year-old twin girls, welcomed the additions with excitement!
What was there not to love, right? Another girl, exactly their same age who shared a common interest with both Emmi and Andy. Like Emmi, Dora enjoys the girly fashion, accessories, and style, and like Andy, she enjoys gaming and playing with electronics. And of course, we were adding a four-year-old baby brother. I mean this was exciting news! Everyone was ecstatic!
In the beginning, everything seemed to go smoothly. It felt like Dora and Bug’s yearly summer visit. But just at the end of the summer, everything changed when I made an incredible rookie mistake. Emmi and Andy needed to have their final baby teeth extracted, and Dora and Bug needed their yearly dental checkup. I called the receptionist to make four separate appointments. And at that time, she said, “Oh no. It would be so much easier if you made all the appointments together, and you only had to make one trip to the office.”
If you’re shaking your head, you’re right. In my defense, I did say, “I don’t think this is a great idea.” Emmi and Andy are having their teeth extracted, and this was going to be my first dental visit with Dora and Bug. And though I was expecting no problems, four kids seemed a lot to handle on a first doctor visit. But, the receptionist insisted.
The big day arrives, and each child is taken back to their individual rooms. Now, dad has to stay with Bug because let’s face it, he’s four years old, and all bets are off. After a lengthy debate about who should have their teeth extracted first, Emmi volunteers because frankly, she’s just a helpful girl. And, she knows her sister doesn’t like to go first.
Now the dentist asked her if she would like laughing gas. Emmi asked, “What is laughing gas?” He explained that it is nitrous oxide, which is a safe and effective sedative agent that is mixed with oxygen and inhaled through a small mask that would fit over her nose. It would help her relax so that the whole process would be much easier on her. As I mentioned before, Emmi is a very laid-back, sensible girl when it comes to these kinds of things. So she agrees to the gas. They put the mask over her nose, she relaxes, the numbing process begins.
The doctor, wonderful that he is, didn’t mention anything about shots. Once she was completely relaxed and numbed up, he does the shots, no problems, still relaxed. And then, in the blink of an eye, he removes both canines. We had to go through this process because her baby canines were overlapping the incoming adult canines. Now as they start seating her up, they explained that they were no longer giving her the laughing gas, they’re just giving her oxygen. But, as she gets up, she’s gonna feel a little dizzy, tingly, and disoriented. She might feel like crying, and that’s perfectly acceptable. I’m holding her hands, everything sounds good and I’m thinking, “Wow, this wasn’t bad at all!”
Now dentist number two is with Dora, he’s done her checkup, and he needs to talk to Mom. So, I tell Emmi just to relax, as the dentist said, the dental assistant was going to stay with her and I would be back as soon as I can. I make it to Dora’s room, great news, no cavities, all baby teeth are gone, everything is looking good, we’re done. And I say to Dora, “Why don’t you go and sit in the waiting room and wait for us?” And she says that she doesn’t want to be out there by herself, can she go and sit with Bug and Dad? No harm to it right? So I say sure, no problem. I return to check on Emmi, who is a little tearful. I’m stroking her hands, sitting with her telling her everything was going to be alright, just to breathe the oxygen and watch TV. She will feel normal just before she knows it when I hear, “Mrs. B, you need to come over to Andy’s room.”
“Mom! Mom! I need you!” I recognized the voice, it was Andy, ran to the room next door, to find the dentist explaining the nitrous gas to her. However, unlike Emmi, Andy doesn’t like the idea of the laughing gas. Because it turns out that in the DC-Marvel universe, laughing gas is something used by villains. And no matter how many times the dentist and I explain that it wasn’t the same kind of gas, she would not budge! Before you knew it, I was having a constitutional argument with her. She assured me that someplace in the civil rights of the United States of America, it says that a child should not be forced to have any medical procedure to which they do not consent. I tried to explain that if instead of holding her baby teeth with her tongue back in place, she wiggled them, the dentist wouldn’t have to remove them. But of course, she doesn’t care.
Now, this is why we need the laughing gas with Andy because she’s apprehensive about giving up her baby teeth and about going through any medical procedures. But, the dentist and I agree that she doesn’t have to have the gas if she doesn’t want it, but there is no option when it comes to the removal of the three molars. They need to come out. She’s been holding onto them too long. They’ve become choking hazards, and they’re also creating a problem with her braces. We finally settled her into the dental chair. I’m holding her hands while they’re putting the numbing paste on her gums so that the dentist can give her the shots. So she’s really apprehensive, she’s holding on to my hand tightly, and I thought, “Okay, we’re gonna get through this.” When I suddenly hear the dreaded word, “Mom! Mom!”
Now I know this is Dora screaming so, I’m wondering what’s going on. The dentist, who was very kind says, “No problem, you can go see what your child needs.” So off I go, back into the room with Dora, Bug, and my husband. Now we got some interesting news about Bug’s teeth. It turns out that he has a congenital disorder, in which he did not get all his baby teeth. When the baby teeth fall out, they will not be replaced by adult teeth. So that means that at some point, he will need braces. Once the braces are removed, he will need to have some implants. Now, according to the dentist, this is not a big deal. According to our pocketbook, that’s another story. But we accepted that responsibility when we decided to take the children into our family.
Dora, however, is completely freaked out that his baby brother isn’t going to get all his adult teeth and completely concerned about the money we will have to spend some time in the future. Mind you, this is ten years from now, and is just crying and upset. My husband and I are trying to calm her down and explain this is not a big deal. We got it! It’s our responsibility to worry about these things, not hers, when I suddenly hear those scream once again.
“Mom!” This time from Emmi,”You haven’t checked on me. Have you forgotten me?”
“Of course I haven’t forgotten you, sweetheart. I’m right here. Everything’s fine. How are you feeling?”
Well, it turns out, she was feeling a little sentimental. No doubt because of the nitrous, but she was fine. She’s finally settling down when I hear the scream once again.
“Mom!” This time from Andy. She was extremely concerned that I would not get back to her before the dentist started pulling her teeth. Which you know, we can understand, so back I am in her room, holding her hand. The dentist pulls the first of the three teeth from the right side, and he pulls the second. She feels nothing. Which you would think this would be a great thing, right? She’s relaxed enough, but as he goes on to move to the left side, she freaks out. She is demanding to know why he didn’t tell her he had removed the teeth.
Well, so that she wouldn’t freak out! But, somehow, we were unable to avoid that. Now she’s arguing with the dentist, demanding to know exactly when he is going to remove the third tooth. He tells her that, of course, he will let her know when he is about to remove that last tooth. But, thankfully, he does not. Actually, he didn’t need to because when he put the suction hose on that side, the tooth came loose and fell. So great. All over, right? Nope. She gets up, and, with her mouth bleeding and numb, she wants to argue about the removal of her baby teeth.
Now somehow the constitution came back into play at this point, I’m not quite sure. But that seems to be her thing nowadays. So, she brings the constitution back into place, where she is certain it says that no one’s teeth should be removed without their consent. I’m trying to calm her down, get her settled. (sighs) The dentist is asking her to stop talking because he needs to put the gauze in her mouth to stop the bleeding, and she is arguing with him about how much she resents losing her baby teeth. And, he’s doing everything to comfort her along with me.
I truly don’t know how this dentist could be so patient. In all honesty, I don’t think we’ve had a better experience with a pediatric dentist as the one we have with Dominic Eloise on Main Street Children’s Dentistry in Winterpark, Florida. I mean I highly recommend this guy if you’re anywhere near in the area. So now between myself, and the doctor, everything has calmed down when once again, I hear, “Mom!”
It’s Dora again. I go back into the room. She has calmed down, but now she’s upset. Once again thinking about the money, and once again, we are telling her, this is not her concern. This is for the parents to worry about, and we have it covered. When all of a sudden, I hear “Mom!” from Emmi.
“Mom!” from Andy.
And, I’m wondering which way to run! So, I’m thinking, okay, need to go what’s going on with Andy. Because she just had her teeth removed, run to that room. She’s somewhat upset about the blood on the gauze because she’s sure now, absolutely sure that she’s bleeding out. Which of course, the dentist and I are explaining, nope, that’s not gonna happen. You’re fine. We’ve got you. We’re taking care of you.
Emmi still screaming for mom, so I ran to her room. She’s crying, calmed her down again, go back to Andy’s room. She’s now calmed down as well. Now once again, I hear screaming from Dora. I’m about to run to her room when I just take a pause in the hallway. What the hell did I get myself into? My girls are used to splitting their mom time between two. Not between four! How are they going to adjust to this change? How am I going to split myself into four? And, honor the needs of four separate individuals? Yes, I see it done at the church we attend all the time. Several families have five, six, seven kids, and the moms do a wonderful job. But it’s different when you’re adding one child at a time, naturally, not when you add two in one go. There was no time to come up with coping mechanisms, ideas, whatever you want to call it, to meet the needs that would help our family transition and adjust from being a family of four to being a family of six. How was I going to take care of everybody?
The one thing that I was certain of was that I didn’t want to fail as a mother. That’s always been an ever-present concern for me. I have to be the best mother I can possibly be. And then all of a sudden, it came back to me. That fear. That anxiety when I had two babies in the NICU. And then when one came home, and the other one remained. It was a horrific nightmare for me. The anxiety that I wasn’t with one of my children that I wasn’t able to meet their needs was horrific. And here it was, once again, overwhelming me with fear. Irrational fear!
This time I had more experience. And I snapped out of it. The first time, I had been a first time mom, and I didn’t know what to do with my feelings. But this time, it was twelve years later. So I took a deep breath, I told myself to knock it off, that’s what I tell myself when I know I’m losing it, took another deep breath, and just took a pause. I had this. I simply had to prioritize. So, I went back to Andy because her teeth had been removed last. I waited until the bleeding stopped, and she settled down. Then I went and checked on Emmi, hmmm, that crying has subsided significantly, the nitrous side effects were going away. Then I went to Dora; Dad had calmed her down. And, Bug, of course, was running around the dentist’s office like any four-year-old would.
So, we gathered the family and into the car we went. Where everybody finally settled down because they had their electronics. And dad, well, he was listening to the news the way he always likes to do. This gave me an opportunity to reassess our experience calmly. The first and least important of the lessons was don’t schedule more than two kids at a time. In our case, two trips are better than one.
The first truly important lesson was I needed to teach the kids that mom was one person, and one person can’t do it all. Yes, I know this tends to be true for all of us. Our children see us as someone who can solve many problems at the same time because they are so used to seeing us multitask. But in some cases, it’s simply not possible. We need help too. This brings me to lesson number two, Dad loves the kids as much as mom. Maybe he loves them differently. And maybe he doesn’t take care of things the way that mom would. But, when you have two kids in crisis, or four, you’re going to have to split up and conquer. And dad’s love is as good as mom’s love. And the final third lesson, it’s not going to kill my children to learn to wait their turn. If they were able to learn to share mom with two kids, they would be able to learn to share mom with four kids. Just because they want you to be there immediately, doesn’t actually mean that they need you to be there immediately. They are going to have to learn to help take care of each other. And also to go to dad or simply to wait for mom to get to them.
And let’s face it, we have to prioritize. Blood, medical stuff, always comes first. Then after that, it’s pretty much, baby first, because well, let’s face it, you can’t turn you back on a four-year-old. And then, on a first-come, first-served basis. As it turns out, this system has worked out really well for us. The girls have learned to help each other, and also, to help keep an eye on Bug. Blood always does come first, and everything else comes second. And while Emmi is still a momma’s girl, Griselle and Andy have become daddy’s girls, which is wonderful, both to experience and to see. I’m still a multitasker, but I’ve learned to ask for help, both from dad, and the girls. And even to give myself timeouts when I need them. Frankly, I don’t think that moms take enough timeouts for themselves.