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Why I Love Going to the Dentist

Photograph by Getty Images/Flickr RF

“We’re almost done here,” the dental hygienist said to me a couple of weeks ago as she picked and prodded at my gums with some amount of finality.

“Oh, please take your time,” I pleaded. “Really, I’m in no rush. Did you need to take X-rays today? Would you mind flossing my bottom row again? How about getting that scraper tool back out for Round 2 on those top teeth?”

I don’t mind trips to the dentist because my teeth are in fine form. But I actually look forward to the dentist because it’s one of the few times I am ever entirely kid-free for up to a whole hour in the daytime, which means no one is pulling on my pants leg, poking my back or pinching my face.

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There might have been a time when I thought as a mom I’d get some alone time if I could just escape to the bathroom, but when my older daughter started crawling, she’d sidle right up to me when I was on the toilet and whine until I hoisted her onto my lap, at which time she’d play with my eyelids—and by “play with my eyelids,” I mean she insisted on twisting my eyelashes until she was satisfied that a sufficient clump had been pried off and were plastered inside her chubby little fists.

Having her on my lap while I was on the toilet made wiping rather messy, and it meant I had literally not a moment to myself during waking hours (it also meant I had to look into an eyelash transplant or fake eyelashes, which always made me think hard to try and remember why it was I ever really wanted kids in the first place).

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Now, at age 4, my older daughter has finally learned what it means when she sees the bathroom door is closed. Which is to say, one in every 14 times it’s closed she might knock, but even then, she knocks and rushes in before I have a chance say either, “Come in” or “Go away” (we disabled all locks on all doors in our home ages ago after a certain someone locked herself into her bedroom and couldn’t figure out how to unlock herself out, and the fire department was nearly dispatched with an axe to break her free).

Still, it’s an improvement. Sadly, however, it’s a useless improvement, because my younger daughter, who is now 11 months old, has started crawling with a vengeance. Like her sister before her, she thinks it’s great fun to charge me when I’m in the bathroom and cuddle up on my lap when my rear is firmly affixed to the loo.

Sometimes, when my family is out around town and passes an upscale hotel, I make a mad dash inside for the lobby bathroom and just sit for awhile. There’s usually a comfortable sofa, fresh flowers, linen towels, some light reading material and a pleasant hum of silence. No one asks me what I’m doing, and no one asks me to do anything for them. It’s kind of like how I imagine heaven, only with more artificial air freshener. I usually figure I can get away with 15 or 20 minutes in a hotel lobby bathroom before my husband sends in someone looking for me armed with a plunger and a bottle of Kaopectate.

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Now that my younger daughter has started sleeping in until 6:30 or 6:45 in the mornings, after I nurse her I’ll get up and go for a walk or jog so I can have an hour to myself before the chaos in the house climaxes at 7:30 a.m., and holds to a steady frenzy until the kids are back in bed 11 or so hours later.

Sometimes, when all else fails, I stick in earplugs in the middle of the day to tune out whatever’s happening in the house, but after the children’s pleas for snacks, scissors and butt-wipings go unanswered for the 19th time, I need to tune back in.

It’s a nice idea to think I can carve out more than an hour most mornings for “me” time, but I figure I’ll have plenty of extra time to myself when my kids go off to college, or when they learn how to operate the TV on their own (whichever comes first). And we’re ready to start training them for both really soon.

In the meantime, I have a call into the dentist’s office to see if I can come in next week for a voluntary root canal.

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