The August Dental Appointment

Typically, when I’m seated in the dental chair with my mouth getting poked and scraped with sharp, pointy metal things, my mind drifts to far away places.

But this time, amidst the high-pitched EEEeeee-EEEeee-EEEEeeee of drills, I kept getting pulled back to reality by the syrupy, buoyant voice of my nine-year-old chatting with her hygienist in the room across the hall.

View of a dentist chair in dental exam room

Because it’s August, their conversation revolved around two topics explicitly linked this time of year: summer vacation and back to school.

It went something like this:

Hygienist : So how has your summer been?

Daughter: Good.

Hygienist : What kinds of things have you done?

Daughter: Ummmm, well, I did some camps and played soccer and went to a cabin and I’m having a bake sale tomorrow with my sister and our friends from our neighborhood.

Hygienist : Oh, wow, that sounds like fun. Are you doing the bake sale to raise money for something?

Daughter:  [Insert awkward silence. Her plans for the loot aren’t exactly what you’d call philanthropic.]

Intuitive Hygienist : Or is it just for fun?

Relieved Daughter: YEAH! It’s just for fun.

Hygienist : Are you excited for school to start?

Daughter: Yeah.

Hygienist : Did you get your school supplies yet?

Daughter: No, but I got a backpack.

Hygienist : Oh how nice. What color is it? . . .

And so on. That is, in a nutshell, how conversations go between kids and their dental hygienists during the month of August. Named after the first emperor of the Roman Empire, the eighth month carries a royal responsibility as both a finale and a prelude.

It’s a finale to longer, sunnier days when we turn our backyards into splash pads, buy mini doughnuts from food trucks, enjoy farm-fresh rhubarb from local farmers’ markets, and, if you’re me, a thrifty Minnesota gal, you might peruse garage sales for ice skates under $1.50.

It’s a prelude to a season dipped in reds and yellows, free of humidity and mosquitoes, when we run around hay bale mazes, watch pig races, taste-test candied apples, simmer chili in crockpots, watch grown men in huge amounts of padding pulverize one another, and, of course, send our kids off to school.

As if that weren’t enough, August is also one mammoth mixed bag of emotions.

Woman chosen milk in opened refrigerator, cool new friedge full of tasty organic nutrition, female preparing to cook, healthy eating concept

“Parent Exhibit A” feels pretty good about what she’s accomplished since June. She grew the biggest zucchini in the neighborhood, brought her kids geocaching, even taught them and their friends how to make melted-bead suncatchers. And she’s pretty much all set for school supplies because she ordered prepackaged school supply kits last spring.

photodune-6345303-stresses-woman-xs“Parent Exhibit B,” however, is in a panic. She’s feeling like she’s squandered the season away, mentally kicking herself for not taking the kids to that Shakespeare in the Park Festival. There’s a good chance she’ll be shopping for school supplies the night or two before school starts when grown-ups pulverize one another at Target and Walmart for the last pack of black felt-tip pens instead of a football.

Happy Pretty Young Woman Holding a Banana Fruit, Dancing Alone at the Kitchen Inside the Home.

“Parent Exhibit C” is somewhere in between. She never got around to taking the kids to the Bell Museum of Natural History, but she did take them to ride the uptown trolley and has, by now, perhaps peeked at the school supply lists online or even printed them.

No matter, come that first day of school, hoards of moms and/or dads will breathe a sigh of relief after they send their young children or hormonal-raging teens off to spend the next six hours in brick-covered microcosms of society. You might even catch some of us in our kitchens at around 8:45 a.m. lip-syncing into a banana to the song “Sugar” by Maroon 5 between shots of espresso.

Lots of parents, however, won’t fully exhale until they look into their child’s eyes when they return home (or get that first text) and know that things went ok. For some, hardly a moment has passed during August in which a ripple of anxiety hasn’t pressed in, especially those with children starting a new school, moving away to college, or struggling to fit in and find a niche.

Look. We’re all a bunch of grown-up kids with remnants of our own childhood summers and first days of school swirling around within us. Each of us wants our kids to have a good life full of memorable experiences—summers roasting marshmallows around the campfire and school years feeling accepted around the lunch table.

Every kid deserves that.

As my daughter and I left the dental office, she carried a baggie with a toothbrush in one hand and a baggie with her newly-extracted tooth in another. The dentist had to pull it to make room for another. There always seems to be a little out with old, in with the new going on. 

Daughter: “Mom, do I get money for this tooth?”

Me: “Of course!”

Daughter: “Can you put it under my pillow?”

Me: “Sure!” I smile as she runs ahead to our truck. Due to some talk on the playground last year, she doesn’t believe in the Tooth Fairy anymore. But she still, at times, wants to experience that magical feeling of lifting up her pillow and finding the treasure. Who wouldn’t?

In some ways, she and her older brother and sister are growing up so fast. But in other ways, they’re hanging onto their childhood with all their might. Kind of like some of us are clinging to these dog days of summer.

Julie Jo Severson is mom to a teen, tween, and pretween and emerging freelance writer with two desks.  Click here to learn more about what’s inside this desk. Click here to view her other recent posts

About Julie Jo Severson

Julie Jo Severson, former PR girl, is now a freelance writer, journalist, editor, and lost-and-found attendant for two teens and a tween. This is where she doodles about past, present, future clinking glasses and making peace.

14 comments on “The August Dental Appointment

  1. Just yesterday I was beating myself up for being a summer slacker and not meeting my writing goals and at the same time was feeling sad because I don’t have kids at home anymore to get ready for school. At that very minute my oldest granddaughter called to tell me she was at her college orientation and wanted me to help her make some decisions. Teary moment. Now I need to catch up on the writing but I really want to go back to the beach.

  2. Great post, I’m that in between parent too. We didn’t get to all the museums (Ok we didn’t get to any) but we did get her to a tech camp and we did take a road trip. I’m bittersweet as summer ends once again.!

  3. I didn’t go to any museums either. At this point, my kids don’t get much out of them to be quite honest. Tech camp–well that’s something for sure! I don’t think I’d get my kids to one of those. Good luck this fall.

  4. This happens around May in India! Of course, the weather is hottttt…and many families quite literally head for the hills. They come back early June to the mad rush of a new school year. I don’t have kids, but I recall the thrill of getting new books in June. 🙂

  5. Would love to learn more about this time in India. You need to write a post about it! Or maybe you already did. Yes, the thrill of new books. Except now they’re all starting to go textbook-free with Ipads. Kind of sad, but easier on their backs I suppose.

  6. This is so beautifully written. My kids are long past the school age, but I remember those fears that I didn’t get to all that I wanted, that things wouldn’t go well for them at school. Things were always fine and good and now I get to watch the next generation which is always more fun!

  7. Thanks Rena. Yeah, it’s the most anxiety-ridden month for me. This summer, in particular, I feel as though I haven’t made good use of my time. As for back to school, I’m training myself to let go a little more and trust my children to figure some of those things out on their own. Because they can:)

  8. Oh gosh I’m so not ready for summer to end. My son asks me all the time about when he will lose a tooth. Honestly, I’m shocked it hasn’t happened yet, as he turned six in July and is very big for his age but I’m also grateful that it hasn’t happened. Such beautiful thoughts about summer and childhood and UGH to the dentist!!!

  9. The train of lost teeth is coming Kristi. It’s coming. And remembering to put the money under their pillow is something at which I’ve failed miserably. Usually takes me 2 or 3 nights and have had to explain many times how busy our tooth fairy is.

  10. Ah… this resonates with me so much. I have now since transitioned into school- and I’m proud to say I have survived the anxiety, the emotional turmoil, and the scattered scurrying of preparations. I’m always a hot mess each year. I keep thinking it should get easier by now… but it never does.

    Can you believe that my 7th grade daughter still believes in the Tooth Fairy? And Santa… and the Easter Bunny…

    I just can’t do it. I can’t tell her. She believes so adamantly, that when she hears about it being a total lie, she shakes it off as ridiculous thinking. That girl is a believer. I shudder to think about when the truth actually hits… God help me.

  11. Yeah, I know what you mean Christine. In a way, those third graders on the playground did me a favor:) I did help lighten the blow a little by telling each of my kids the story about St. Nicholas, who was actually, at least in my teachings, was the first “Santa” and that after he died, we parents took over. As for the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny, yeah, tough to explain/justify those ones.

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