Thanks Dad…for Dead Strawberries
After five kids, one would think that parents would have no problem choosing just the right toothpaste for their children. Sadly, in the kingdom of the Andrews and Jewskis, such is not the case. Rather with each passing princess comes a different affinity for the sticky substance that delicately cleans the white gate whose job it is to guard the unruly tongue. The older two, Brooklyn and Faith, have safely passed onto adulthood as far as dental hygiene is concerned preferring “Mom and Dad’s” toothpaste. The younger two female subjects, Liberty and Trinity make much of their desired brand, and the heir to throne, Justice can be found at various times throughout his day licking every last bit of residue from the lid, with blatant disregard for others’ wishes.
Yet, last Monday, while brushing her milk teeth just before prayers, my considerably chatty four-year-old, Trinity, with great eloquence and masterful prudence, made clear her wishes concerning the latest brand. With great sincerity she disclosed, “Daaalllldy” (not disrespectfully, that just how she says it, and following with complete composure…) “I thank you for this toothpaste, but it tastes like dead strawberries.” Then, she proceeded to brush. As if that wasn’t funny enough, Nina later informed me that the night before Trin told her it tasted like a dead tiger. Nina talked her into rotten strawberries, and the next night I get an amalgamation of the two – dead strawberries.
Didn’t Bill Cosby make a TV show out of stuff like that? I don’t know, maybe it was the way she said it…maybe it was the words she chose, but the lesson almost ran me over like a fawning press corps running to Barack Obama’s defense.
It made me want to go buy her the most expensive, best tasting, cavity fighting pediatric toothpaste in Portugal, right then. Leaving aside any attempt at deceit or flattery, she petitioned the proper authority without even asking the first question, simultaneously doing so with obedience and a side of thankfulness. She acted out of honesty but without thought of punishment or reprisals. There existed great liberty in her expression, albeit an expression of dissatisfaction. She pitched no fits, and stomped no feet, and made no demands on when she would or would not brush her teeth. Encompassed in all of this is my favorite lesson: She never once hinted at the expectation of good tasting toothpaste. While Trinity would like to brush her teeth without feeling like she has eaten from a compost heap, she never assumed entitlement.
Don’t mistake what I am saying for neglect. Clean teeth, I believe, for matters of health and hygiene, is a basic right for a four-year-old, but clean teeth scented with bubble gum and Little Mermaid designs enters into the realm of preferences and privileges. Teaching the difference between those two worlds – our needs and our wants – is paramount in raising children.
Most of you probably think that I make too much out of a toothpaste preference. I disagree, but let’s consider for a moment that you are right. One could reason, especially in the grand scheme of things, toothpaste should not be this big a deal. However, raising a generation of whiners and ingrates is.
Written by Michael Andrzejewski for the LaGrange Daily News.