The Toothpaste Wars

Whenever I pick up something written about getting your children to sleep, it seems that the easy way (or rather the sure fire way) of getting your toddler to bed always entails a routine. This definitely seems to be the ticket, for it would appear that habit keeps the wee ones in check when they can anticipate what’s to come and know that in the end bed, and sleep, is the inevitable outcome.

This is what routines achieve for parents because once the small ones are asleep, you get that much-needed time for regaining sanity and tranquility through the joys of silence. Also it’s that time when parenting is over for the day despite the few wee cries, potty breaks, growing pains, thirsts, scary dream, etc. through the night. But before our little angels reach this daily epiphany, something in our house during this routine always seems to go completely haywire in disrupting the calm repetition that’s sought after - and it’s the love/hate relationship with the tooth brush!

Truly, my kids have all had this phobia as toddlers and for me its simply head-wrecking because getting them to bed should be a chain of events that calms them down! 

The love/hate toothbrush syndrome goes like this:

Excitement rises as we say, ‘Uppies’ which is the buzz word that signals time for bed and sends them up the stairs making their way for the routine. First it’s to the bedroom for jonyers (bedclothes), a few sneaked bounces on the bed, and then a race to the bathroom with exclamations of ‘tee’ coming from their mouths - meaning teeth. The pure excitement of getting their brush in hand is amazing. In fact I’ve often put a chair against the kitchen sink, put the tap on, and placed a child with tooth brush in hand to play with the water (prior to cryptosporidium problems)– and they love it. But bring out the toothpaste and a little supervision…and the war begins! And it does not matter what toothbrush or paste I buy. I consider myself lucky if I’m met with only a few screams and wails but quite often, regretfully, a slight silence sets in, and then anger and fury are majestically joined for a lovely tantrum. And it’s then that I just have to say I know why God made it so that a second set of teeth come for each child - because if not then this battle of cleanliness would never be won! I’m convinced that it would not matter if Bob the Builder himself or Peppa Pig stepped in to save the day. No way - the end result would be the same scenario.

The fact is that the tooth area is already hurting from numerous amounts of teething ailments and small gums are swollen due to the imminent arrival of new teeth. 

Combine this with a toddler’s new found independence and desire to “do this myself” and it’s a recipe for disaster. But there is hope, and that hope is age, it just calls for a little endurance. This is NOT advice for the child but rather for the frazzled parent.

At around three years of age the independent streak doesn’t wane but the teething pain does as well as the tantrums. When this occurs; finally, normality is restored to tooth brushing. Then you can adhere to the advisory directions for any given toothpaste that ‘for children under 7 years use a pea-sized amount for supervised brushing to minimize swallowing’. Minimize swallowing? Lovely - even the toothpaste is dangerous for kids - makes you wonder. And that’s a whole new issue…

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