Dr Bradigan, DDS, Gun Runner

Today was Sam’s second dentist appointment. He’s been looking forward to it all week, for reasons he never really articulated. Generally, I think he likes being the center of attention, no matter what form.
Once we were there, he sank into himself, a little, huddled just a bit in the chair. I could tell he was nervous, but I stayed in my chair, across the room, smiling, relaxed, and he relaxed too. He eyed each instrument as she presented it, then eyed me, before allowing it in his mouth. Once, startled, he pushed away the little vacuum suction thingy, but immediately agreed to its return, and she gently and quickly cleaned every little tooth.
Watching him as he sat, mouth open, anxious to cooperate, I thought about authority, and the social contract. Elizabeth Roca just wrote a great piece for Brain, Child about the agreement we tacitly make with doctors on behalf of ourselves and our children–hurt me a little, help me a lot, in effect–but I was thinking more about what made him agree to hold so still and let her put her fingers, not to mention a lot of weird metal instruments, into his mouth. Did he want us to praise him? We did. Did he just not know what else to do? Or did he acccept our explanation, that a little discomfort is necessary to keep those teeth healthy? If that’s it, it will be interesting to see how well he accepts the three shots I know are coming up at his four-year check-up.
After they poked him and prodded him, brushed on a little floride (which he didn’t like) with his new toothbrush (which he did), he was all done. And as far as he was concerned, he was done. He was pleased, I was pleased, everyone was happy, but the dentist announced…a visit to the “Treasure Chest”.
What kid could resist that? They produced a plastic chest and gave him his choice–any one thing that he wanted.
It was a pretty sad selection. They must be about ready to go plunder and pillage up some more treasure, because all there was in the box were some mardi gras beads and a few sad little word game books…and, on top, a fabulous, gleaming, grandly wrapped toy, its green translucent plastic drawing all eyes. Sam snatched it immediately. “What is it?” he demanded, his eyes big. “What does it do?”

It was a water pistol. A small, cheap, fire a sad little stream for three days and never work again water pistol. That’s what it was. Or, looked at another way, it was the final blow to his babyhood. Because once you pull that trigger, there’s no going back. This water pistol may not work long, but you know that once there’s one, there will be others. But I handed it to him, almost without hesitation. “It’s a squirt gun. You fill it with water, pull this–hold it like this, see?–and it squirts water.”
He was thrilled. He squirted it into the tub all afternoon.

Do I really care about this, the most innocuous toy gun possible? No, actually, I don’t. I had toy guns. I played shooting games and Charlie’s Angels and I would have killed (so to speak) for a super soaker. They’re fun. I’ll get one, too, and we can shoot at each other all summer.

But we’re one step closer to the moment he realizes–or asks–what a real gun is for, and I do hate the thought of that. Oh, well.

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79 Responses to “Dr Bradigan, DDS, Gun Runner”

  1. JK says:

    I remember one conversation you and I had a long time ago about whether we should let little Nat watch Star Trek with us or not. She was about 3 months old at the time and I believe you didn’t think we should–or maybe I’m attributing the conversation to you incorrectly, but I know I had it with someone and I think it was you. I think we let Nat watch the show with us (for as long as she was quiet, but somehow she knew when our attention wasn’t centered on her so it was never for very long, so I don’t think the images of violence made it into her little 3 month old brain).

    As you know, Sam is just much more sensitive than Nat, and I’m sure when he does ask you what they are for, he will be shocked and appalled and not want to play with them (because he’s such a sweetie). It is interesting watching them grow up and wondering about how we introduce these concepts to them. I keep going with “need to know info” in a very matter of fact way. (The other day she asked me if Kira made a hole in my stomach when she came out and I told her, “no, there is already a hole for the baby to come out, but it’s just really small until it’s time for the baby to come out.” That’s an example of need to know info.) I keep wondering if I’m not expressing enough opinions for her to make better judgements about the information I am giving to her. Maybe I’m being too matter of fact. Anyway… sorry to leave such a long and only semi on topic comment…

  2. KJ says:

    Mmm…I think that was indeed me. I remember making Rob turn off some cop show when Sam was small–of course, he has the images of 9/11 indelibly burned into his brain.
    The squirt gun is already, like, so over. It’s hard to say whether Sam will want to play with guns when he understands them better. His friend Joey wants to play monster and try to scare people, and it really upsets him. But he’s still young, and he’s definitely very boyish, cooking abilities and sweetness notwithstanding. Time will tell.
    Wholly with you on the need to know thing. SOmeday I’ll post the story about the time Sam asked how babies get into mommies tummies.

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