Highs and lows

February 04,2009
Professor Mom
Aliki McElreath( )

Aliki is a writer and college English teacher. She lives in North Carolina with her husband, two children (ages seven and ten), a dog, a cat, a rabbit, and too many fish.

We finally sold our old minivan yesterday--months and months after a small handful of offers and near-sales fell through. As we ate celebratory pizza at a favorite pizza place (there's something extra special about going out for pizza, I think, instead of ordering it in), we talked about what a nice feeling it was to have a little extra cash. We didn't talk about any grand plans for spending it, because we don't have any--it's all earmarked, more or less, for practical things like medical co-pays. But it was a nice feeling to have it and to know that, in selling the van, we helped another couple out--we made it possible for them to pick their kids up early from daycare, saving them a few hundred bucks a month. The best feeling, though, was knowing we had a nest egg of sorts to fall back on. Isn't that the greatest--the weight of that extra money in your pocket and the knowledge that it's there to help you out if times get tough? The bliss of the feeling didn't last long, though. We returned home last night to find a fairly large medical bill waiting for us, and then yesterday I took the kids to the dentist and found out that T., who brushes her teeth all the time--and flosses, too--needs an estimated $1,416 in dental work. L., of course, who has to be cornered into brushing once a day, has perfectly healthy teeth. Luckily, T. is too young to pick up on the irony of this, but I didn't miss it. And I could tell that poor T. felt deflated after her appointment--as though she had done something wrong. It didn't help that Dr. D., the dentist, showed her a creepy model of a mouth with cavities in it. It also didn't help to be lectured on cutting out sugary sweets and too much juice, and Dr. D. didn't seem to care much when I told him how seriously we take nutrition at our house, thank you very much, and how I didn't even let T. eat much sugar at all until she was almost two. He also didn't bat an eyelid when I told him about how I breastfed T. until she was 23 months old, and was sure to clean both my children's gums with a wet washcloth when they were infants, just like I was told to do. But there, in front of Dr. D.'s accusing eyes, we were no better than the parents who let their tots fall asleep sucking on a bottle of formula, or, god forbid, the parents who fill their kids' sippy cups with grape Koolaid, or the ones who let them munch on frosted cereal right before bed, and chew Now-and-Laters for a mid-morning snack. I sighed and gave up trying to convince Dr. D. that we weren't those people. And in the interest of stressing the importance of National Children's Dental Health Month, don't be those people, either. After the appointment, the kind lady in the dentist's office who helps shell-shocked parents deal with high dental bill estimates explained to me that insurance should cover a portion of it; how much, though, remains to be seen, and we'll be lucky if they cover much at all. I also had to sign a scary document about "conscious sedation" and, in signing it, I remembered with a twinge of sadness how we'd signed a few of these before for T.--too many for her five years--signed forms for sedation for CT scans and that scary MRI, not to mention the whopper of a scary document we signed before she had her surgery when she was six months old. Poor T. just can't get a break, medically, it seems--and inheriting someone's bad teeth just doesn't seem fair. And now I'm off to research children's storybooks about dental procedures, hoping we can offset the trauma of this next event. Any been there, done that advice?