What I Learned at the Dentist

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Last week Dad and I brought Mom to the dentist. It was slightly traumatic for all of us, but I learned some lessons of gentleness, respect and relationships…

Mom had a very hard time getting in and out of the car.  She had a hard time getting in the dentist’s chair.  And she totally didn’t understand why they were scraping around in her mouth.  She howled.  She yelled.  She cried, “Don’t do that!” and “Nobody cares about me!”  And “I want my Daddy” and “Ow!!” I’m sure the whole office heard it.

But the woman cleaning her teeth was so very patient and kind. She kept saying gently to Mom, “Thank you for helping.”

At one point Mom asked, “How am I helping?” And the dental assistant answered, “You’re holding your mouth open.  That helps a lot.” And gradually Mom became calmer.

That, along with some things I’ve been reading, made me think. As I gave Mom a bath yesterday I kept saying, in a gentle voice, “Thank you for helping.” The bath still had its moments, but overall it felt calmer. And so did Mom.

As I got her dressed, instead of just putting her dress on her, as I’ve become accustomed to lately, I said, “Here’s your dress.  Do you want to put it on yourself, or would you like me to help you?”

“You can help me, “she answered. And I didn’t get the screams and anger I’ve been getting lately.

There was still some stress involved, but I was surprised how just these simple things made it easier.

I can thank Mom for helping, in whatever capacity that looks like.  I can stay calm and gentle, with God’s grace. I can ask if she wants help, at least in some areas, and not just take over if it is something she could possibly do herself.

And as I think about it, aren’t those just good approaches for relationships in general? I want to give thanks wherever it is due, and keep a grateful heart. I want to depend on God and His strength to walk through life with a calm gentleness, trusting Him to work all things together for good.  And I want to love and help others in a respectful way.

Now I need to go write a thank you note to Mom’s dental office. And I suppose I should make an appointment for myself.  You never know the good things you might learn going to the dentist.

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