13. a hundred dollars

My kids’ teeth began rotting out of their mouth when we lived in Costa Rica.  Every time we went to the dentist they had more than one cavity or, even better, a new brand-spangled unfamiliar dirty-tooth syndrome. I shook with exasperation as the dentist handed me another bill. We were taking an unemployed year off, it hurt more than usual to pay a few hundred dollars every single time we visited.    

It wasn’t that our kids inherited week teeth or their physical inability to brush that introduced bacteria to their unclean mouths. They understood the correlations between brushing and tooth decay. It was our collective habit. 

Our nightly routine went like this:

“Time for bed!” a parent declared. 

These magic words disappeared the kids who returned as incoherent, tempestuous, figgety, bumptious gremlins mumbling and groaning some version of this: Ug, blah! I don’t wanna. Grrrr.  Can I just? Blurp!  Wait a minute. Crash! I gotta… Shrlurp! No jammas on!  One more… glassawater. Grunk! Anotherbook. Schwip!  Whatabouta….Kissme!

They were slippery and wicked, deceiving and jittery, as they placed obstacle and challenge in front of being tucked into bed. Every detail of our hopeful routine was a negotiation; bedtime stories, music, water, PJs or not, read a book, room temperature, teeth brushing and dog barking. We’d maneuver them to the bed wishing as hard as we could “Just go the F*ck to sleep.”  

They finally would and maybe they would brush their teeth. I couldn’t remember.

A handful of bills later and after the dentist’s lecture clearly detailing that I could expect many more visits like this, I did something desperate.

“The next time I take you to the dentist and you don’t have any cavities, I’ll give you $100.” I told them.  I justified that $100 in their pockets was better than $300 or more I kept putting in the dentists hands for each of them.   

A few years later and they haven’t had a cavity since. 


C) Marika Reinke – Adventures in Art with Heart, Humor and Spirit.

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