5th year lessons

I learn from all my kids – quite often things about myself (some things fairly unflattering), and other times things about life. The Ringlets are all the same and all different, in the way of people raised together, and Grant (5) in particular is by nature a political animal. He wants to meet people, and find out about them. While the twins are mostly interested in each other, Grant is interested in the world.

Today Grant had his second (and hopefully last) dentist appointment with the pediatric dentist. This dentist is more than an hour from home, so we only see this one for cavities. Last night, Grant told me, “mom, I’m nervous about tomorrow. I’m nervous that my mouth will be sleepy and I’ll bite my cheek.” This is the “one rule” the dentist gives kids after they get novocaine. (There are other rules, like “no sticky candy” and “floss,” but he really stresses the biting the cheek thing.) Grant thinks deeply about the things that worry him, and he talks about them with a trusted party (it me!). He listens to the answers I give him, and we discuss the logistics until he feels better.

At the dentist, Grant introduces me, and himself, to everyone, and asks their names. “My mom’s name is Zandy. Zandy Ring. I’m Grant. What’s your name?” He naturally brings people together and assumes comfort with all parties. He chats with the dental hygienist and has her walk him through all the tools that will be used. When Grant isn’t sure about something, he brings it up right away, and keeps asking questions until he understands. He’s got a natural curiosity and need to understand that helps him orient in the unfamiliar.

When the dentist walked into the room, Grant said “why weren’t you waiting here for us? Last time you said you’d be waiting in the room for us.” This is what Grant and the dentist talked about at his last appointment. Grant remembers specific commitments and holds himself and others accountable. Further, I got the sense that Grant would have preferred to hear a truth he didn’t want to hear, than a platitude. He was a bit let down that the dentist had to see other patients, and knew he would, when he’d told Grant he’d be waiting in-room for him. Grant values the truth, even when he fights tooth and nail against it. His convictions are very strong but loosely held. He’s more than capable of adjusting his worldview as he reasons through information.

Grant asked me this morning on our drive if I thought he could earn five prizes for being good today. I told him that I was pretty sure the dentist only offered a maximum of three prizes. He nursed that information for awhile, and changed the subject. When he was learning about Mr. Thirsty with the hygienist, he asked her, “do you think if I’m very good, I can earn five prizes today?” She said three was the max, but she was also very clearly charmed. After gently scolding the dentist, Grant asked the dentist if he could earn five prizes. The dentist laughed and said that three was the max. Grant attempted to compromise at four prizes, but they finally settled at three – and only if Grant was very well-behaved. Grant asks for what he believes he deserves, but is open to compromise. (He did, in fact, earn three prizes.)

While Grant was getting settled in the big chair, he told his dentist that he’d told his teacher that he couldn’t have sticky candy anymore, so she understood the dentist’s rules as well. The dentist was pretty impressed (so I was also impressed, I’m an easy mark – just tell me how smart my babies are), and told Grant he had a really good memory. Grant knew this already, and said, bemusedly, “yes, I know.” Grant doesn’t seek out compliments for his inherent behavior (having a good memory); but he does for his accomplishments (earning prizes for following the rules).

As we got into the car to come home, Grant heaved a sigh and said, “I wish I could come back here again.” I reminded him that we only come to this dentist if he has cavities, and we don’t want him to have cavities. He understood and accepted that information, but sighed again and said, “this is the best day of my life.” I suggested he could send the dentist a drawing, so he’d know how much Grant appreciated visiting. Grant decided to dictate a letter to me, which went something like, “dear dentist, I like the dentist, and I liked visiting you, and I love the dentist. I want to come back, but here is a sticker,” here, obviously I am to affix a sticker, “I will see you soon, love Grant.” I may have left some phrasing out as I was driving and it’s hard to take dictation while driving. Grant let himself feel his sorrow, and channeled it into something he could feel excited about. He instructed me to buy “those folded things that the mail comes in” (envelopes) and that we would work on this after work today. You’ll be relieved to learn that I have envelopes at home already.

Grant is a thorough mix of wise and age-appropriate childishness. He throws tantrums. He routinely pelts his siblings with toys (and yesterday, a five-pound weight). He shrieks in an attempt to better his odds. In other words, he’s five. But when approaching the world outside our house, he engages his other set of innate skills – curious, social, authoritative, excited, and engaged. He’s got quite a catalog of skills for a measly five years (actually nearly 6) of life, and I can only imagine what wonders the next five hold for him and for the rest of us.

He asked me yesterday to “take a silly one” with him. I think I was sillier.

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