Breakfast Battles
Positive Test

Self-Inflicted Wounds

Raphael had his second set of fillings today. He arrived last week for his first set of fillings and marched in with wary obedience. He climbed up in the chair and was very calm and compliant. And it went beautifully. I was awed at the dentist’s skill. Not only did she numb him up so it obviously didn’t hurt, he never saw – or FELT – a needle. It was amazing.
But in the hours after we left the dentist’s office, Raphael took to chewing on the numb inside of his cheek. We went to the pool for swim lessons and Raphael stood in front of me beside the baby pool, his brows knit as he gnawed away at this leaden slab of flesh between his teeth.
“No, Honey,” I told him, “don’t bite your cheek! It’ll hurt later if you bite it!” He looked back at me, puzzled. Whatever he felt with his teeth couldn’t be his cheek. He had no idea what I was talking about. So he bit, and I stuck my fingers in my mouth to try and stop him. He yanked his head away from me and went on chewing. Soon the line between his lips was traced with blood, and a drop of it drooled out of the corner of his mouth and down his chin. I winced and dabbed at his mouth with a wet towel, but he was oblivious.
Until the next morning, that is. He woke up with one puffy cheek and some serious pissyness. You could tell it hurt. A lot. But it didn’t stop him from eating just about anything. He just took the pain and gave it back as attitude. There was much screaming the next two days about such high crimes as being bumped in the knee by a passing brother. Or someone singing the song HE wanted to sing, and NO HE COULD NOT SING WITH SOMEONE ELSE. It was, after all, HIS SONG. At the slightest provocation Raphael would fling himself to the floor and wail, sobbing great rivers of tears. And sometimes he’d climb into my lap, curl his body around mine, and sigh sadly. It hurt.
I took him back to the dentist and had her look at the cheek. She peered in his mouth with her little mirror and light-on-a-stick, and said it looked as though he’d bitten right through his cheek.
Right. Through. His. Cheek.
Makes my knees weak, thinking about it.
But after a few days the swelling subsided and Raphael’s sunny temperament returned. I could tell he was back to normal when he started trying to USE the cheek to extract goodies.
“But ah NEED some candy,” he’d explain patiently, and pat his face gently, “for mah cheek.”
Well, we’d barely had time to recover from the cheek gnawing incident when it was time to go back for his next two fillings, this morning.
“We’re going to the DENTIST again this morning!” I said with false cheer.
“Dat dentist hurt mah cheek.” He scowled at me.
“No, the dentist didn’t hurt your cheek, YOU hurt your cheek. Don’t chew on it when it’s numb this time.” He glared, but thought about it for a while.
When it was time for his appointment, he nodded squarely and followed the hygienist back to the chair. “Ah not gonna bite mah cheek,” he informed her.
“GOOD!” she replied. They were pretty horrified by his wound too.
Then he proceeded to climb up and go mute with anxiety. I was sitting at his feet and could see him flex his legs with fear anytime the dentist came near his mouth. His hands moved vaguely under the paper bib on his chest, longing to push her instruments away. He never said a word, but the occasional whimper escaped his resolve. I sat at his feet, wishing I could somehow justify declaring dental care evil. Max climbed in my lap and scowled at the floor, humming with his brother’s tension. Tre sat next to me, playing his GameBoy, and muttering to Raphael, “It’s almost over. It’s ok. You get toys! It’s almost over.”
And after an eternity, it was. The dentist sat back, pulled off her mask, and told him what a wonderful job he’d done. He sat up, rubbing at wet eyes, and gave me a shaky smile. Then he started to chew on his cheek.
“NO!” we all shouted, making him jump. I picked him up and explained to him again that he couldn’t feel his cheek, but if he bit it, it would hurt later. He regarded me with huge dark eyes, and I hoped he was figuring it out.
For the rest of the day I watched him closely, occasionally peering into his mouth to check for chewing. I wondered how often I will feel this helpless over my sons’ choices. How many times will they wound themselves without realizing it? It doesn’t always feel like you’re hurting yourself when you are. Already I try to tell them not to do things for reasons that make no sense to them.
Don’t glare at people when you’re feeling shy.
Don’t throw things when you’re angry.
Don’t whine.
Don’t eat for entertainment.
These warnings earn me that same puzzled look Raphael gave me when he was scissoring through his pain-dulled cheek. And the consequences only grow. Will any of them listen as the stakes get higher?
Don’t speed.
Don’t do drugs.
Don’t have sex with crazy women.
I’m a worrier, as a mom. I worry about West Nile Virus, about estrogen-mimicking plasticizers, about strangers who leer, about cancer and acne and emotional stability. But the biggest danger to my boys is probably themselves. They are all seething cauldrons of IDEAS, and a certain percentage of those ideas are bound to be bad.
I can follow them around as much as I want, nattering about the dangers, but they won’t hear me. How can you understand danger if you’ve always been safe? They’ll have to cause themselves some pain.
Raphael did seem to understand, and his cheek looks ok tonight. As I laid him down in his crib, I patted that cheek and prayed that he would always be a fast learner.



Awwww. poor Raphi, and poor Mommy. I hope he wakes up pain-free today. And if not, maybe you and I can share some Xanax or something. ;)


Ahhhhhhh, poor little pumpkin. It's so hard to make them understand things like that. I hope there was no cheek biting.


Hugs to Raphi! Hugs to Mommy!


I'm surprised that he didn't try and convince you that a little boobie would make his cheek feel better



Oh, he did, Chris. Typical man! :)



We've been blog friends for a long time. Your site is now rejecting my URL no matter if I type "clear-lake-reflections" or with the HTML tag first. So, I can't comment anymore here without this kind of boring explanation. My name and email is being accepted, but my website in the URL field is rejected. That's why I removed you from my blog friends list. Nothing personal.



Uh I'd ust like to say OUCH that HURTS. Also "don't eat for entertainment" damn. Wish I had gotten that one a loooong time ago.

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