I’ve made many humiliating parental admissions on this blog.

You guys know that I only bathe my children twice a week.

You are aware that I never make their beds.

You have been apprised of my issues with Sippy Cups and Mold.

So you probably won’t be shocked that I’m not the best teeth-brushing mother, either.

(And although I’ve tried to be a flossing mother, it’s really a ridiculous undertaking since the gaps between their teeth are so large that it’s like rubbing a piece of yarn between two houses an acre apart and expecting to pick up some paint chips.)

But back to brushing.

Ali is responsible for her own teeth, and she does a decent job, although she must be reminded two times a day because heaven forbid a kid actually realize that they are responsible for the same things every single day.

I mean really. There’s just no logic to expecting her to know that she is required to brush her teeth today just because she was required to do so yesterday. And last week on this day. And last month on this day. And last year on this day.

Moving on.

Then there’s Noah.

I’ve been riding high on the fact that he’s gotten four good dentist reports, and have let this undeserved success fuel me in my lack of proper attention to his teeth.

(And I might also occasionally tell myself “Eh, they’re only baby teeth!”)

It’s not that I don’t try.


It’s just that he doesn’t appreciate my efforts and he’s a professional wiggler and whiner, so short of me buying a cast-off set of stocks from a medieval torture chamber estate sale or a second-hand straight jacket from a Mental Institution Going Out of Business Everything Must Go Sale, I’m not going to be able to force him to let me properly clean his teeth.


So I do my best at night before he starts screaming and thrashing (because I’m supposedly hurting him but just wait till he feels how comfortable a straight jacket is), and sometimes I don’t even try in the mornings.

If I’m feeling really lazy, I’ll just ask Ali to brush his teeth while they’re in there together, and I don’t check up on them so I don’t have to feel guilty about her seven-year-old sub-par cleansing of her brother’s mouth garden.

Because I’m the best sort of Mommy.

Last Thursday night was one of those times.

I had taken the kids out of town by myself (more on that adventure later), and by nightfall I was exhausted. We’d skipped nap, we’d had adventure and intrigue, we’d walked and shopped and explored, I’d never had a second of alone time to regroup, and they’d asked a combined total of 1,238 questions.

There was no hope of having the patience for a screaming teeth-brushing fest in my immediate future.

So I sent Ali and Noah to the tiny hotel bathroom and instructed Ali to brush her teeth, then Noah’s.

The difference, however, was that I could see the children from my reclining comatose position on my hotel bed.

And what I saw changed the world…forever.

I did not see a screaming, whining, thrashing toddler.

Nor did I see a seven-year-old make a cursory toothbrush swipe across her brother’s face to be able to say she obeyed me.

I saw this.


A toddler willingly opening his mouth for his sister.

When she told him to.

Wider than he has ever opened his mouth for me.

Then, this.


My son accepting a thorough brushing of his teeth – with a smile.

A SMILE!! And even a giggle or two.

Then, THIS:


She said “Say eeee!” And he actually said eeee.


Every single night I tell that same kid to say eeee and he acts like he has no freaking idea what I’m talking about. Never, has he ever, put his teeth together and opened his lips to allow me to brush his teeth like a real human being!

I had chalked it up to him being three and not a bright firstborn and simply not understanding my commands. Now, I see that he is certainly bright. And extraordinarily talented at hiding his brightness.

And that his mouth can indeed open happily when a toothbrush is nearby.


And that his Magical Sister will forevermore have the responsibility of brushing his teeth.


The game is up, son. The game is up.

19 thoughts on “The Brush of Death.

  1. Whooooooa. Ali is MAGIC. That’s pretty incredible.

    After our first dentist report turned out good (my firstborn was four and my second born was two before I took them to a dentist because I’m just so on top of things like that) I became obsessed with continual good reports. So I let my boys pick out their own electric toothbrushes. Letting them pick their own actually did help them want to use them. Although it’s still a battle sometimes. The two year old full on runs from us sometimes and has to be wrestled back into the bathroom. Fun times.

  2. That is awesome! And I now have some insight as to why my mother probably had me bath my (8 years younger) brother so often when we were kids! (And for what its worth, I have the EXACT same emotions about brushing my kids’ teeth. So much apathy, frustration and guilt.)

  3. HELP ME JESUS. My two year old has mastered the lock jaw technique when I say, “Open Up! Let’s Brush! This is going to be Fun!” He screams at me and I try to stick his toothbrush in his mouth between screams. Then he clamps down with the jaws of life again except now the toothbrush is in his mouth and I cant get it out. Same ordeal, every night.

    I am trying this tonight! I pray I get the same results as your family!!!!

  4. Maybe Noah sees it as a game when Ali does it, as opposed to some Mom-enforced torture regimen. Whatever the reason for his compliance, those photos are super cute. :)

  5. That’s awesome! The turning point for us was when I was showing the toddler a video an astronaut made showing people around the space station and she showed how she brushed her teeth. It immediately became, “look! astronauts brush their teeth!”

  6. you are a parenting GENIUS! LOL _ i’m so making my daughter brush her brothers teeth tonight! And, for what it’s worth “And extraordinarily talented at hiding his brightness.” – aren’t all men good at this when it gets them out of doing something???

  7. such punks are toddlers! i’m super bad about brushing the babies teeth, though he loves it. and i mean it when i say super bad. but he only has 4 teeth so it can’t be that bad. :D

  8. Sadly my kids teeth aren’t brushed nearly as much as they should be. I’m glad I’m not the only one that slacks on this. To make you feel better… I have the 3 yr old brush the 2 yr old’s teeth. You articulated it perfectly about leaving the guilt behind to whatever is happening in there. My poor boys.

  9. Haha! Carter is this way about talking. I can ask him all day to say something and he refuses, but the second Landon tells him to say it he morphs into a talking parrot.

  10. My girls are 12 and 10 and they still have yet to understand that brushing their teeth will happen every day, 3x a day no matter what; My youngest is like Noah when it comes to me getting a toothbrush in her mouth; she pulls away and acts like she’s dying . And of course she is the one who when I took her to the dentist for the first time at 3 had 4 cavities. Talk about feeling like a failure as a mom.

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