Archive for the ‘ Must Read ’ Category

Dental Care For Kids: Q&A

Thursday, February 23rd, 2012

Thanks to everyone who joined me at the American Baby Q&A session today on Facebook!  For those who missed it or anyone who’s looking for information on kids’ dental care, I thought I’d put together a post of the most commonly asked questions, and a few things I didn’t get to mention.  (Note: this post, just like any information on the internet, does not substitute for an exam and regular dental care– see your dentist for any specific concerns.)

When should I schedule my child’s first dental visit?

The official recommendation is by one year of age or the first tooth, whichever comes first.  The purpose of the first visit is to establish a dental home for your child, to educate you (the parent) about proper home care and diet, and to start establishing healthy dental habits and introduce the child to the dental office environment.

When should I start brushing, and what kind of toothbrush should I use?

You should start brushing as soon as the first tooth appears.  (Some parents like to wipe the gums with a clean finger or washcloth even before teeth start coming in, to get the baby used to the parent cleaning their mouth.)  You can use any brand of kid-sized toothbrush.  I like the Oral-B Stages brushes because they are appropriately sized for different ages.  If you choose an electric toothbrush, be aware that the technique is different.  With a manual brush you do the scrubbing motions, angling the bristles toward the gumline.  With an electric brush you hold the brush still for several seconds in one area and then move on to the next.

When should I start using regular toothpaste?

As soon as the first tooth appears!  The “training” (fluoride-free) toothpaste is actually not necessary.  Until your child learns to spit out well (around age 4), you should use a tiny smear the size of a grain of rice, twice a day.  It is assumed that the child will swallow it, but such a tiny amount is not considered to be harmful.

What about flossing?  When do I need to start, and how can I get my child to let me do it?

When the teeth touch each other (no spaces between them), you can start flossing.  Let your child watch you floss first so they know it’s not a bad thing.  You can try the mini-flossers that look like a plastic hook with floss threaded through it, and let your child hold one and play with it before you try any actual flossing.

(more…)

Add a Comment

Stepping Up

Monday, February 13th, 2012

Sometimes, the hardest thing you ever have to do as a parent is make a decision for you.

People keep asking me why I want to join the military. What the draw is for me. “Don’t do it just for the money,” they tell me. “Don’t do it just for the travel. Don’t do it just for the adventure.”

I’m not doing it “just” for any of those things. And none of those things are the major reason for me, anyway.

If I just wanted to travel and do field dentistry, I could volunteer abroad a few times a year. If I just wanted to leave Connecticut, I could move. If I just wanted financial stability, I’d go into private practice. If I just wanted to do dental work for soldiers, I’d be in the civilian service of the military or work at the VA. If I just wanted loan repayment, I’d work for the National Health Service Corps or the Indian Health Service. If I just wanted to avoid dealing with the business aspect of dentistry or malpractice, I’d work in a community health center. If I just wanted broader experience with procedures and new technology, I’d do another residency.

I don’t “just” want any of those things. I want all of them. With the Army I can have them, and more. I can do all of those things, and move with my daughter to a brand new place and join an already-established commmunity. I can do for my patients exactly what they need, without worrying about insurance coverage and whether or not they can pay for the treatment I believe they should have. For that reason, the military is a fantastic place to train as a new dentist.

According to all the Army dentists I’ve talked to, I should assume that I will deploy at some point just to be mentally prepared, but with Iraq over and Afghanistan winding down, it’s more likely that I won’t be deployed than that I will.  If/when I am, it will be for around 4.5 months, and I will be doing the field dentistry that I love.  (I had tried to do the Air Force, because they have shorter and less frequent deployments, but they don’t have any openings for general dentists at this point.)

Obviously there are downsides and hassles and risks. I don’t think anyone would seriously consider being sent far away from their child if the overall package wasn’t something they were very interested in for many reasons. Do I think I’ll make a whole career of it? Maybe, but probably not. But for the next three years, at least, I believe that this is the best career decision I could make. It isn’t spur-of-the-moment, either– I’ve talked about doing this off and on since I was in college, eight years ago.

This is hard for me to say, but I have always been completely honest in what I write and I don’t plan on stopping now…

When you have a child years before you plan to, and your career is very important to you, you are bound to hold some degree of resentment toward the immense, sometimes overwhelming responsibility that is your child… no matter how much you love them. I love my daughter more than life itself, but there are already enough things that I have no control over because I have her, that I wish I could do or wish I did not have to do.

I can’t let this be one of them. I will always wish that I had done it and I don’t want to resent being a mother.

The last time I did something like that, I took a year off from dental school to stay at home with Caroline, and back-burnered my own career so that Tyler would not have to. I sat at home alone, feeling like I had no control over my life or anything that happened to me. And I ended up stumbling around in a haze of postpartum depression and I could barely take care of my daughter, let alone myself. Even the memories of that time are foggy to me now.

To raise your child happy, you have to be happy. That is why I got divorced. That is why I’m doing this.

If I truly believed that I would be harming her, then I would not do it. But what is the cost to her, really, in the grand scheme of things? She moves to a new place. It gets harder for her to see her father, who hasn’t been consistently involved in her life anyway. If or when I get deployed, she will miss me terribly for a few months. And I will miss her. I know it will be unimaginably hard to spend that much time away from my daughter. But a few months spent away from her, one time, will not matter that much over the course of our whole lives. She will be with people she loves, and I will talk to her every day.

She will have amazing experiences, she will be part of a close-knit community, she will have financial stability and an undergraduate education paid for under the GI bill (assuming I stay in the reserves long enough).  She will have a mother and a role model who is happy and fulfilled in her career.  And she will be proud of me and the things I have done.  I wrote not too long ago that being a single parent should never be the reason you don’t follow a dream– it should be the reason you do.  I believe in that statement, totally and completely.

And if none of those things work out the way I had hoped and we both hate it, then, well, it was only a few years of our lives and at least I followed my heart and did what I felt was right, and I will have no regrets or lingering resentment for what might have been. Sometimes… you have to take a leap of faith.

If I were the kind of person to play it safe, I would be sitting here still married to Tyler and wishing, every minute of every day, that I had a different life. If you want a certain life you can’t sit around and hope that it will come to you. You have to step up and take it for yourself.

This is me, stepping up.

Army, here we come.

Add a Comment

“I Don’t Know How You Do It”

Friday, January 27th, 2012

Working moms, has anyone ever said to you, of your life with a job and a family, and possibly school or whatever else you do– “I don’t know how you do it?”

Scratch that. It’s not a question. I know you’ve heard that before.

These people mean well. And hey, I’m certainly not complaining. It’s a compliment, really. It means they respect you and the things you have accomplished. But although I’m appreciative of their admiration, I can’t help but think that they don’t exactly understand.

I was chatting with a friend this week and we somehow got talking about traveling, and I was telling him about the trip I took to Belize to do dental work. He leaned back in his chair and looked at me and said, “I don’t get how you’ve done so many things with your life, in spite of the fact that you have a kid.”

It was a compliment, but, well… he doesn’t quite get it, does he?

We don’t do things in spite of the fact that we have children. We do things because we have them.

I finished dental school and travel and write and do all the other things I’ve done (and all of the things I want to do) because I want to be the kind of woman my daughter wants to be when she grows up. I want her to respect me and look up to me and basically just think that I am really, really cool. I want to be her biggest role model. I want her to be proud of me.

And most of all, I want her to have all the opportunities I’ve had, and more.

Being a single mom does make having a career more difficult and complicated, I certainly won’t argue with that.  But Caroline isn’t some impediment that I’m trying to work around– she’s the reason and motivating factor behind everything I do.

When I graduated from dental school (at last), I wrote that Caroline was not an obstacle to my achievement, but my biggest motivation and the reason I never lost sight of my goal. And I think that’s how it is for all of us who choose to take on both a career and motherhood simultaneously. Being a parent, and to a greater degree, a single parent, should never be the reason you don’t follow a dream.

It should be the reason you do.

Add a Comment

And Now For Something Completely Different

Thursday, January 12th, 2012

Have you ever had an idea about something you think you might like to do with your life, but the circumstances just are never quite right? You keep coming back to it, spinning in circles around it, feeling out your options, but never make the final decision to do it.

For a lot of people I think this idea is going back to school, or maybe starting their own business or opening a restaurant, or a home daycare, or moving across the country or overseas, or quitting work to stay at home with their kids. It’s the thing you’d choose to do in a heartbeat if you were another, less-practical version of yourself.

For me, that idea is joining the Army to work as a military dentist.

There are a lot of reasons I want to do it. It’s a great way to travel, experience new places, develop leadership skills, practice dentistry without worrying about any of the business aspects, and of course the benefits and bonuses are unbelievable and include student loan repayment. As a dentist I would be direct-commissioned as a captain, and would have some degree of authority and choice over where I was stationed. It would allow me to start over in a brand new place with an already-built-in community. And if I’m ever going to do it, now would be the time– before I’m involved with a private practice, before Caroline is old enough to be in school, and while I am free and single and unattached.

So? Here goes nothing. I’m gonna do it. I’m joining up.

If you’re going to make a major change in your life, I firmly believe you should make the choice that you keep coming back to when you are really and truly on your own, when your own happiness doesn’t depend on another person. This is that choice for me. Maybe it would be better for my daughter if I stayed here forever, near people she knows and kept her in the daycare she is used to. I am also running the very real risk of deployment and leaving her behind (though it would be only for a few months). But she needs a happy mama, too, and change is a part of life. Stability for her does not have to equal stagnancy for me.

Sometimes, being a good mother doesn’t mean playing it safe. It means making choices for yourself, that keep you going, that keep you alive and passionate and engaged in your life and in what you do. As long as those decisions aren’t actually irresponsible or detrimental to your child’s well-being, I firmly believe that stepping outside the box can make you be a better parent. For me, my divorce was one of those choices. This is another.

Maybe I will hate it. I’m a hippie and a liberal and I’ve never touched a gun. Maybe the time spent away from my daughter to go to boot camp will prove to be too much for me and for her. Maybe this is a completely crazy decision and I’m being a total lunatic. I won’t know until I’m in it and there’s no going back. But all I know is, the idea makes me feel alive in a way that no other career option does for me right now. I applied unenthusiastically for several jobs in private practices here in Connecticut and never answered any of the replies, because my heart just wasn’t in it.

My heart is in this.

And if I don’t do it, I will always wonder, and wish that I had done it.

I called one of my friends and told her about my plan, and she said nothing for a moment. Then she sighed through the phone and said, “Jules, you are a crazy person. Totally and completely insane. But you’ve got more balls than any dude I know.” (I’m sure it’s a measure of my craziness that I was nothing but flattered by that assessment.)

So bring it on: the next big adventure in my life, and Caroline’s. Sure, there are downsides and there are risks. But overall, it’s an incredible opportunity for both of us… And I’m gonna reach out and take it.

Add a Comment

Please Don’t Tell My Little Girl She’s Pretty

Monday, December 12th, 2011

Well, here’s an awkward topic for you.

My ex-mother-in-law always used to gush about how pretty Caroline was, to the point that it was almost uncomfortable.  (I’m allowed to say this now because of the “ex” part.  I think.)  And I’m not just talking about the way your in-laws can annoy you no matter what they say.  “You’re so pretty, Caroline,” she’d coo. “You’re such a doll.  A beautiful little doll.  You are gorgeous.  What a pretty girl.”  And so on, and so forth.

And I know this is horrible of me to think, and rude of me to say, but… I really don’t care for it when people go on and on to my daughter about how pretty she is.

It’s not that I don’t think she is.  I mean, she’s my kid.  I think she’s beautiful.  But must we zero in on little girls’ appearances and ignore all the other great qualities about them?

What’s wrong with “You’re such a smart girl”?  “You’re so creative”?  “You’re so good at drawing”?  “You know so many words”?  Sure, tell her she’s pretty, because she is… because all children are.  But don’t leave it at that.  She isn’t even three yet, but everything anyone says to a toddler leaves an impression, and so a repeated focus on “prettiness” only tells her that it’s her appearance that is important, that it’s her blue eyes or her blonde highlights that people think are her best qualities, and not her big vocabulary or her sharp curiosity about everything around her.

There are enough messages lurking out there in the world for our little girls about appearance, prettiness, skinniness.  There’s enough emphasis on it in the media and in society and in everything they’ll see and hear and read.  Must they hear it from their family, their friends, their role models, that what matters most to us, and therefore to them, is the curl in their hair or the length of their eyelashes?

It seems silly, it seems subtle, it seems frivolous and picky and unimportant and possibly even ungrateful, I’m sure, for me to be griping about this.  But I have seen so many times the way my smallest, most offhand comment can make the biggest impression on my little girl.  I don’t want everyone she meets to reinforce the message that is already rampant out there… that what’s important is not what you have in your brain, but what you see in the mirror.

I want her to grow up secure in the knowledge that it doesn’t matter what she looks like.  That although it’s all well and good to be considered attractive, her time is better spent learning math or biology or a foreign language than how to count calories or apply makeup.  When I was in middle school, I’d have given anything to be the pretty and popular girl, and now I’d give anything to go back and tell myself that really, none of that would matter in ten years, or even five.

I appreciate that so many people in my life think that my little girl is beautiful, because I think she is too… inside and out.  But she is also so many other things, and for the sake of her self-esteem, I’d prefer to focus on those.

What do you think?  Does it bother you when others focus solely on your child’s appearance, or do you simply take it as a compliment and move on?

Add a Comment