Weekly Column: Just Lie to Me

©Stephenie Freeman

For the first time in my life, I finally used up a whole roll of dental floss. That has never happened before. Ever.

I always feel guilty when the dental hygienist gives me that little baggie full of stuff at the end of my visit, the one with a toothbrush, a tiny tube of toothpaste, and floss. I never have the heart to tell them that there are about twenty-eight rolls of dental floss in my bathroom drawer that I’ve been collecting since 1978.

I hate going to the dentist. Not because I am afraid that it is going to hurt or because I know that they will find at least one cavity that needs to be filled. I hate going to the dentist because sitting in that chair turns me into a big, fat liar.

“Are you flossing, Mrs. Freeman?” the hygienist asks while scraping my teeth with an iron hook.

“Uh, huh. Of course.” I lie in a mumble through the fingers in my mouth.

But the plaque and food particles are giving me away. The hygienist lets me get away with it; lets my little white lie be the big white elephant in the room.

I’ve been lying to the dentist for as long as I can remember, but I am ashamed to admit that my lying has now carried over into my children’s dentist visits as well.

“They always brush twice a day.” (That is, when we remember.)

“They just love brushing their own teeth.” (Actually, they hate it so much that it requires me putting them into a head lock.)

“They’re great about flossing.” (Not really, but it sounds good doesn’t it?)

My problem is in the timing. At the beginning of the day I usually don’t remember to brush their teeth until we are in the car and half way to school, and at the end of the day, especially the ones that have been particularly long and stressful, flossing is simply one more thing standing in between me and the ultimate goal—my bed.

It’s awful that I lie about my flossing habits, but it is downright horrifying that I have started lying about my own children’s. I am well aware of the terrible example that I am setting, especially since we’ve been working on the whole “no lying” thing with the Cheese who as recently discovered the fine art of fibbing.

“Did you wash with shampoo?” I recently asked him from outside the shower door.

“Uh…yeah…uh-huh…sure.” Lucky for me, my new little liar still isn’t very good at it. I opened the door and smelled his head. He simply smiled as I gave him “the look”, handed him the shampoo bottle and shut the door.

I continued to talk to the shower door. “Cheese, you know that what you just did? It’s is called lying and you shouldn’t do it.”

“But Mom,” he yelled back at me, “you do it. I heard you lie to that lady at the dentist the other day. You did. I heard you.”

I realized that this was a make-it-or-break-it parenting moment. I could either choose the high road, telling him that he’s right and that it is wrong and I shouldn’t do it, or I can choose the easy way out and lie.

But on this particular night, I was not in the mood to excel in parenting or lying, so I chose instead to lead by example. “Time to get out and brush your teeth,” I tell him. “We need to remember to floss too. You and me both.”

With a towel wrapped around him and his glasses starting to fog up, he smiled as he says, “Sure, Mom. Whatever.”

“I’m not kidding, Cheese. We are going to start flossing every night. All of us.”

“Oh, sorry Mom,” he said with a smile. “I thought you were lying.”

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