The World’s Most Difficult Science
College professors might argue that, in all of academia, the most difficult subject to comprehend and master is Quantum Physics. I disagree. I know for a fact, from years of experience, that the most difficult subject in the world to teach another human being is Dental Hygiene. I know this because in spite of immersing my five little human beings in this subject for at least thirteen years, they have yet to comprehend it. Though they can master incredible feats of engineering such as building a giant sling shot the size of our swing set in order to fling apples at the neighbor kids, or negotiate complex, high-powered contracts for later bedtimes, the science of tooth decay, or the prevention thereof, remains an enigma to them.
The dentist thinks of our family as an exciting challenge. “It’s always quite an adventure to clean your children’s teeth Mrs. Campbell. It’s like fishing in an old pond. You never know what you’re going to find…a rusty nail, someone’s lost quarter, an old shoe….maybe next time I’ll pull up a used tire.”
It’s not that I haven’t tried to teach them how to clean their teeth. Almost from birth I have lined them up in my bedroom every morning and every night and asked them the same question. “Children, have you brushed your teeth?”
Every morning and every night they give me the same answer, nodding like little angels.
“I don’t know what that silly old dentist was talking about,” I said to the children one night after they all confessed to being perfect in their toothbrushing habits. “He must have been exaggerating when he said he always sees dollar signs in front of his pupils when we walk in.”
My husband snorted from the living room. “That’s because you’ve been asking them the wrong questions. Ask them if they’ve brushed their teeth … this week.”
I looked over at the children, who were giving me confused stares, except for my teenage daughter who was glaring at me as if I had offended her personal honor. “Of course!” she said. “Why would you even ask that question? We did it last Saturday! Saturday is a special day you know. We had to get ready for Sunday.”
I gave my husband a weary look as he entered the bedroom.
“They must be brushing their teeth,” I said. “I have been replacing tubes of toothpaste like there’s no tomorrow.”
“Hmmmm,” said my husband as he marched down the line of children and inspected their teeth and gums. “Saturday, huh?” he asked our littlest one.
Our three year old grinned and nodded.
“And you used toothpaste?” asked my husband.
“Yep!” said our little boy. “My friend’s dog really needed a bath, so we used some to clean him up. That stuff smells really good.”
“Tastes good too!” said my five year old.
I slapped my hand to my forehead. “Kids! How many times have I told you not to eat the toothpaste?”
My eight-year-old said, “Don’t worry Mom. I stopped them before they could use it to draw pictures on the wall. I knew you wouldn’t like it.”
“Well, thank goodness for that,” I said.
“Instead I made them do it where you wouldn’t have to see it, on the sidewalk in front of Mr. and Mrs. Bones’s house.”
I slumped onto the edge of my bed. My husband patted my shoulder.
“Honey, you don’t have to worry,” he said. “I have the solution.” He walked over to his dresser and grabbed a bag. Then he reached inside the bag and pulled out some colorful automatic toothbrushes, shaped like famous movie characters.
The children cheered and ran to grab their favorite color.
“What? When did you get those?” I asked him.
“Today on my lunch break,” he replied, “after you told me what happened at the dentist.” He smiled. “I thought the kids could use a little extra incentive to brush more often.”
“My hero,” I sighed. “What would I ever do without you?”
My husband gave me a proud smile and raised his arms, puffing out his chest and flexing his muscles.
Just then, the cat flew by, yowling. It was followed a few seconds later by a stampede of squealing children with buzzing toothbrushes.
“Come back here, kitty! We just want to brush your hair,” yelled our youngest son, tripping and trailing after the mob.
Then our insightful eight-year-old came wandering back in to the bedroom, staring at her new toothbrush, which buzzed in endless circles, as if she had just solved one of the world’s greatest mysteries. “I could use this to clean the sides of my fish bowl,” she mused.
I looked over at my husband. His chest deflated.
“I guess I better start looking into more dental insurance,” he said.
“Yup,” I said, patting his deflated chest muscles. “But don’t worry. They’ll be able to pay for their own false teeth. Because by then, I’ll have taught them Quantum Physics.”