I Ordered Non-Phobic Children, Thank You.
“I’m afraid it’s not today, sir.”
The dental receptionist gave me a sympathetic look.
“Their appointments are for June.”
She handed me back the same appointment reminders I’d filled in less than an hour before – one for my daughter, one for my son – sure enough, clear as day and in bold the date staring back at me from both letters stated that our presence at the enamel emporium was not required for another whole month.
I quickly made light of the snafu and she laughed in mock sympathy before re-booking an appointment I’d missed a few weeks before. I then rounded up the kids and quietly explained to them that daddy had made a mistake and taken them out of school early for no good reason.
And that’s about the point I got the idea for this particular post.
You see, far from being the jubilant ‘happy to have dodged that bullet’ response I expected from my mini-spawns, my declaration of ignorance was met with harmonised noises of disappointment. For the second time in less than two minutes the only response my (obviously failing) brain could muster was, “really?” Then my temporal lobes re-booted and the distant voice of my fifteen year-old self reminded me that phobias are a learned behaviour.* Whether they’re learned from a child’s day-to-day environment, such as a fear of going outdoors if you live in a rough neighbourhood, or manifested by exposure to the unfamiliar, like ophidio- or arachnophobia, the vast majority of phobias are learned as we grow and not pre-programmed in our genetics.
As they’ve spent the last couple of years having the damage caused to their front teeth by milk bottles sorted out (seriously, stick with the breastfeeding and buy some cabbage leaves, then get them straight onto sippy cups; you’ll save yourself and your children a whole load of trouble) my mini-spawns are used to seeing the dentist and they’re used to the idea of him helping to get rid of pain, rather than inflicting it. Since they’re only in primary school they have yet to be subjected to the standard litanies of fear and terror older kids recite by rote whenever the dread word, ‘dentist’ is mentioned. Of course, they’re also well aware of the drawer full of awesome stickers that they get to choose from if they’re good, and what kid can be scared when there’s the promise of stickers in the near future?
So whilst their response to my announcement was unexpected, the spawns made me rather proud with their musical declarations of disappointment. I should also point out that this revelation couldn’t have come at a better time as it gave the reception staff something to laugh about that distracted from my stupidity, which helped alleviate my own embarrassment no end.
With a proper return to the temple of teeth looming on the horizon next month I’m hopeful that this is one situational phobia my hatchlings will be able to dodge.
*[See also, ‘Little Albert’]