Do as I Do

Murphy’s Law for Toothaches: Your tooth will start hurting after regular business hours. It will happen on a holiday weekend when your regular dentist is out of town.

Wednesday evening my molar exploded in pain.  Tylenol, Orajel, and a cold pack made it bearable for me to sleep.  Thursday morning I called my dentist only to find out he was already out of town for the holiday weekend.

There was no way I could wait until Monday.  I searched for an emergency dentist in my area.  The closest one I found with an available appointment was about 20 minutes away.  I happily made the drive, expecting to only get an X-ray and prescriptions for antibiotics and pain killers.  As it turned out, I needed a root canal and the dentist had the time and was willing to do it that day.  I reluctantly accepted.  When does anyone ever want a root canal?  But I was relieved to be dealing with it right away.

An hour and a half – and one thousand fifty seven bucks – later I walked out of the office, happily still with a numb mouth.  I still have the return visit for the crown – and another expense of thirteen hundred dollars – to dread.

I chastised myself the whole drive home.  Dentists have warned me before about all of the soda I drink: “Sip all day, watch your teeth decay.”  I didn’t listen.  Dental pain is a hypothetical future consequence that I rarely consider.  Now I’m regretting it and not just for myself.  It’s my kids I’m worried about too.

How many times have you said to your kids, “Do as I say, not as I do.” My parents said it to me and now I hear myself saying it.  The problem is we all know that actions speak louder than words. When Madison sees me drinking a Coke at dinner instead of milk, that’s saying something.  When she doesn’t see me flossing or visiting the dentist regularly, that’s also sending a message.  And it’s not one that I’m intending.

My toothache may actually work out to be a blessing in disguise. It’s a reminder that even though it seems like my teenager isn’t listening half the time, she is “hearing” through my actions. I learned a lot of things from my parents strictly from example.  Some were mundane things, like salting my pizza which I did for years just because that was the way they did it.  Others were more significant.  I’m sure I got my work ethic from my hardworking, honest mother and father even though they never outright told me how to be a good employee.

I know if I want my children to value family time then I need to stop opting for ordering pizza and eating in front of the boob tube just because I don’t want to wash a few dishes. If I want them to make going to church a priority then I need to start attending again myself instead of blaming the hot summer for keeping me at home. If I want them to believe me when I say “profanity is for those that lack the creativity to otherwise express themselves,” then I can’t let an expletive fly just because I stubbed my toe.

It’s not time for making New Year’s resolutions but now is as good a time as any to reevaluate my priorities and the values I want to instill in my kids.  Modeling the behavior I want them to have will go a lot further than lecturing.  Simply stated, I want to live in a manner that I can say to them, “Do as I do.” And if I’m lucky, I’ll also teach them how to take better care of their teeth.

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