WITH an incomplete set of teeth haphazardly strewn across my mouth like a row of condemned urinals, I’m perhaps not best placed to lecture on oral hygiene.
Yet every day I am expected to perform a lecture on the subject on the orders of my wife. I have an audience of one. And it’s not a paricularly captivated audience either. That one being our nine-year-old son Isaac. Blond hair, blue eyes, yellow teeth.
What is it with children and soap and toothpaste-dodging?
I have vivid memories of avoiding the stuff as a youngster, to the extent that I would go into the bathroom, run taps and, instead of washing my face, I’d dab water on my fringe to give the impression to my mother that I’d washed. Genius.
“Of course I’ve washed,” I’d say. “What do you think this is?” Pointing to wet forehead. Which could be found above a mud and snot-stained face.
Isaac is cut from the same facecloth, but he’s particularly averse to toothpaste.
My orders each morning are to stand over him as he brushes his teeth. He doesn’t so much brush them, as rest the toothbrush on them, while making gargling noises. There is no foam. He sucks the paste off the brush and swallows it before it hits any enamel.
I can remember, as a child of the seventies, the introduction of chocolate flavoured toothpaste!
My brother and I couldn’t wait to use it. Though now, minus a few teeth myself, I question whether that toothpaste/chocolate combination was really a sensible way to go.
Responsible toothpaste manufacturers try to keep chocolate as far away from teeth as Isaac keeps freshmint toothpaste from his.
But then, in the seventies, manufacturers played fast and loose with the rules.
My favourite was Matey bubble bath. This was advertised not only as a child-friendly product, but also as a bath cleaner. Really?
I can vaguely remember the jingle.
“And while they splash in the tub
Your Matey cleans things bright.
It’s loved by everyone,
There ain’t a mark in sight.”
Brilliant. No one questioned that if Matey was powerful enough to clean a bath, was it really a substance you wanted your children bathing in?
Surely they were two distinct products. But in the Seventies people didn’t care. They wanted value.
Matey was like selling a ladies’ moisturising cream on the back of it not only giving you smooth silky skin, but also being powerful enough to remove warts. What’s not to love?
My patience with our Isaac, however, is wearing as thin as the enamel on his teeth.
I’m sure he’d prefer dusting his teeth to brushing them.
In the Seventies, Pledge could have cashed in on this with a Mr Sheen furniture polish and mouthspray.
As a responsible parent, however, I take time to explain the importance of oral hygiene to my boy.
I maintain eye contact, speak in soothing tones, and talk him through the intricacies of brushing.
The gentle circular motions, paying particular attention to those hard to get to places between molars. Then, when he continues to dangle the brush miles from his teeth, I get him in a headlock and scrub his gnashers myself.
It’s not a father and son image you see that often in parenting books.
A gap in the market perhaps. The Mixed Martial Arts Guide to Effective Parenting. Chapter four: Seven Chokeholds to a Contented Child.
How else, I ask, do I get his teeth clean?
My wife had the answer. “Tell him if he’s not careful, he could end up with teeth like yours.”