Christina M. Currie: The opposite drill

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Katie won't tell me what she's learning in kindergarten, so I have to discern it from her actions.

The hair ties are no longer arranged by type and color. So, I'm guessing she has finished the section on matching.

I think the class has moved on to opposites, but I don't have hard evidence. There's nothing in her backpack or the school newsletter to confirm my suspicions. But when she started saying "You're a boy mom, that means you're a girl," I started making the connection.

Her scope of understanding is limited. Most of her opposites consist of her saying that I'm not something, which means I am.

Then again, sometimes I am, which in most cases means I am.

It's actually very confusing.

My favorite is, "You're poopie, mom, that means you're a princess."

My girls are 4 and 5 years old -- poopie is a really cool word, though they manage to refrain from calling me poopie in the grocery store or other public places.

Still, our experiments with opposites draw some strange looks. I dropped Katie off at school (yes, on a school day) and said, "Katie, I don't love you. I don't think you're special and don't have a good day."

Nearby parents were aghast.

She giggled and said, "I don't love you, too, Mom," then whispered, "That means I do."

Now, day is night, dogs are cats and cars are trucks, yet we still manage to understand each other.

Weird though it may seem, it's our special thing.

Thinking in opposites has become a reflex. I'm sure that's why, to prepare for a visit to the dentist, I took out my manicure kit. Yes, I do actually have a dental pick and mirror, but ...

The intent was to practice for our first official visit to the dentist. I'm not counting the last time, when Katie ran screaming down the hall before the hygienist even got to look into her mouth.

I had a plan to stave off a repeat performance. I started by talking up the dentist, focusing mainly on his supply of stickers and treasure box full of toys for good little patients.

Then came the action.

I took out a nail file, tipped Katie back in the recliner and counted her teeth, lightly tapping each one so she'd understand they'd be using a metal object and not their fingers. Then, I pulled out an electric nail buffer -- a Christmas gift that had yet to be used -- and pretended to polish her teeth.

I went through the same process on Nikki.

It worked. They cooperated from start to finish, though they weren't thrilled with the process. It was very disillusioning.

They thought Mr. Thirsty was cool, but the stream of water that forced him into use wasn't pleasant. And the excitement they felt when their fluoride flavor options included chocolate and vanilla faded in the 60 seconds they had to sit with the uncomfortable, gel-filled Styrofoam tray in their mouths.

Still, overall it was a positive experience.

Next time won't be. They sat patiently while the dentist identified a cavity or two and informed us our next stop would be a specialist.

There's just no way to prepare them for what's to come.

But what did I expect would come from practicing dental care with a nail file instead of a toothbrush?

If I tell them that it could hurt, do you think they'll believe it?

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