Ramona and the Great Toddler Toothbrushing Wars

Excuse me while I indulge in some blogging that is really only going to be of interest to anyone who has primary caregiving duty for a teeny, tiny person. But I dare to believe that to those people this might actually be a worthwhile read.

See, parenting is one of the very few cases where anecdotal evidence can actually be helpful. Of course, only to a point – you have to then apply what you’ve learned to your own child, who is both exactly the same as and completely different from every other child, but sometimes just knowing another parent was in the same leaky, rickety boat and managed (even temporarily) to shift to a shiny new seaworthy dinghy is all you need to feel a lot better. So here goes.

Having politely complied with having her teeth brushed since they first started coming through, around 11 months, it wasn’t until around 22 months that any issues with toothbrushing flared up. First it was wanting to do it herself, but then not wanting to do it. Then it was complaining that her gums hurt (understandable; she’s not got all those teeth yet). Then “my tongue hurts!” and refusing to even do the bit of the process she’d always approached with some gusto: eating the toothpaste. Some nights she’d be okay, some not, and it gradually got worse.

For a while we ended up basically having to brush by force, which made me feel like a rotten, rotten parent who was creating more fear around toothbrushing instead of less. I reached my limit on about the third occasion on which I had to resort to this, when afterwards she sniffled at me that “I cried and said no but Mummy brushed my teeth.” The words sent absolute shivers down my spine – what the Hell was I teaching her?  Things were going to change, starting the next night.

I called out for advice on Twitter, and got the following recommendations:

  • Nicer tasting toothpaste (I suspected myself this might help – perhaps the Colgate Milk Teeth was just too minty and was burning her tongue? I find the same with some grown-up toothpastes).
  • A reward chart (too young?)
  • Telling her she wouldn’t ever be allowed sugary things to eat or drink again (I don’t think she has the concept of consequences that aren’t absolutely immediate down well enough for this one; also, it’s impractical as I’m not the only one who feeds her).
  • Funny songs / rituals around the toothbrushing – brushing toys’ teeth (she also brushes their eyes, noses and ears…), applying toothpaste herself etc.

In the end, I went for a combination of the first and last. Ashley brought home some Cars-themed “fruit punch” flavoured toothpaste which, to my mint-honed gnashers, tastes absolutely vile and sickly, and smells it too. Ramona squeezed a little on her finger and made me taste it first (small empress that she is), and then hesitantly popped some in her mouth while I made effusive yummy noises.

“Mmmm, yummy,” I prompted.

“Mmmm, yucky,” she replied.

Still, curiosity had got the better of her – particularly as the toothpaste is a deep blue instead of boring white – and she kept sampling it until we had to risk a big, waily tantrum taking it away.

The next couple of nights were a bit hairy, as she much preferred applying the toothpaste to her finger than her toothbrush, but we worked out a deal whereby if she brushed her teeth thoroughly herself using the brush, her reward could be a small glob of toothpaste on her finger as a treat to munch on. She started requesting that I sing one of her flavour-of-the-month songs at the same time, and that’s become part of the ritual too: “Mummy will sing X while you brush your teeth… oh, good brushing! Now you can have a bit on your finger.”

To try and cement this progress and add more fun to proceedings, I treated her to a new toothbrush today after a visit to the Disney Store (during which I was very proud to note she behaved impeccably). Near bedtime I produced the surprise from my bag and she carefully examined her new Mickey brush, which flashes a red light for two minutes to aid brushing. She’s still a bit small for that feature to be anything but a fun game, but she carried on intermittently chewing the brush / brushing her teeth right through all our bedtime lullabies, only surrendering the brush to actually get into bed.

I’m keeping my fingers tentatively crossed that a combination of a more palatable paste and creating more fun around the brushing itself has done the trick… let’s wait and see.

Reflections on Ramona: 23 months (The Disney Edition)

Honestly, I’m not sure how much this is going to be about Ramona and how much this is going to be about shopping. All of this happened today, so it’s all kind of rolled into one in my head, and I don’t have the inclination to separate it into two posts.

You can cut straight to the shopping if you prefer – it’s where the photos start. First, Ramona:

My tiny Pickle is not so tiny anymore – of course, she hasn’t been for a while. I’m occasionally blindsided by how weird it isn’t to have proper conversations with her, and this week we even had to start introducing the idea of naughty steps and consequences for bad behaviour that haven’t really made sense before. As with most children she is blissfully angelic and unconscionably demonic, generally within the same ten minutes. As I often say, I wouldn’t swap her forthright knowledge of what she wants, and her determination for getting it, for any kind of deferential wallflowery, but it would be lovely if she didn’t turn the former on me quite so often…

Biting is occasionally becoming an issue where it never was before, and after a particularly painful one in the middle of a tantrum today I got seriously miffed. Rather than stay in the room and lose my temper, I plopped her down, summoned her dad and left to cool off. I still felt bad, because I know it was a punishment for her to be separated from me (how arrogant that sounds! But that’s motherhood for you…), but I thought that was better than me behaving like an idiot in her presence. I came back down after a few minutes, she apologised, we had a massive cuddle and talked about why we don’t bite, and all was well.

And actually, that was the low point in what was a really impressive day for her. (Here’s where the Disney stuff starts too). We popped to Westfield, and she does love to visit the Disney Store, but last time we had to tear Mickey from her vice-like grip and cart her, wailing, out of the House of Mouse. This time, I did some preparatory groundwork, talking about not touching, only looking, and not being able to take things home. I was still prepared for a possible meltdown, but none came. She padded about happily, keeping her sticky paws to herself, identified her various friends – “Mickey! Daisy! Don-old! Goo-feeee!” – and was then content to leave after a few minutes, with a smile on her face. We rode up and down some elevators, and she even let me do a bit of shopping…

So, the upshot is I now have five Uniqlo / Disney t-shirts. It started with the bow one I wear in the photos on this very blog, and then I bought another four today. In my defence they are just £7.90 each, and fit me really well. They’ve got a really long body, which I often find is a huge problem with t-shirts – I had to stop buying from Threadless, because they looked like they were cutting me in half as I’m both tall and generous of belly – and the designs are a little bit more like what you get in Disney Parks, than what you get in the Disney Store. They’re also quite generously sized. I’m an M&S 14, and I comfortably fit the Medium.

Here they are:

These two are from the Uniqlo Uncovered range. They’re very slightly longer, and have a textured background colour, and you’ll find them on hangers in the shop. They also have “Uniqlo Uncovered” in smallish caps across the upper left hand side of the back of the shirt.

These two are from the standard Uniqlo Disney range, which you find on the shelves. Lots of these designs come in a range of background colours (for example, the lemon yellow Minnie bow one I’m wearing in the photos is also available in pink, as is the blue t-shirt in this photo).

And here’s me looking like a classic doofus in the mirror in the Snow White one.

In spite of my enthusiastic acceptance of the WDW ride’s overdue retirement, I still have a lot of love for Disney’s first feature length film, and I’m a sucker for a castle.

(The teapot necklace, by the way, is from Jelly Button Jewellery, which I absolutely love).

Naturally, the quirky attention to detail is typical of both Disney and a Japanese brand, and extends even to the delightfully cheesy labels:

Between every once upon a time and every happily ever after lies a fabled kingdom of art and imagination. Journey to this magical place, together with Disney and UNIQLO, and discover the charming characters, faraway places and treasured artwork of the world’s favorite storytellers. After all, you’re never too old to believe that dreams really do come true.

Love it. Love it all. And I especially love how it’s easier and easier to be a Disney fan and get the news and the fun stuff without actually being able to afford to go to WDW (I don’t love that last bit so much).

To top it all, Ramona started singing along to It’s a Small World today, though she’s loved the song since she was tiny. I actually started crying, to Ash’s amusement.

There are probably people out there who would be absolutely horrified that I was so pleased and proud, but I think I can cope with their disapprobation.

And now, back to our scheduled messages.

I am finding that I’m enjoying the toddler phase quite a lot more than I thought I would, while at the same time finding it terrifying and stressful and exhausting. I just really like being able to get to know Ramona’s personality now that she’s showing it in spades. She keeps me on my toes, bringing up things I thought she’d forgotten or not understood, and thoughtfully repeating back to me what she thinks about it all.

We occasionally find ourselves at loggerheads, but I am determined to make sure to do my sworn duty as a parent and behave like the (literally) bigger person. I won’t let it drag on, I won’t just get tangled up in being a grumpy bugger and I will always be sure to end the day with stories, snuggles and cuddles. The last thing she hears every night that I’m the one to put her to bed is “I love you”, and I tell her about a million times a day, as does Ash. To have her unexpectedly pootle over from her blocks or toys and give a hug and a dazzling smile before announcing “I yuv you!” cuts straight to the heart every time.

Plus, to my completely biased and inexpert mind, the kid is absolutely freakin’ brilliant when it comes to speaking. I do wish I could erase “I want…” from her vocabulary, but with prompting she is aware of the uses of “please” and “thank you”. She gets jokes, such as when I pretended there was a monster behind me and it turned out to be her, and runs around shouting things like “Mummy thought it was a monster but it was you!” (she still generally mixes up “me” and “you”, endearingly). She’s not quite so brilliant with names of relatives she doesn’t see often, but then neither am I. That’s when you get a situation like this:

Ouma, pointing at Auntie Linda: “Ramona, who’s that lady?”
Ramona: “Uncle Bernard.”

Which has a brilliance all its own, frankly.

I’m not sure how I’m going to get my head around having a two year old, but it ought to get all straightened out in my mind by this time next year.