Thursday, February 11, 2010

the book that saved my children's smile

or "How I stopped procrastinating and got my kids to the dentist".

Like many busy parents I have a constant, never ending, ever expanding 'to do list'. I make notes and lists, on paper and on electronic devices, but like a lot of us, I suspect, I spend my life with a constant fearful buzz in my ear "did you bring your drycleaning? remember show and tell?, make a dentist appointment, buy dog food, order diapers, put the trash out, pay the dog walker, are you right now supposed to be at a critical appointment that you forgot to note down....."

So when I glimpsed this book that Geekydaddy bought himself, and saw its subtitle "The art of stress free productivity" I was intrigued. From the world I was standing in "Stress free" and "productive" were completely contradictory. I am productive, but in order to be so it seems I have to also be stressed. Unstresssed would mean not having anything pressing to do, and given that that almost never happens, my default mood was stressed!

I'm not usually one for self help type of books. Or books about filing systems. But that is basically what this book is. It may have actually changed my life just a tiny bit. The premise of the book rests upon the concept that we all run around with our heads too full of stuff; minutae, apointments, ideas, half finished thoughts. We need to get everything out of our heads and into a system. Most of us start with a  "to do list" but what we put on these lists tends to be amorphous, not easily turned into a specific next action, so things linger, in our minds and on our lists, stressing us out because we don't get them done. My dentist issue is a classic case.

I've had "Make dental appointment" kicking about in my head, and even on my to do lists for over a year. But since I hadn't identified a dentist and I I needed to verify my insurance would cover the one I chose the task never got done. After reading the book I implemented the system. I won't go into it all here but will say that Mr Allen advises you to keep four lists: "projects" for anything that takes more than one step, "someday maybe" for things you don't actually need to do anything about except keep track of, "Waiting for", things your waiting for someone else to deliver on, and "Action items", which must be an actual thing you can do. So with "Kids to dentist" on my project list, and "call friend A to get her kids dentists name" as the first task for that project on the action list, I initiated the process and lo and behold a month or so later the appointment day rolled around!

Now the system isn't flawless. I failed to consider the logistics of one parent taking both kids (aged almost 4 and almost 2) for a first dental visit. I confess that as a Mum who works during the week and who tends to do outings with Geekydaddy and the kids on the weekend, I am not all that adept at the art of handling both my kids in unfamiliar situations on my own. I do it sometimes, but feel barely in control of the situation, in fact I lost Geekygirl for five horrendous minutes at the aquarium once when I was responsible for the two of them. I'm very impressed when I see mums with two or more little ones in tow out grocery shopping or at the zoo, and realize that I'm not really all that good at this "Mum" thing!

Fortunately Geekydaddy was able to come along too, so we embarked upon 'family outing to the dentist'. I filled out their new patient forms, mailed to me in advance. There was a section about your childs personality and how you thought they might handle their dental exam. "Labels like "High strung, defiant, scared, shy" jumped out at me as I thought of Geekygirl, and I felt disloyal to my adorable, sweet, precious though often defiant, shy and high strung girl as I circled these words next to her name, then circled "Friendly" and "Average kid" next to Geekyboy's.

The next flaw in my plan was revealed as we arived at the office, having allowed the required thirty minutes circling time to find parking in San Francisco, ten minutes early for the appointment I had noted down as being at 10.00am. The appointment was, however, actually for 10.50, so we had to pull the kids out of the treasure trove of a waiting room; TV, toys, games galore, and head off to Starbucks for chocolate milk and cake (just what you need before the dentists!).

The actual visit went wonderfully. The nurse and the dentist were both fantastic with the kids, explaining carefully how they painted the teeth with dye to show the plaque, and using a picture chart menu for them to pick their toothpaste flavor for the cleaning. I was a little ashamed at how much dye stuck to their teeth, but there was no admonishment from the dentist or her nurse. We were chided for allowing both kids, especially almost four year old Geekygirl, to use pacifiers still. I'm embarrassed myself, but she loves it so, I haven't been able to take it from her. We're now steeling ourselves for the arrival of the pacifier fairy to take them away once and for all.

Geekyirl handled the whole thing incredibly well, she was polite and compliant and oh so proud of herself when it was done. I wished I hadn't checked so many of her less lovely traits on the form, as none of them were on display that day. Geekyboy was less sure of the teeth cleaning. But between tears and wails he kept saying "Yummy cookies!", so I guess he liked the cookie dough flavor toothpaste, if not the process of cleaning itself.

To top it off, the dentists had a tiny dog, a chihuahua/yorkie mix clad in  a pink leopard print jacket and pink pony tail, that was just like an animated toy.  I'm not usually a small dog person, but this one was adorable; gentle, soft and very friendly. I was almost converted and Geekygirl was completely smitten, and has now started badgering me for a tiny dog of her own. Our dog is too big, apparently, and doesn't like to wear accessories in her hair. We got a family picture with the dog, and then a dig through the treasure box for a present. I was surprised that instead of picking a princess crown or purse, Geekygirl picked a fierce looking snapping dinosaur-head-on-a-stick. I think after getting through this intimidating new experience she needed something fearsome to remind her of her bravery.

We'd better take it with us when we go to the Doctor's next week.

If you live in SF and need a pediatric dentist, I highly recommend Dr Bergen James and her practice.


TheMadHouse said...

I am terrible, I always made the appointment there and then, I am not a procrastinator in any way, good job really it would be a long way to travel to see your dentist!!

Me said...

I wish I could use your newly found dentist.....I had a bad experience with ours and am in the market for a new has been on my to do list for just over a year....hope this has spurred me into action...

Sandy Calico said...

That's the book that I put in my Amazon basket and haven't got round to buying yet!
Good luck with the pacifier fairy x

Iota said...

I like those four folders. But I still think that if someone gave me a part-time secretary, that would be a better solution.

BumblingAlong said...

I'm afraid I'm a bit of GTD geek. Or rather I was before Moo.

And now I really need to resurrect it... Thanks for the prompt!

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