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Single Dad and Daughter’s Dreaded Dental Visit

I have a story to share that may be helpful for other single Dads. It is about my longstanding conflict with my fiercely willful youngest daughter about dentists. Despite posturing herself as the toughest girl in her highschool class, she expressed great hostility to the notion of getting her fillings at the dentist because “that dude sticks needles in me.” Probably because I dreaded entering this battleground with her, I was horribly negligent in getting and making sure dental appointments were kept.

In my defense, my will and focus is probably at about 80% by virtue of the chaos of my family scene with my 3 children, in the aftermath of the divorse and then their Mother’s death. My favorite metaphor about this is that I and my 3 motherless teenage children were blasted from a pretty nice boat by an intense storm that was fierce for about 3 years, leaving us hanging on for dear life in the briny deep. This year, 5 after my childrens’ Mother’s death, I am again hearing some laughter in our house. I think we’ve reached shore, although I’m not quite
sure if we’re on our stomachs, knees, or upright.

My daughter refused to go to the dentist after that first visit with the needle. A good friend of mine told me about his strategy for such challenges, in response to U.S. laws that don’t allow corporal punishment(he’s from Somalia). When his daughter was chastised by teachers for constantly talking in class, he figured out what her very most favorite thing of all was and denied her use of it for 2 weeks. She cried, pleaded, rallied relatives to her side but Omar would not budge. And it worked!

So I refused to give my daughter driving lessons until she made it to the dentist. She suspected, I know, that after a few days of her anger or whining, that I would give in or forget (which, I must confess, was not all that bad an assumption given my previous failure to hold my ground against her will). But I held fast. I told her I would rather have never been born than to have been a Father who would allow his daughter to neglect her teeth while young, and then be plagued with bad teeth, pain, disfigurement, etc. in her adult life, blaming her spineless Father for not overcoming her youthful perspective. She and I were in a silent contest for 2 weeks. She said horrible things to me and to my other children about me. She made up stories about what a bad parent I am or embellished real stories about my shortcomings. It was exhausting to be in her presence.

But, come the day of the appointment, she gave in to good sense. I let her drive to the dentist. She came out after the appointment with a sense of pride in herself. I let her drive home. The next day and since then she has been very pleasant to me. I took a stand that had to be taken. I held my ground. I did not respond to her youthful rage and meanness. She got her teeth fixed. She learned that I have the power and the will to enforce decisions that are basic to her health and safety. My therapist lady told me a thousand times that children need hierarchy. They need boundaries. They, like us, are afraid of some of life’s terrible and tragic aspects. Parents that act decisively to promote sound living, without physical punishment, without resonding to their children’s anger or outburst, have a better chance of raising children who do the right thing. I must confess that I did respond to a particularly horrible verbal assault on me by cursing her. One of these days I will probably apologize for that.

So, there you have it. My first on-line single Dad story. Feel free to pass it along without using my name. It might even be of use for people who are not single Dads.

Clear sailing,


Last edited by TeganDowling. Based on work by g.  Page last modified on April 04, 2005

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