The Other Man

Yesterday I went to see the other man in my life, with whom I’ve enjoyed a 17-year long relationship:

My dentist.isolated-1188036_640


While I don’t mind switching doctors now and then, I’ve faithfully stuck with the same dentist all these years, and I will stay with him until the bitter end – his or mine.


Because I’m paranoid when it comes to my teeth.

Born with a cleft palate and following years of orthodontic treatment and a painful jaw operation, I’m left with considerable scar tissue in my palate, a gap where two teeth would normally have grown, a false tooth and a (real) canine refashioned as a front tooth, and more.

After all these years, my dentist knows the ins and outs of my mouth so well that I couldn’t bear leaving him for someone else. Better the devil you know.

dentist-748153_640Years ago, when I lived in New York City, I found myself needing a root canal near the cleft area.

It was an especially tricky job for the dentist in charge, partly because of interfering scar tissue in the palate and because the anaesthetics made my face swell up so much that in the end, we had to do without it.

I remember the dentist telling me that all the years of orthodontic treatment – moving teeth around – had traumatised the roots and could lead to erosion over time.

Horrified, I imagined my teeth literally falling out of my mouth and to this day I have nightmares about my entire palate caving in.

When my current dentist suffered from a prolonged respiratory illness last year, leaving him unable to work for months, I panicked. What if I had to find a new dentist?

dentist-1664033_640Thankfully, he recovered, and our relationship continues. Yet, traumatised by the threat of losing him, I always inquire about his health when we meet.

“I’m fine,” he told me when I saw him yesterday, “but one of my colleagues died suddenly, and completely unexpectedly a couple of days ago. Mind you; he was only in his 50s. And how are you, Jenny, all well?”

Looking at him, I noticed for the first time that his hair was greying and his wrinkles were growing deeper.

He’s ageing, I thought to myself, and he’s not as handsome as he was 17 years ago. But I’ll never break up with him.

Some relationships are for life.


Notes on living with a pre-teen

“Are you ready yet? We need to go!” I shouted from the bottom of the stairs to my 10-year old daughter who was upstairs getting ready to visit a friend.

No answer. I tried again.

“It’s time to go now!”

Still no answer. Bloody hell. I haven’t got all day.

“I’m leaving now, with or without you!”

Moments later I heard a door open and slam shut and my daughter flung down the stairs.

“I was just brushing my hair,” she said apologetically.girl-853993_640

I only had to look at her knotty bird’s nest of hair to realise that was not what she’d been up to but since it wasn’t a school day, I decided that the state of her hair wasn’t a fight worth having.

Besides I was more concerned about what she was wearing: ripped school tights under flimsy cotton shorts.

“You can’t go out in those tights…” I said. “They’ve got holes all over.”

“Obviously! That’s how they’re meant to be. It’s the fashion, you know.”

01191659-aI sighed deeply. I didn’t have a clue about fashion when I was ten years old. My go-to attire back then was corduroy trousers and a Mickey Mouse sweater. I was such a geek.

My daughter has her own style and who am I to knock that? She’s no slave to fashion but creates her own – literally, as she loves sewing clothes.

In the end, I let her go to her friend’s house in those ripped tights because I realised that they were a statement of her growing independence and sense of self.

My objection to her fashion choice, I had to admit, was largely rooted in my own insecurity about what others might think, and that’s certainly not something I want to pass on to my child.

So, if she’s happy leaving the house with ripped tights and a bird’s nest on her head, then I’m happy too.

If there’s a golden rule of mothering it is this: never judge or criticise your child.

The Benefits of Bad Hearing

glue-38201_640Last month I took my 6-year old for a hearing test and a visit with her ear nose and throat doctor; glue ear runs in the family, and over the past few months her hearing has deteriorated because of a stubborn case of glue ear.

The doctor was now deliberating whether my daughter needed new grommets (her second set, in that case) but in the end decided to wait and see.

“At least my hearing isn’t as bad as mummy’s,” my daughter told the doctor triumphantly. “She really needs grommets.”


After a lifetime of ear infections and grommets, my eardrums are so scarred that the only thing that would improve my hearing is an eardrum transplant.  An ear specialist once suggested this operation to me, which involves replacing my battered eardrums with artificial ones, but the thought of going through with such a procedure horrifies me. What if the operation failed and I was left with no hearing at all? No, I’d rather keep my defective eardrums.

I do have a small, nifty hearing aid that I am supposed to use, and although it’s practically invisible, it makes my ear itch and sweat, and I end up poking my finger in the ear every five minutes when wearing it.

While my hearing loss remained relatively constant for many years, it seems to have deteriorated in recent months, as I find myself turning the volume up to max on my iPad when watching something, and unless the subtitles are on, I am lost.

boxers-882716_640But there’s always a silver lining.

In my case, not being able to hear very well means that I can’t hear the rats that crawl under the floorboards in our basement, making it much easier to pretend they don’t exist.

And I only need to close my bedroom door to shut out the noise of my children fighting.

Even if I could hear their screams – which, to be honest, I often can since we’re the loudest family on the street – it’s easy enough to pretend I can’t, thus leaving them to sort out their arguments while I continue to watch my favourite show on Netflix.

Parenting for Change

“How do we cope,” I asked my husband the other day, “with all the terrible news ambushing us daily?”

We could turn off the TV and radio, cancel our newspaper subscription and avoid all news sites on the internet, but to what end? We can’t hide from what’s happening around us, and as parents of young children, I feel we have a duty to strike a balance between informing them and protecting them. Continue reading