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Taking orders from a toothbrush

Submitted by on Wednesday, 14 January 2009 No Comment

The best parenting advice I’ve heard lately came from a woman restocking a grocery-store shelf as she overheard the guys vacillate over toothbrushes.

“Check out the Fire Fly. My daughter loves it,” she said in the hushed tones of a con trying to keep the cops away from his stock of Rolex knock-offs.

I tried to sneak a peek at the brush without the guys catching me. If Big Guy in particular knew I was trying to steer him toward a purchase, it’d be all over.

The guys have close relationships with their toothbrushes. They love buying new ones but will never give up an old one.

Part of that’s because we fall into the licensed-character trap when it comes to dental care. Big Guy has a year-old Batman he never uses but refuses to abandon, and Boots clings to the Thomas model from last spring.

The latter, which features a floating Thomas in a snow-globe-style handle, was a tragically bad choice. Toothpaste tends to fly when a toddler wants to make a train “wheeesh.”

So the stripped-down Fire Fly had its appeal – no lovable horde-worthy characters here. The Evil Mommy Trick encased in the Fire Fly made it even more attractive.

The handle lights that flashes for for one minute.That’s what attracted Big Guy – he’s like a crow with bright, shiny objects. Two cycles will pretty much leave the molars immaculate, but without the ugly scenes of the past.

“Am I finished?” Big Guy would ask.

“They look clean,” I’d say, even though he hadn’t been brushing long enough to say “ABC,” let alone sing the song twice. “Does your mouth feel clean?”


Lather, rinse, spit, repeat harangue.

But now that he’s up against a flashing light and not Mom’s yapping mouth, Big Guy’s rising to the challenge.

He’ll turn on the brush and scrub furiously, as if he has a deadline to meet. He’ll go another round with nary a complaint.

Part of it’s the novelty, but part of it’s a tactic that’s always worked with Big Guy. He’ll do what I want if I can throw in a filter.

Used to be, setting a timer to signal a toy trade-off worked. Eventually, he figured out I was the one setting the timer so that trick was finished. An alarm on my cell phone still will get him to leave the park when we need to, but only because he’s never seen my fingers do the dirty work.

The true beauty of Fire Fly: Big Guy does the dirty work. He lights up a gizmo that commands him to brush his teeth, and he obeys it.

If only I could find a Fire Fly Homework-Doer. And a  Fire Fly Room Straightener and a Fire Fly Toy Picker-Upper as well.

Copyright 2009 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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