The Toothbrush Confessions

img_7236Dubsie doesn’t like to talk about her day. Ask her what she did at preschool and she says “Nothing!” or ignores the question and goes back to her Legos, a miniature teenager who hasn’t yet learned to sulk.

At night when it’s time for dental hygiene, I float a toothbrush in her direction and get the same thing as always: a closed mouth. She purses her lips and for good measure claps a palm over them. I ponder whether forced toothbrushing leaves scars on the gums, or the psyche. I take a breath and necessity is the mother of invention I adopt a high and feminine voice. I become a toothbrush ventriloquist. This is a girl toothbrush, apparently, and it speaks Spanish. (As do I, badly.)

¡Hola Dubsie! ¿Como estas? ¿Te puedo cepillar los dientes?  (“Hi Dubsie, how are you? May I brush your teeth?”)

Dubsie’s keeps her hand clamped over her jaws, but she eyes the toothbrush curiously. The toothbrush calls her name again. Dubsie. I cock the head of the toothbrush to one side like an adorable Disney character. Dubsie? I touch its bristles ever so gently against the back of her hand and make a loud kissing sound. Dubsie’s hand drops. She opens her mouth and asks a question.

“What is your name?” she demands of the toothbrush.


¡Cepillo! says the toothbrush. (That is the word for ‘brush’ in Spanish.)

Dubsie opens her mouth and lets Cepillo in for a few strokes, which makes Cepillo practically swoon with excitement, which persuades Dubsie to allow a few more strokes, at which point we’re done, at which point Cepillo, in her lilting voice, thanks Dubsie profusely for the privilege of brushing her teeth, and says she can’t wait to see her again tomorrow.

The next day it is Cepillo, not Daddy, who starts the toothbrushing in her chipmunk Spanish, and Cepillo — not looking for an actual answer, just hoping for an open mouth — asks Dubsie what she did at school that day.

“Cepillo!” Dubsie says, seizing the toothbrush with both hands and looking it right in the bristles. “Today I played with Gabby and with Hazel. We played with MagnaTiles!”

¿De veras? ¡Dime mas! (“Really? Tell me more!”)

“And then we goed out on the playground and we played with jump ropes!”

¡Wow! Cepillo replied.

So this is how toothbrushing goes now. Dubsie and her Cepillo are confidantes. It takes only a few strokes for Dubsie to grab the toothbrush from my hand and say “Cepillo!” and then sigh because she doesn’t even know how to start, there’s so much to tell about her day. We’ve traded one problem for another; now a simple bedtime ritual can take all night.



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