Friday, January 25, 2008

Sam and the Toothpaste

Our boys get toothpaste for Christmas.  It's not their only gift, nor is it their main one (that spot seems to be held ad infinitum for LEGO's).  But neither is it a scorned gift, like socks.  

The big thing about Christmas toothpaste is that each of the boys gets his own tube (not that it comes in tubes anymore, but that name seems stuck in the language, like "books on tape"). Normally, throughout the year, as the boys use up a tube of toothpaste, I'll pick up a new one at the grocery store on the daily run.  If I forget, then we tell them, "Just use water."  And then I remind them, for the upteen-gazillionth time, that "80% of the work is just in brushing.  Quit whining about the 20%."  We like to work our math lessons in with our life lessons.  

One big problem with toothpaste is that Jonah (7) and Sam (4) go through theirs very quickly.  That would be caused by the way they use toothpaste:

Step 1. Put toothbrush on counter, bristles facing up.
Step 2. Put a lot of toothpaste on the bristles, and the handle, and the counter, and possibly the sink.  Do try your best not to get it on the floor.  If you do, wipe it up with whatever is handy, like Mom's bathrobe.
Step 3. Run the toothbrush under a high-powered stream of water from the sink until all the toothpaste has come off the bristles.
Step 4. Brush your teeth with the mildly toothpaste-infused water that remains in the bristles.

Now, it doesn't take an SEI-trained process specialist (*cough*) to see the flaws in this procedure.  It also doesn't take a genius to predict that Jonah and Sam will burn through a new tube of Christmas toothpaste very quickly.  In this case, it was two weeks.

Last week, Sam was out of toothpaste, but his eldest two brothers still had some.  So, when confronted at 7:30 with cries of, "My toothpaste is all used up," I told him to use some of brother's.  He started crying.

But this was not the normal, I'm-not-getting-my-way crying.  This was serious, mournful wailing.  "It's mint!  If I use mint toothpaste I'll die!"  He was serious.  He believed it.

"Who told you this?"  Sam has a wonderful imagination, but he's not death-obsessed, and would not come up with bizarre rules like this.  That's Jonah territory.

"Stephen told me," said Sam.

"I did not!" yelled Stephen (8), from the next room.  I believed him, since he's usually very up-front about these sorts of things (he's a brilliant trickster, and loves to take credit for his clever schemes).

Sam and I went back and forth on this for a few more minutes.  I told him he would not die from using mint toothpaste, and he claimed that "Brother told me I would."

Finally, "Brother" changed to "Timothy" (10), who was standing nearby but, atypically, was not getting involved in the discussion.

I looked directly at Timothy and asked, "Did you tell him this?"

Timothy looked sheepish and horribly guilty and said, "I didn't want him to waste my toothpaste."

I gave Timothy a look that conveyed both mild amusement and profound disappointment (it's a hard look to pull off, but having huge eyebrows helps).

So I said to Sam, "See, mint won't kill you."

Sam, not having heard a verbal counterspell or repeal of the original Law of Mint Toothpaste, yelled even louder, "But Timothy said it would kill me!"

I looked at Timothy again.  "Well?"

My oldest son is quick on the uptake.  "Sam," he said, "I was wrong.  You will not die if you use mint toothpaste."

Sam, looking up into Timothy's face, accepted this statement stoically and said, "Okay."  Then he turned around, went into the bathroom, and brushed his teeth with Timothy's mint toothpaste.  

He left at least a teaspoonful on the counter.


Post a Comment

<< Home