April 29, 2003 - Tuesday
Harry had his first trip to the dentist this morning it went off remarkably well. It's hard to predict how Harry will react in this kind of situations and he was certainly a little nervous about the trip. But, we'd been talking about it, gradually introducing the idea, for about seven weeks and I think that gave him time to get used to the idea, at least on some level. When we got there and were first invited back, Harry just looked around trying to take everything in. It was probably a good five minutes - during which time Harry ignored all questions and robotically brushed his teeth for the hygienist so she could see his technique - before he even hinted that he could talk. Then, all of a sudden he noticed a fish swimming in the large fish tank in front of the dentist chair, just part of an entire fish/underwater theme in this office.
"There's a striped fish, right there!" he blurted out with unguarded enthusiasm and I knew things were going to be all right. He even patiently sat, wearing sunglasses the hygienist had offered to shield his eyes from the bright dentists' lamp above the chair, as a stranger poked her fingers and random objects into his mouth. He didn't seem to mind the "buzzing toothbrush" that I had tried to get him ready for and of which was his only real complaint this morning as we left the house. "I don't like the buzzing toothbrush," he said with a whimper. I picked up his buzzing toy saw and made a joke and that was all I heard about it.
The more interesting thing about this experience, though, was really hearing Harry prepare himself for it last night a bedtime. He didn't talk about the dentist specifically, but rather about going to the hospital, which I took to be what he was imagining the dentist might be like. Indeed, his other great victory of inner strength in an unfamiliar place came on a trip to the hospital for a "simple" lead paint screening. But, he didn't really talk about that either. He had been asking me lately about the time some fourteen months ago when I had gone to the hospital after having a small tree limb scratch my eye. I had been given some gooey medicine that I had to put into my eye and slept for much of one afternoon thanks to the codeine pills and maybe Harry had noticed and been concern, although I don't really remember. I don't know for sure why he started asking about this incident, although in hindsight it's easy to link it to the impending trip to the dentist.
Harry told a very believable story of how he had gone to the hospital and gotten gooey medicine for his eyes. It was a confidentially told tale that I could easily have believe had I not know so personally that it was my story and not something that actually had happened to him. This is not the first time Harry has made up stories. One evening around dinner, Harry calmly announced that he had thrown up at school.
"Was that today?" his mother and I asked, rather taken off guard.
"Yeah, this day." (That's Harry way of talking. I actually think he knows "today" and "yesterday," but he seems to like the specificity of "this day.")
"When did that happen?"
"After snack," he went on, with a matter-of-factness that belied the fact that the teacher probably would have let us know about this (indeed, called us immediately to come take him home).
We were quite comfortable that Harry must have been personalizing something he had witnessed in the class, another student's hardship. But, these incidences offer a glimpse at an emerging pattern of Harry's exploration with words, experiences, and, perhaps, factuality. I don't think he's purposely making up lies for the sake of it, but Harry has become complete untrustworthy as a witness. When he couldn't speak as well he was unreliabl for a different reason. Now, he just says things.
What's more, I used to think that if his brother cried out that I could ask Harry what happened and if he had done something to hurt Jeremy and get a straight answer. Now, it's clear that Harry has the imagination to take matters in other directions. But, that's a different story.