93 – My Mom

Hi and welcome or welcome back to The Perio Patient Podcast a podcast for my patients and anyone else who cares to listen. My name is Dr. Ben Young and you might be patient of mine. If you are, then you know who I am and what I do, but for everyone else, I am a periodontist in private practice in the beautiful city of San Antonio and in the great state of Texas. I’m not a native Texan, but I got here as soon as I could. 

If this is your first episode, you have jumped in on number 93, and the title is “My Mom.” I think you will like this story. 

Now, because this is 93, it means there are a lot preceding this one you might want to check out. It’s easy. Go to my website and click on different tabs there and just look around. You can also search for this podcast on most of the major podcast disseminating sites like Libsyn, iTunes, Spotify, and the rest. If you subscribe you will find they show up as soon as I publish them.  

As those of you who have listened to anything on this podcast before likely know, I use this platform because it is easy for me to talk with you about things in the most convenient way for both of us possible. I produce them when I have the time and you listen as you have the time. 

Unlike sane podcasters today, I don’t really care about the number of listeners. What matters more to me is that I am speaking to those with questions or curiosity — as well, possibly, problems and concerns in the area of their teeth and gums. It’s because I don’t care to monetize this activity that growing the audience numbers is not that important. Having said this, if you find this information helpful to you, by all means, share it with others for their benefit.  

So, this vehicle is simply an opportunity to speak a little into your life both as a practitioner and hopefully a friend, though admittedly, for most of us, our paths will cross just a little if at all – and that’s as it should be. I’m speaking to those in the multiple different countries who are listening in. Glad you are with us. But, you have a life out there and this area or problem is just a small part of it. I get it. 

Recently, I was talking with some business associates and was explaining to them that I am going to do a second edition of my book, The Joy of Flossing. It was published in 2015 and it needs a good edit along with adding more material. Who knows, it might reach the length of a real book. Right now it takes under an hour to read and, as always, its most important feature are the pictures in the middle showing how to effectively floss – something most people do not understand unless they have been shown this in the same way I was shown during a class in my first year in dental school. 

Now I am the son of a dentist and I did not know the correct, or most effective way to floss until I got to dental school. That story is in the book so I won’t repeat it here. 

But there is an important story that I don’t think I have shared and so will do so today.  

But before I do, I will give you the punchline or conclusion up front.  

We don’t do logical things as kids. We are not capable of logic at first. It is both trained and learned. 

Right now in our world, the family is under attack and the prize, it appears, in this conflict are the children. There are a lot of reasons for this and most of them are either misguided on the give-people-the-doubt side or outright evil – attempting to destroy the next generation. 

Certainly, speculations as to why all of this is happening abound and I will not be going there today or likely in the future because it strays from my purpose.  

But what I do want to do is explain, through my own firsthand account, why as a child I never got a cavity and why school was easy for me. It doesn’t have anything really to do with my intelligence – I consider my level of intelligence to be normal. Everyday, I encounter intelligent people with some of them having gone further into academia or up career ladders than I have and some who have not traveled as far. Natural intelligence isn’t, to my mind at least, the big differentiator. Sometimes it has to do with the influence of others in our lives. And one of these for me happens to be my mom.  

Two things to help you visualize what she was like as a mom. She was fierce, meaning she knew what she wanted and was not a pushover, whether you were one of her kids, one of her kids friends, one of her kids friends parents, or the principle of the local school. The second thing is she is not particularly tall. She hovers a little above the five foot level. Her four kids all out grew her easily. It didn’t matter because, did I tell you? She was fierce. Not so much now. She is just a sweetheart at the age of 97. 

So here it is. The reason I never had a cavity as a child was because mom refused to allow it to happen. Sure my dad was involved, but not like mom.  

First of all, we did not have deserts, except once a week on Fridays when, as a family, we had a bowl of ice cream while watching a couple hours of TV.  

Let me back up. TV in our household was not allowed on weekdays, except perhaps on occasion for 30 minutes. Translating this today, I would have been one of the kids whose time on a computer or smart phone would have been monitored and limited. At the same time, I was pushed outside to play with other kids in the neighborhood. And no, she wasn’t worried about strangers. As far as my mom was concerned, the only strangers around us were the friends we hadn’t yet met, so she was all about meeting people and living in a community that got along. Kids would come to my house to play and I would go to theirs, even if it meant mom dropped me and/or my siblings off.  

Personally, looking back on the COVID lockdown years we have just been through, I think one of the most important lessons we should take from it all is that isolation is tremendously destructive and that, like the chickenpox in my early years, it is better to get it and get over it than attempting to avoid it. Mom saw to that too. When one of us got the chickenpox, she made sure the other siblings spent a lot of time with that one. It was a project to get us past it the old-fashioned way.  

Viruses cannot be avoided. We knew that then, and it’s still true now. They are a part of life.  

Fear, on the other hand, can and should be faced and managed – and we should learn to rely more on one another – those physically close by — than listen to talking heads placed in their positions by moneyed interests. My mom, when it came to this sort of thing was fearless – and I have already told you she drastically limited my time in front of the TV.  

I hope you are getting the picture. Mom controlled my time, my food – what I was and was not allowed to eat and when, and even my early education.  

But before I go there, let me close the story about no cavities. From babyhood on, my mom brushed my teeth. When I could stand, she would have me stand on a little bathroom stool in front of the sink and mirror in the bathroom and she would bend over to brush my teeth.  

As I grew, she continued to brush my teeth until I no longer needed to stand on the stool. Eventually, mom was standing on the stool brushing my teeth. This went on probably until about the age of ten.  

The four of us kids never told another of our friends about this behavior of my mom. It was embarrassing to say the least, but there was never a question as to whether we would permit her to do this. Did I tell you she was fierce? But that wasn’t the whole story. My father backed her and if she couldn’t for some reason brush our teeth, he stepped in and did the job. Also if we gave our mother any problem, we had to deal with dad – and this was not a good thing. So certainly I complied – and respected my parents – for my own good certainly, but as part of the discipline of respect they instilled in me. 

And what was the result of this bizarre behavior by my mom? None of us kids had any tooth decay growing up. It just wasn’t allowed.  

Which now brings me to the most important single thing my mom did for me growing up – and there were many to choose from – but this is at the top.  

My fierce little mom never left it up to the school to teach me to read. She taught me herself starting around the age of four. We would lay across a bed with a book called Teaching Johnny to Read, first published in 1955 by Rudolph Flesch. This, I credit to my entire professional career. It was the most important book I ever read all the way through high school – and I read a lot of books. In addition, it launched my interested that became my major in college – English. And it influences me even today as I write and speak. 

To help you understand what all this was about, and why it was so important in my life, and can be brought back into the lives of children today, let me to read some introductory information from the current book. If you are a parent or grandparent, I hope this encourages you to buy the book and use it with your kids. If you yourself don’t consider yourself a very good reader, this book is perfect for you as well. It will improve your reading skills while you teach it to someone else. My mom used this book with my next door neighbor when he was a freshman in high school. Reading is just an important skill. It doesn’t matter when you learn, just that you do. 

Well, that’s it for today. Thanks for letting me share about my mom. It’s always a treat to do so. You have been listening to the Perio Patient Podcast. I am still Dr. Ben Young. Thanks for listening.  

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