Anyone who knows Ben today would assume correctly that he's always been bright and inquisitive. He has an eye for detail and a question for everyone. His first trip to the dentist was no exception. We took him to a special children's dentist with a great reputation for building rapport with kids. Since my experiences with military dentists left me with a lifelong fear of being in that chair, I wanted my children to give this dentist a try.
I don't remember his name, but I'll never forget the hour he spent with my son. He sat him in the chair and took his photo with a Polaroid camera, then allowed Benjamin to pin it to the bulletin board. Once back in the seat, Ben was presented with a tray of tools to examine. The good dentist explained each tool, and how he was going to use it. He had me standing just out of sight in the doorway, where Ben couldn't use me as a safety net, I was told, but I would feel secure in his well being.
As the fairly long litany of tools and their uses came to a close, the dentist leaned over and said to Ben, "Now, do you have any questions?"
"Yes," Ben said very seriously. "Who made God?"
There was a short period of silence and then the dentist said, "I mean about your teeth or what I'm going to do." Ben said he didn't, and then the dentist came out to talk to me for a minute, leaving Ben with his laughing assistant.
"Why did he ask me that? I've never had anyone ask me something not related to teeth before!" He wasn't quite angry, but obviously frustrated. I honestly didn't know, so I suggested he ask Ben. He didn't. Maybe he was afraid of him—I'm not sure.
When Ben came out, quite content with his first visit to the dentist, I asked him myself. "I wonder about who made God, and he said I could ask a question."
Children expect us to know whatever they don't for a long time. They ask so many questions. The really smart ones can be a terrifying responsibility. That day I laughed while he couldn't see me, then I tried to answer him. I think today I might suggest we google it.
I was surprised to find, when I called for his next checkup, that the dentist had unexpectedly retired. I've wondered through the years if the Ben's visit could have pushed him closer to his decision. No, I don't suppose so...