Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Happiness is not a purple light-up toothbrush

I never realized the fate that would befall me when I tossed Max's Crayola light-up purple toothbrush the other week. He'd had strep, and I always get the kids new toothbrushes after they start antibiotics because those evil bacteria can live on the bristles. 

Off I went to CVS to pick up a new purple light-up toothbrush. Only there were none to be found in any color. Hmm, I thought: weird. I went to another drugstore. Nope. Then I hit another. Nada. 

Total time spent driving to drugstores and cruising toothbrush aisles: 50 minutes.

Max's wants in life are pretty simple (um, other than repeated requests for Disney Cruises). He likes: 1) Cars 2 merchandise and 2) Anything purple. At this point, the kid owns more Cars 2 stuff than I've seen in some Disney Store sections. And purple? Yeah, that too, even though I am so tired of that color and never really liked it and DID I JUST WRITE THAT? 

I called a friend to chat and ended up complaining to her about the lack of purple light-up toothbrushes. I bemoaned the fact that I'd never thought to hoard them.  

Total time spent complaining about my toothbrush quest: 7 minutes

Still: Getting Max a light-up purple toothbrush is one small thing I can do to make him happy. Besides, this light-up one has its charms. Max does not like having his teeth brushed—it's a whole lot of oral-motor stimulation and he's got mouth sensitivity, no matter how gentle I am. We're at the point where we stand in the dark, the bathroom lit up only by the blinks of the brush, and I sing "Happy Birthday to Max" as I clean his teeth. See: You Do What You've Gotta Do.

When I get home from my drugstore rounds, I hit Amazon. I always assume you can find everything on Amazon, and one of these days when we commit to having a third kid I will most likely first check Amazon's "baby" department to see if one is there. Sure enough, I find an actual purple Toothbrush with Flashing Timer on Amazon. At $2.19 plus $1.99 shipping, I purchase two. Just in case there's a run on them. I write on the gift card (the only place where you can write a message): "Please note, we need PURPLE."

Total time spent browsing Amazon and purchasing two purple light-up toothbrushes: 4 minutes

Meanwhile, I use a substitute purple brush that does not light up. Max isn't pleased. He still wants to brush his teeth in the dark, which is a little tricky and once I think I accidentally brushed his nostrils. 

The package arrives from Amazon. I eagerly rip it open to find...two red light-up toothbrushes. 

Surely this is karma coming back to bite me in the butt for all those times I told my mom I brushed my teeth as a kid, but didn't.

Later that night, I jump on Amazon chat with a customer service rep. I point out to Siobhan that the image on the page is of a purple toothbrush, and so that's what I was expecting. She apologizes, offers a credit, says she would be glad to place another order.

Me: "But can you guarantee that I will get a purple toothbrush?"
Siobhan: "There's a chance you might not get that color again."
Me: "OK, then no need to place another order because I don't need any other color."
Siobhan: "I'm sorry you didn't get what you wanted, have a blessed day."
Me: "Oh, Siobhan, you have NO idea the lengths I have gone to to get my child purple stuff."
Siobhan: [silence]

Amazon reps are probably trained not to respond to people who act as if they are going to commit hara-kiri for lack of a purple light-up toothbrush. 

Time spent with Amazon rep describing The Situation and ascertaining that it was not possible to guarantee me a purple light-up toothbrush: 6 minutes. 

I Google around. The Crayola site still features the toothbrushes, only when I type in my zip code for "Find A Store" I get 0 results. When I click "" I get an error message. And suddenly, I get the distinct feeling these may be discontinued.

Time spent Googling and then compulsively eating a sleeve of Girl Scout Samoa cookies from the stress of it all: 12 minutes. 

Eventually, I find a bunch on eBay, but only one purple one. The seller does have "99.9% positive feedback" so I feel confident I will get that color. But it will cost me $5.35, plus $1.69 in shipping. 

$7.04 for a toothbrush. 

Also: I have just spent 79 minutes of my life looking for a purple light-up toothbrush. Seventy-nine minutes that I will never have back. Seventy-nine minutes that I could have spent reading or doing housework or discussing Cars 2 or purple stuff with Max.

And suddenly, three words flash on in my head: GET A GRIP.

As much as I want to keep this child happy, one purple toothbrush isn't going to make a real difference. If I'm being honest with myself, this is as much about my burning desires to keep Max content and make up for all that he's dealt with in life as it is about his passion for purple. 

He can certainly learn to find contentment in a red light-up toothbrush.

And he has.


  1. The lengths we go to as parents to try to keep them happy! In the dark can he tell what color it is? Could you paint it? Hugs to you and Max.

  2. You could always use a purple Sharpie & color the handle purple!!!
    (purple Sharpies also at CVS...)

  3. This is a beautiful post. I have gone to similarly crazy lengths for my six-year-old (with sensory processing disorder and very specific likes and dislikes), so I understand your situation. Maybe Max will decide red is his new favorite color...just like Lightning McQueen!

  4. I was gonna suggest you get some purple duct tape for situations like this--put a strip or two of purple on the thing, and it's purple with a bit of red. Probably not a bad idea to have a roll or two on hand for other things, for those times when bribery just is easier than negotiation. You can get a bundled pack of six at Wally World for twenty bucks!!!

  5. You just started my day with a smile :) Especially the part about brushing his nostrils. Of course I have never done that.....

  6. I'm sorry Ellen you can't make up for Max having Cerebral Palsy with a toothbrush my parents try to make up for me having CP by buying/doing anything I ask I can smell the guilt a mile away.

    1. It's not about guilt or "making up" for anything--it's what people who love each other do--they go the extra mile to get a small thing that brings big pleasure. A purple toothbrush isn't a trip to Paris... The joy that the child gets is nothing compared to the joy the PARENT gets from making their child happy.

  7. I think it's great that you had the GET A GRIP moment. I don't think it is healthy for you or for Max to put so much time and energy into filling yourr house with very specific merchandise. I know he's not at the stage where he can really understand the idea that happiness isn't connected to material things, but hopefully someday he will get there. And the way I see it, you are helping the process along by choosing not to fuel his obsessions. Thanks for sharing!

  8. Love this! Hilarious. I think we all have those "get-a-grip" moments - a tiny window of perspective in the midst of otherwise crazy days...

  9. Apparently I can still buy them in Canada. I just checked the website. I'm headed out to Walmart today and I can have a look for purple ones :)

    1. OK, Kat, that is seriously sweet of you! Crayola tweeted at me and told me the name of the company that manufactures the toothbrushes for them. I have to say, I think it is very healthy for Max to expand his color ranges, and so I am sticking with the red for now!


Thanks for sharing!

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