As it turns out, I can no longer brush my son's teeth. It is one in a long list of things that I can no longer do for my child and cannot make him do for himself (potty training is another subject altogether). Such is the world of the toddler. Toothbrushing, however, is sort of non-negotiable. It has to be done, even if these are his practice teeth.
I didn't have great brushing habits growing up. In fact, I didn't start brushing twice a day (instead of once) until I was in college. It's embarrassing, and I have the fillings to prove it. My kid is not going to grow up with teeth rotting out of his head if I have anything to say about it.
Try saying that to a two year old who's only interested in brushing his toes, eating the toothpaste, and running into the other room every time I break out the dreaded toothbrush. As far as he's concerned, my son is done when he's chewed on the thing for ten seconds. Until recently, my best tactics were the "tickle brush" when I hold him in my lap and tickle him to laughter with one hand while brushing with the other, and brushing each other's teeth (which led to him using my toothbrush and me getting a case of germophobia).
A couple weeks ago I asked a coworker what worked for her kids and grandchild. She swore by the electric toothbrush -- a $6 novelty that promises to need replacement every few months. A ridiculous indulgence, I told myself, but I tried it anyway.
And you know what? It bloody works! He's so interested in the silly thing that he'll let me brush his teeth again, and for longer than 4 seconds. He wants to turn it on and off, and loves the bit of independence it gives him since I'm not trying to wrestle him into using it. He's just starting to really try and emulate me when I brush at the same time, so I lather him with praise for the bit he does.
And if that fails on occasion, I'm not above giving him sugar-free gum to chew for half an hour. Ahem.