Here it is October and I am already behind. Nothing surprising there. That will continue to be the case, all the way up until I barely pull off Christmas in December.
Last week it occurred to me that I had not taken my kids for their yearly flu shots. Had it been a year already?
My son did a ten-day stint at a Children’s Hospital a few years ago with a dangerous pneumonia diagnosis. The doctors said the pneumonia could have developed from a case of the flu. After getting through that with him, I decided that my kids would get a flu immunization every year.
When I made that decision though I was not fully aware of what I was committing to. Four shots for four kid sounded easy enough. They had been getting immunizations since they were babies after all. How bad could it be?
Bad. Very bad. Let’s take last year for example.
Remembering the horrible experience from the previous year, last year I decided to approach it differently. Trying to talk to kids like rational adults about getting a shot does no good. Because they are not rational adults.
There is nothing you can say about a shot that makes a child believe that it is a good idea. So last year I thought we would just surprise them. Less time to worry. Right?
We got into the family car. The kids had no idea where we were going. Family day they sang. They took turns guessing what was on tap: the park, a restaurant, THE ZOO! It HAD to be the zoo.
Looking back now maybe it was a little cruel. If a kid believes that he is going to the zoo but instead winds up getting a shot, I can see how he could harbor resentment. For years.
We tool an alternate route to the same Minute Clinic where we had gotten their flu shots in years past. Hoping to delay the drama for just a little longer. The problem is I have a son who is very observant. He was paying attention. Close attention.
And just like that, he put two and two together. Then he announced:
THEY AREN’T TAKING US ANYWHERE FUN! THEY ARE TAKING US FOR FLU SHOTS!!!!!
Luckily I had my camera ready because this is exactly what happened next:
Clearly the element of surprise was not the best idea. You cannot see the baby’s face because he was already desperately trying to figure out how to bypass the child proof lock in an attempt to hurl himself from the moving vehicle.
It was pandemonium. But there was no turning back.
Dad pulled up by the door and turned off the vehicle. I was so desperate to contain the situation that I did something that I normally don’t do with my children. I bribed them. I told them anyone who walked in without being drug and/or carried, and walked into the nurses office without being begged and/or threatened, AND took the shot like a big boy/girl, could pick out a treat.
In their minds we were already frolicking with the flamingos at the zoo. Only to be delivered up for a medical procedure. A treat was the least I could do.
They walked through the front doors in a daze, still not sure how the day had taken such a horrible turn.
I put our names on the list as Dad tried to distract the kids with small talk. I filled out enough insurance/information forms that I could not be sure that I had not just given them up for adoption.
Then the nurse called our last name. Bell? SIX Bells?
Then I had the second stupid bright idea of the day. I thought we should all go in at the same time. Then Mom and Dad could get shots first. Then the kids would see that there was nothing to it. Brilliant.
I called first. They all sat watching, eyes big as saucers. The nurse rolled up my sleeve, applied alcohol to a tiny spot, then gently put the needle into my arm.
I stood there perfectly still with a smile on my face trying to prove that it wasn’t so bad, I was not going to flinch. Too much was riding on my performance.
It was working too. Until the very son who had announced the flu shots back in the car, screamed out:
OH MY GOD! WHERE DID THE NEEDLE GO! IT.IS.IN.HER.ARM!!!!
The kids simultaneously burst into tears. Again.
Dad was up. Now let me just say right here that I thought Dad and I were on the same page. Apparently I should have pulled Dad aside in the lobby and compared notes.
Dad sat there stone faced. Ready to take it like a champ. Until… the nurse put the needle in his arm. Sometimes Dad has a flair for the dramatic. Especially if he has an audience. This moment was no exception.
Dad began to scream and cry. And grabbed his arm as though he had been stabbed (I gave the performance a 7). In his mind he was trying to lighted the mood. Make all of the kids giggle at Silly Dad.
The kids did not get the joke. Once again they erupted into wails. And NOW it was their turn.
One by one, each kid was presented to the nurse. They all cried. They all tried to run. They all pleaded for mercy. They all squirmed.
One had to be stuck THREE times because he kept jerking right when the needle pierced the skin. Yet another tried to go down swinging. Dad had to step in.
And finally it was over. All four had received a shot (or three).
Sometimes being a parent means having to be the bad guy. Kids may not always understand our reasons. Or maybe they just don’t care about the reasons because shots really hurt.
With Operation Immunizations Blitz 2013in the history books, they all got to pick out a little something. I wanted to save the day. I wanted them to forgive us for not being honest with them from the start. I wanted them to forget all about the shots and just go back to being kids again.
Either that or maybe I always remember that these are the four people who will pick my nursing home one day. Payback is…well…you know.
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