I woke up yesterday with a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. I had to take Lil’ P. and Lil’ K. to the pediatrician for shots that afternoon, and I dreaded it. Besides, I had just downloaded Fifty Shades Freed, and I wanted to finish it. Who wants to restrain their screaming kids so someone can poke needles in their arms? Who wants to deal with the potential consequences of NOT giving those shots?
I know that some of you are pro-vaccine, and some of you might be against them; I’m not cashing in on the debate today. I just want to hide behind my horny books. I’m just dealing with my own personal fall-out from terrifying my children for their own good yesterday.
I didn’t tell Lil’ K. about the afternoon plans until I absolutely had to; Lil’ P. is too young to get it yet, although after yesterday, he probably has a good idea of what’s going to happen to him when we pull up to a particular white building in the future. We carried on with picking blackberries and swimming lessons as we would on any other day. I thought about keeping quiet about the whole doctor thing until I hit office parking lot, but I decided against it.
“Mama, why can’t we swim a little longer?” asked Lil’ K. when her lesson was over. “I wanted to show you what I learned today.”
“We have to do something now,” I said vaguely, feeling like an asshole.
“Not extra swimming today?” asked our swim teacher raising her eyebrows at me. We hang around in the pool for a while every day.
“We have to go to the D-O-C-T-O-R,” I spelled grimly.
“Oooooooh,” she said with a knowing nod.
I nodded back, Lil’ K. looked up just in time to catch our exchange.
“I don’t want to go to the O-C-T-D-Q-Z,” she told me, eyes widening.
“Where is that?” I said, grinning at her. “I don’t know what the O-C-T-D-whatever is.”
“I don’t want to go. I don’t like it,” she told me. “Where are we going?”
I thought about holding her off. I considered lying, but my kid can read me like a book. I knew I was in for a major meltdown in the pool locker room, but her trust in me trumped the annoyance of a few tears.
“We’re going to see the doctor,” I told her. She covered her mouth with both hands and gasped as if I’d just told her we’d decided to take away her birthday for the upcoming year.
“Do I have to get a shot?” she asked from behind her hands.
I could have said that she didn’t. I could have said I didn’t know. I could have been evasive. But I did know.
“Yes,” I answered. “You have to have them so you can start preschool next year.”
The wailing ensued. Everyone was staring, probably wondering why I hadn’t lied. What a stupid mama, they were probably thinking. Now we have to listen to this kid screaming like she’s getting the shot now.
I consoled her as I dressed her. I promised to give her some quarters toward the Dream Light she’s working for this summer if she would be a brave girl and stop crying. I may as well have tried to stop an 18-wheeler by standing in front of it.
I thought about this some more as I was putting Lil’ P.’s clothes on. Why should she stop crying? She’s about to get stuck by a needle four times. I wanted to cry too. Lil’ P. saw her concern and began screaming in concert. I dragged them both out of there as quickly as I could. I longed to go hide somewhere with my Kindle and a dirty book.
To abbreviate this long story, we made it through the appointment. It took the nurse forever to draw up all the shots. Each kid had a tray of four. FOUR! I had to restrain their screaming little selves for four!!!!! We made it through. I took my sniffling, trembling, little children next door to the 7-11 and bought them cookies and doughnuts. I know, I know—nothing like creating a food addiction, right?
As I drove home, I realized how lucky I am that pain is so alien to my kids that they scream at the sight of shots. What if they were so sick that they didn’t care anymore who prodded them? What if they had had so many needle sticks that they barely noticed when another invaded their skin?
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not a church-going woman—the floor could open up if I walked in. BUT I pray regularly, like ALL day long. I sent up many prayers of thanks at that moment. I also drove along in humble reverence and respect for the mothers and fathers who watch, restrain, and wipe the tears of their children who must endure this life-saving medical crap every day of their lives. I also thought about the looks on the faces of both my pediatrician and the nurse as they made my kids cry. I’m so thankful they have the strength, day in and day out, to administer good health to screaming kids in whatever form necessary.
“You know, Mama,” Lil’ K. began, her mouth full of cookie, “these Band-Aids are pretty sparkly and cool.”
“Dis,” added Lil’ P. I could see him spewing crumbs, as he touched his own silver bandage.
“I love you, Mama,” said Lil’ K.
“Luya,” added Lil’ P.
“I love you guys, too,” I told them. And they know everything I say is true.