First of all, this title has nothing to do with the post other than the fact that the post is about taking my deux-year old to “get shots”… I set off to write a very different post than this ended up being, which happens sometimes. Okay then! Onward!
The guiltxiety one feels before taking her child to get shots is not unlike the OMG-I-can’t-do-this-but-oh-fuck-I-have-to feeling reserved for breaking up with a significant other. For confrontation-phobes such as myself the idea of breaking up with someone used to be so horrific that I’d wait months of sleepless nights to break up a relationship no matter how long the relationship even lasted. A one week relationship would quickly turn into three months on account of my being allergic to confrontation, paralyzingly afraid of inflicting pain on anyone, douchebag or otherwise.
Until finally, I’d give in. “We need to talk,” I’d say before lighting four cigarettes at once.
Even though it’s been a cazillion years since I was a young’n lookin’ for love in all the wrong places, I still remember the feeling well, the feeling of knowing something they didn’t. Of knowing that our “getting together to talk at the coffee shop” wasn’t because I wanted to discuss the latest episode of Friends or whatever but because, I was about to do something painful and mean, that even though it was, “for the best! We are clearly a terrible fit,” it would seem, at the time, for the worst. It was vomit inducing at best. I’ve never broken up without throwing up. True story. So gross. The end.
Last Tuesday, the morning of Fable’s two-year-six-shots-due-check-up, I woke up in the morning panicked. My guilt was palpable, so palpable in fact that I spent twenty minutes on the toilet tending to my stomach issues. Sorry TMI but that’s what happens to me when I feel like shit. I personify “pun intended.”
That morning Fable and I cuddled for at least seventeen minutes longer than usual. And then we read Olivia sixteen times to our usual twelve. I let her have a cereal bar for breakfast, filled my purse with animal cookies, let her bring her baby dolls (and stroller) in the car with us, played her Lady Gaga’s Paparazzi on repeat, sang along with her, drove the slow way down La Cienega… Parked three blocks from the doctor’s office so we could enjoy the fresh air, fallen leaves.
And then I broke the news. “Fable,” I said. “You’re about to get shots. A lot of shots. And it’s going to hurt and you’ll likely cry. It’s okay. I’ll most likely cry, too. It’s not you, it’s me. I don’t want you to get sick and/or die from any preventable diseases and one day you’ll be able to understand what I’m talking. For instance, your Gooey almost died of polio when she was little and that sucked and now she has a two inch leg difference which is a super big pain in her ass. Anyway. You’re just going to have to love me despite the fact that I’m hurting you right now.”
But Fable wasn’t listening. Here I was finally with the balls to tell her the truth and she didn’t want to hear it! And clearly she knew what I was talking about because my children are geniuses. They can hear everything in such an advanced way.
I used to beg Hal to take Archer to get his shots. He was a difficult baby at the doctor. Hated having his ears checked and his temperature taken. Refused to get on the scale. It was always a battle no matter how painless the procedure.
Fable is not her brother. She LOVES the doctor and her stethoscope. She loves the scale, being measured, giggles when the doctor takes her temperature, checks her pulses, shines bright lights in her eyes. She even gladly opens her mouth to say “Ahhhhhh…” when the doctor asks. (See? Such advanced listening skills. She’s like 97 percentile in hearing comprehension and listening mathematics.)
Which makes knowing what’s coming next even worse. With Archer, the damage was already done. He was PISSED, crying angry tears and “get me the hell out of here” before having any knowledge of the incoming shots. He was already like, “fuck you! I hate you!” which is an easier scenario to be in because you’ve already lost. It’s like telling someone that hates you that you’re going to punch them in the arm. They already hate you so…. not much is going to change when you punch their arms. Not that I would every punch anyone in the arm, hater or not, but you know what I mean. It’s a lot harder to break bad news to a happy person than it is an angry one. Real talk.
And Fable could not have been more in love with me, the doctors, the nurses… Even the tray of 7897983198 syringes was a wonderful thing.
I tried to warn her.
“NO! YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND! IT’S OVER! IT’S ALL OVER!”
“What’s over? What? Huh? I love and trust everybody in the whole world and am quite happy to see you and your needle friends!? What’s a needle again? Oh, it doesn’t matter. Love and rainbows happily ever after the end.”
“Fable? This is going to hurt a little. See the band aids?”
“Yaaaah,” she said, still smiling.
They pricked me first. I needed a TB test in order to volunteer in Archer’s class. Fable watched and smiled. She thought it looked like… fun? I guess?
Until it was her turn.
I held her in my lap and closed my eyes.
But there were no tears.
“No.” she said, angrily. She gave the nurse the “step off me bitch” hand but did not cry.
“NO! Mama? Nonononono!” Once again, she pointed her finger at the nurse. Scowled. But again, no tears.
She made it through all 9,874 shots without crying. Clearly a Christmas miracle. It wasn’t until they pricked her finger for her anemia test that the tears finally came, followed (of course) by my own tears and “I’m so sorry I’m so sorry, I’m the sorriest mother in all the land…”
But then, as it so often is, it was over.
“We’re done, yes?” I asked the nurse.
The nurse gathered her things and left Fable and me alone. Alone to blow our noses, wipe away our tears, eat the cookies in my purse, feel relief. FINALLY, relief.
Relief because the worst was over. Relief because it went over better than I thought it would. Relief that I was doing the right thing. Relief that we were in the clear. No more shots. Not for a while at least.
She sniffled. I exhaled. Phew.
We finished the cookies, both of us stronger and more independent than we were before, held hands down the hallway and into the elevator where we then said our goodbyes, exchanged borrowed CDs, Bukowski books and went our separate ways.
Just kidding about the separate ways part.