Trying Not To Laugh At Your Child’s Pain

For me, the journey of parenting is akin to a road trip gone terribly off course. It’s like finding yourself stranded in Ollie, Iowa, with four flat tires and no cell phone reception for miles. It’s a wild roller coaster ride with faulty seatbelts. It’s that mixture of incredulity and horror Americans experience every time a certain politician opens his mouth to speak.

Before I had children, I had many assumptions about parenting. I figured my children would be compliant little angels who lived to please. They’d listen to my directives and advice, and I, in turn, would be the patient and consistent mother they deserved. Never in my wildest dreams did I picture a time when I would have to tackle my child to the ground in a crowded Target and drag her cavewoman-style back to the store clinic. And yet, I found myself to be doing precisely that a few years ago.

Like most children, my son Asher isn’t fond of needles and shots. Actually, that’s putting it too nicely. He loathes them with a violent passion. He acts as though they’re instruments of torture invented by masochistic scientists spawned directly from Satan himself. Shots are referred to as the S-word in our house, as though the word itself conjures intense levels of pain.

A few years ago, we were clustered inside a Target clinic exam room to get our flu vaccines. By the time the nurse practitioner walked in, Asher was a certifiable wreck. The poor little boy was doing his best to be brave, but his tears were sliding down his cheeks faster than we could wipe them and his knees were shaking so hard against the chair, I was sure they’d be bruised.

The nurse took one look at him, then one withering glance at us – the useless good-for-nothing parents – before shutting the door. Wheeling the stool over, she sat down and proceeded to do the impossible – she calmed him down. I mean, she really calmed him down. She must have done witchcraft as a pastime because it seemed to us that only a graduate of Hogwarts could perform such a calming spell. We watched in stupefied amazement as she talked and soothed until he was reclining in the exam chair, eyes closed, and breathing steadily. After he lay in this comatose state for a little while, she stood up to prepare the shot. She swiped his upper arm with an alcohol wipe, and together we held our collective breath as she uncapped the needle.

That was the moment when all hell broke loose.

Asher’s younger sister, Esty, screamed, “Asher, wake up! That woman lied to you – this needle is HUGE!!! She’s a LIAR! It’s huuuuuge!!!!”

Asher’s eyes flew open just as the nurse plunged the needle into his skin. Thankfully, the woman was a pro and had finished the job before he knew what had hit him. Asher was so relieved that it was finally over that tears of joy ran down his face.

Esty in the meanwhile had gone completely berserk. While some 10 minutes earlier, she had been perfectly behaved, sitting quietly in a chair watching her big brother freak out in the objective, detached way of a scientist observing a psychotic chimp. By all appearances, she wasn’t going to be any problem.

We were wrong.

Esty ran out of the exam room, shrieking at the top of her lungs. Daniel and I caught up to her at the checkout area, where we tackled her to the ground before dragging her back into the room as she kicked and screamed.

The worst part was that my husband and I couldn’t stop laughing. Only really immature, unsympathetic people would laugh hysterically while their child is acting like there’s no tomorrow. I blame it on our nerves. Daniel says it was just plain funny. The nurse practitioner wasn’t laughing; in fact, she looked moderately concerned that we were actually parents. But then, I can’t say that I blame her.

I learned two valuable lessons from that day:

  1. Hypnosis is a useful skill to know.
  2. Maturity doesn’t necessarily come with age.

Happy flu shot season, everyone!