Since my kids survived their hair cuts gash-free, didn’t drown at their swimming lessons, and suffered only minor rug burns at a gymnastics-themed birthday party, I decided to try harder to inflict pain. So, I took them to get their H1N1 shots.
(cc) Mike Licht, used under a Creative Commons ShareAlike License
True to my haphazard approach to parenting, I didn’t come prepared. No snacks, no games, no distractions for the line-up. I was spinning plates to entertain two five-year-olds already hyper from chocolate birthday cake.
We begin Operation Distraction by playing Eye Spy. Now, I’m pretty proud of William and Vivian’s progression on this game. We started playing it as a stuck-in-traffic diversion when they were two-years-old; I’d give challenging clues like, “I spy…mommy.” And magically, both kids would point at me. Not exactly the Harvard version. Standing in that dim hospital hallway, we graduate to colours. It all goes swimmingly; as we inch forward, new posters and doors offer colourful possibilities. Soon, however, the line slows and the options dissipate. It’s William’s turn. “I spy something black,” he says. I follow his eyes. He’s staring at the boy in line behind us, who’s from the Sudan. His mom and I had chatted earlier. Rather than deal with political correctness, I say, “Let’s play rhymes.”
“Name one word that rhymes with car.”
“Star,” Vivian says, eyes shining.
“Bar,” says William, as if he knows where I’d rather be.
“Here’s another one,” I say. “Tell me a word that rhymes with truck.” You know where this joke’s going without the punch line. It falls in the mommy’s-not-too-swift category.
We progress to Simon Says. After I jump up and down for half a minute, a nurse utters that beautiful word, “Next.”
We walk to Station 12 in the final row. Vivian opts to go first. It seems like a good idea until she sees the needle laying-in-wait on the table. Then she starts screaming, “No, mommy, no!” I attempt to wriggle up her sleeve, but it’s too tight. Great. More clothes that don’t fit. And I wonder why she looks vaguely homeless.
“You’ll have to remove her shirt,” the nurse says. So, I twist it off and snag Vivian’s glasses in the process.
The nurse gives me proper gripping instructions: sit Vivian sideways on my lap, pin her right arm between my back and the chair, and hold her left arm down with my other hand. William watches the entertainment unfold before him. Vivian catches a glimpse of the needle again, approaching her arm. She screams, “I’m not ready yet!” Her enunciation and volume cause all stations to pause.
(cc) Nathan Forget, used under a Creative Commons ShareAlike License
H1N1, Take Two. Vivian goes into a back arch that nearly catapults her over the table, while screaming “I need another minute!” She’s got some serious potential as a B Horror Film actor if her career as a one-girl-craft-factory doesn’t work out.
H1N1, Take Three. She sees it coming. Her eyes are wild and she’s bucking like a bull-rider at the rodeo. The nurse grips Vivian’s bicep. She means business. Vivian screams, “Didn’t you hear me? I said I need another minute!”
And the needle sinks into Vivian’s flesh. A shriek echoes throughout the gym. There is a silence underneath the scream as all eleven stations have once again stopped to watch the freak show. I scan the gym, making eye contact with them all. No sense pretending this isn’t my kid.
William, transfixed by his sister’s episode, is a postscript to the whole thing. He sits still, watches the needle pierce his epidermis, and whispers, “Ouch.”
When we get home, my husband asks, “How did it go?”
Vivian answers, “It was fine, Daddy.”