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Kathy's Chaos: A Shot in the Arm

Is the Stress of the Annual Flu Shot Worth It?

All three of my kids’ birthdays are in the fall, so we refer to the as their birthday shots. Birthday shots used to have a much different meaning for me but alas motherhood has changed everything.

I never know whether I should tell my children ahead of time that they will be getting shots later in the day or to surprise them with the appointment, thus giving them less time to stress out.

It doesn’t seem to make a difference. We cause a scene at the pediatrician’s office every year either way.

On Tuesday, I picked up my kids from school and broke the news.

Can we go for ice cream?

Sorry, guys, birthday shots today.

What?! No!

Sorry, we have to do it.

Off we drove to the pediatrician’s office.

The parking lot is where the “scene” began this year, taking up much more geography than in years’ past.

My girls got out of the car, resolved to their fate knowing there was nothing they could do to stop the inevitable.

It was my five-year-old son who refused to get out of the car.

Huge tears streaming down his face.


I pulled out all the stops, offering up every line I could think of to negotiate him walking into the building without me physically dragging him in. I can’t carry him anymore -- he’s built like a linebacker and weighs about 75 pounds.

It will be over so fast. Your sister pinches you harder than the shot. You get knocked down all the time on the soccer field; this hurts less. Do I have to call Daddy? The nurse is waiting, they have other patients. C’mon be a tough guy. You’re scaring the babies. I’ll buy you ice cream if you go in. If you don’t go in today we’ll have to come back tomorrow. I’m calling Daddy.  Do you want me to cancel your birthday party? We could be done by now.

We finally got him inside the office building. And, yes, the office staff had heard my entire exchange outside the doors.

After about 20 minutes, with the help of three nurses, we talked him into the exam room. I signed all the papers and my girls got their shots. In the end, I had to hold my son down while he screamed at the top of his lungs.


The nurse quickly jabbed him and it was over.

I hate doing that. I wish we could have left him buckled into the car and brought the shot out to him, saving all of us about 45 minutes and an enormous amount of stress.

We apparently do these things for the health of our children without taking into account the counteracting adverse health effects on the parent, including high blood pressure, fatigue and anxiety. It ends up as a wash, so why do I bother?

At this point, my oldest daughter started to tease my son about his tears. I reminded her that when she was his age and I brought them for their birthday shots, it took two nurses and me to get the shot into her while she screamed bloody murder. All the while, my middle one who was three at the time was chirping, “Mommy, I’m not crying. Mommy, look at me, I’m not crying.” Simultaneously, my son who was one and had just learned to walk ran out of the exam room and down the hall. 

Writing about this reminds me that I need to make an appointment at the hairdresser to cover up my new gray hair.

About this column: Kathy Yevchak is a mother of three and the author of two children's books. She also works part-time in corporate writing and training. Her column appears on Wednesdays.

. October 22, 2011 at 10:01 PM
Kathy look at it this way.... one night of stressing of your kids' birthday shots is far better than have 3 kids down with the flu for a week. My mother brought us for flu shots since we were kids and I am well into my 50s now. I still get my shot every year and am thankful that I have never had the flu.
skizma October 23, 2011 at 11:29 AM
I am assuming that you promise ice cream after the shots? No crying only. If you cry, no ice cream then follow through. Let those that didn't cry get the ice cream. You will find them suddenly cooperate. Find something they like and want and it will work. Even the 5 year old. You should try that with anything else that he sqwaks at. Is it bribery? No, reward. If you do this well, you will get that. If you study hard, you'll get an A. Or, take away playing with a friend if he misbehaves at the doctor's. It works. Followthrough, always works. At least you still get the shot though! You get kudos!


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