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Science Kids on the Loose

Science Kids on the Loose

Flu Shot Confessions

I do not like shots. I am a big baby when it comes to needles. I am convinced that my needle phobia can be traced back to Star Wars. Yes, Star Wars. Remember when the evil Darth Vader threatened poor Princess Leia with the truth serum in the needle and the spacey door swooshes shut? My little six-year-old self sure does! The phobia has stayed with me throughout my adult life. To this day, I claim that the worst part of giving birth to my two gorgeous boys was the 45-minute epidural incidents. And that was to STOP pain!
I am not proud of myself. Intellectually, I understand the need for the flu shot and I get one every year. Emotionally, however, I am wreck. When the boys were babies I cried through all the wellness visits that ended with shots. The anticipation undid me. Three years ago, when I went back to work I got a reprieve from the shot appointments. My brave and honorable stay-at-home husband took over shot duty. I am relieved to say that I didn’t witness Henry’s four-year-old, 4-shot ordeal. I cowered at my desk In Boston that morning, anxiously awaiting the all-clear phone call. Henry was fine, by the way.
Now we are on the cusp of flu season 2010-2011. Last year, Gerry taught the boys “brave faces” before receiving their flu vaccination. It was a big hit and they return to their poses in times of distress. (See Henry’s picture below.)
But this year, I am the stay-at-home parent and I armed myself with information and Sid the Science Kid.
(Okay, I have a tiny confession to make. I scheduled Leo’s flu shot appointment on the Donuts with Dad day at our preschool. Sneaky, I know. But I have a phobia! And Gerry didn’t seem to mind taking him. Leo was happy about his lollipop and boasted that the shot “did not hurt one bit!”)
The role of supportive parent for Henry’s flu shot fell to me this year. I was ready. In preparation, Henry and I watched the Sid episode called “Getting a Shot: You Can Do It!” Henry really got behind the concept of building antibodies to fight the flu. I loved that this was another episode that uses science to stomp out a childhood fear. Henry watched intently as kids on the show received their shots. Bravo to the team for providing real footage of kids getting shots. The facial expressions on the kids were perfect. We also really liked May saying “No big deal” in her sing-songy voice. After the show Henry practiced his brave face and proclaimed, “I am ready for my flu shot!”
In a show of solidarity, I also decided to get a flu shot at the pediatrician’s office. It was a challenge for me to fight my nerves and keep a smile on my face as Henry scrutinized my every move and expression. Then it was Henry’s turn. And it did not go as planned. The nurse would not allow him to sit on my lap for the vaccination and he flipped out. He ran under a chair when the nurse asked him to sit on the table. I had to coax him out, hold him down on the table, and keep eye contact. I kept saying “no big deal” in my best May voice. The nurse administered the shot as she lay over his legs, and he didn’t even notice. He smiled and asked for his lollipop. No harm done, right?
Wrong. I was very shaken by the experience. Here is the thing…back home we had the most amazing, educated, straight-talking, shot-administering pediatrician in the world. I have learned the hard way that finding a new peds office is a daunting task. So, although Sid did a great job preparing Henry for a flu shot, nothing can replace a good pediatrician and a caring staff. I wish I had insisted on a nurse that would let Henry stay on my lap. It is my job to advocate for someone who spoke to him kindly and did not restrain him for a simple flu vaccination. I have a lot of “I should’ves” from that visit. I am trying not to beat myself up as I look for new pediatrician.
But there IS good news. Henry tells everyone who will listen about antibodies and vaccines. We also discovered a fun game on the Sid website called Super Duper Antibodies that served as a great reward for Henry’s bravery. Henry is proud of himself and that is a very good thing. And we are all vaccinated which means our family should be flu free this year. All reasons to smile!
How do you prepare your children for trips to the pediatrician? What do you look for in a pediatrician and the office staff?

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