There’s a ton of stuff you can’t possibly know about parenting until you experience it firsthand. I’ll forego the entire list—it’s an ever-growing list, trust me—and focus on the two most pertinent for this Aesop-level fable. I’ll even try to come up with a moral at the end of the caper, but I fear the lesson is the story.
So here are two things you don’t know about parenting (really kids) until you, ya know, find out:
1. Kids have this well of Herculean strength on reserve for when they don’t want to do something the most. They usually reserve this strength for doctor’s visits—needles, in particular. If you’ve ever held a baby and been amazed at the strength of the grip kids get on hair, earrings, necklaces, etc., imagine that same thing when they’re 5-to-10 years old, scared, pissed, and deploying their ultimate fight-or-flight mechanism; and...
2. There may come a time when you might have to physically restrain one of your kids in order for them to get a shot. And there is no shame whatsoever if it takes multiple adults in order to achieve this task. If you had told me before I became a parent that there might be a day when I’d have to use all of my strength to keep my kid still enough to take a shot I’d laugh you out. Now, I offer it as a warning and preparation for all new parents.
Such brings us to this past Saturday. On a chilly Saturday morning in Washington, D.C., I was tasked with taking two of my kids—my 5- and 6-year-old sons—to get the first of their COVID shots as well as a flu shot. By myself. I was Mr. Solo Dolo. Parts I and II.
Now, I’m not new to this, I’m true to this; I have a 12-year-old daughter who I’ve had to help physicians hold down in order to administer her shots for various things. She’s much better about it now at her big age, but when she was a toddler on up through, well, the past year, it was an anxiety-inducing endeavor. I suppose I could be wrong, but I’d imagine no parent likes taking their kids to get shots.
Back to me.
Now, I knew this was coming. In fact, mentally I’d try to prepare myself by singing “Everything’s Gonna Be Alright” by Naughty By Nature over and over for days. A fool’s errand, I admit, but “two kids, two shots, one parent”; it’s the stuff viral videos are made of. My wife and I told the kids about their shots, and frankly, I kind of thought she was going to take them but she made it quite clear one day that at 11 a.m. on that Saturday, I was going to be at the CVS with my kids for their shots.
The day-of started out smoothly. We got up, took baths, ate breakfast, and my sons were pretty good about it. They knew where we were going and they asked over and over if it was going to hurt. I told them it wouldn’t because I’m a parent; sometimes you have to sell the dream on the way to the nightmare. We got in the car and I promised them candy and snacks and juice on the way. When we got to the CVS we were about 15 minutes early so I let them go pick out all of the junk food their hearts desired. The sheer amount of foolywang purchased was off the charts. The only request I stopped was the cheap sunglasses the older boy wanted. I probably spent $40 in pre-shot bribery money hoping that they’d be ready.
We paid and went back to the vaccine registration counter, checked in and waited for the nurse. When the nurse got there, she offered them two lollipops apiece, one before and one for after the shot. My kids were riding high, fam. They posed for pictures that betrayed what lay beneath: their fear of shots. They were making jokes and talking to the nurse who did a really good job of explaining the process for their shots. She showed them each needle and let them pick bandaids and gave them hugs. She was a bundle of information and good ideas.
Unfortunately, she also had one reaaaaaally bad idea. So she told the boys that 1) it wouldn’t hurt, and 2) it would be quick. She had a strategy. Her strategy was to have the younger one sit on the older one’s lap and each would essentially be holding the other’s arms and bracing one another for the shot(s). Now, while she set up this situation I looked it over and said to myself, “I don’t see it.” In fact, I knew what turned out to be true: this wasn’t going at all how she envisioned it.
So how did it go?
Glad you asked. Exactly how you think.
It was bedlam. Mayhem. It was all of the 1300s.
All was well until that first prick, which she administered to my oldest son first. That first prick and he screamed bloody murder and turned into the Incredible Hulk; his little brother sitting on his lap got tossed off and started screaming and took off running. The nurse, already one bad decision deep, attempted to quickly give him the flu shot, but he was already mad as hell, screaming and yelling (the younger one was about 10 feet away screaming—he had yet to be given a shot)—and so, he tried to GRAB the needle from his arm.
Because I’m a good parent, I was trying to take pictures and video so social media could see how responsible I was, but I dropped my phone somewhere on the floor and grabbed his hands and tried to restrain his arms AND grab for the little one, in case he tried to run out the store. That shit didn’t matter, though. He is the Incredible Hulk at this point and broke free because I’m looking around for his brother to make sure he doesn’t get kidnapped or something. The older one did manage to BEND the needle as he tried to rip it from his arm; thankfully, the nurse was quick enough to get it out of his arm before we ended up having to go to the hospital.
By this time, for perspective, we had an audience. You get shots behind a divider; there was no more division for our family. People were peeking around the corner looking to see who was screaming so loud and if they had parents with them. Yes, ma’am, they did. Keep in mind, one kid has his shots but he’s entirely inconsolable. He’s sweated through his shirt, I’ve sweated through my shirt and I think Brick killed a guy. I’m trying to hug him and tell him how good he did while I have a whole-ass 5-year-old SCREAMING his brains out because he’s afraid of what’s about to happen. Once the older one is at least screaming in a corner by himself, I have to grab the littler one—a nice twenty-something kept an eye on him for me, unasked—and talk him into these shots.
I’m not good at talking kids into shots when they just witnessed their version of a murder, mind you. In order to administer THIS set of shots, I had to hold my kid with ALL OF MY STRENGTH. I actually felt bad for how much energy I put into keeping him still as he yelled and KICKED THE SHIT OUT OF ME. Listen—the penis’d among us will understand this—this kid who leveled up in strength tenfold basically turned into Lionel Messi with his footwork. His legs didn’t stop moving and he laid one solid kick down that I swear would have scored from mid-field.
So I’m in absolute pain, he’s yelling in my ears as loud as he can, we have spectators (and a line has built up for folks—and other kids—waiting for their shots; poor kids) and I’m having to exert all of my humanly strength to keep his head from facing the nurse giving him his flu shot, which went just like the first one. Kickin’ and screamin’ and bending shit like Beckham. I was already in abject pain, but at least the second time, he kicked me in my thigh (I was on my knees holding him as he stood up).
Finally, we were finished and I lied to my kids again; I told them both “good job” as they stood there with tears in their eyes yelling (I kept my tears to myself; my tears dried on their own). The nurse hugged my youngest one, who really needed a hug and the older one just stood there looking defeated and betrayed by everybody around.
Every single person in that CVS gave us a handclap and I got a few “good job, dad” remarks from the parents in the space. The folks in the line, which at this point had grown sizably, all encouraged my kids who absolutely hated everybody who said anything to them. I made them pause for a new set of pictures and they looked ABSOLUTELY miserable, a far cry from the earlier pictures where they were posing for pictures like some bosses.
They cried all the way home, mind you, and when they saw their mother the waterworks went full Niagara Falls. It was a mess of a thing and we still have to go back to get their second shot and like Nu Shooz I can’t wait. Sarcasm all mine.
So what’s the lesson here? It’s not that hard: two kids require two parents. I needed another adult to sit in the car while one kid got a shot and then when he was done I could sneak the other in without seeing the first. That way, the pain wouldn’t have seeped into the other by osmosis. Next time, hopefully, this goes better. I have four kids; rookie mistakes shouldn’t still be happening.
As for my kids, they’re fine now. They were fine about an hour later when they seemed to have forgotten the shots and started playing. Thanks for asking. And me, I’m good too. Thanks for asking. That shit was stressful.