Normally I’m not a softie. At least, I don’t think so. I think I have a pretty good spine with my kids. Sometimes they hit a nerve and I give in, but really…I don’t think I’m a pushover. My husband disagrees, I’m sure.
But yesterday, oh….yesterday.
Max was due for his final set of booster shots, because he started “real school” – kindergarten. I’d told him he had to go see the doctor – that he needed a checkup and to make sure everything was ok with him. He seemed a bit iffy about it but agreed to go.
We waited at the pediatrician’s office for almost 2 hours before we were called back. Max hadn’t had a nap beforehand and was pretty tired, and on the verge of utter whininess, but on the whole he behaved pretty well.
Then, the nurse came and pricked his finger. He was pissed. I felt like a liar and total scum for a while, all the while trying to figure out how I’m going to redeem myself once he is stabbed and jabbed by needles and fingerpricking is the least of his worries.
We kept waiting, though, and Max kept whining. The sympathy part of my brain went to the rear, and he was just getting on my nerves. I mean, I know it sucks, having your finger pricked and all, but there is no need to break down in spasmic sobs AGAIN when the fingerpricking was 30 minutes gone. We threatened him with losing his Nintendo, Spiderman, all sorts of things because by this point he was just yelling to be yelling. I know because I could start counting to three and he would immediately shut up. See what an intuitive mom I am?
Anyway, the doctor comes in finally, checks him out, says he’s doing really well – growth is great, no speech impediments, all that. He breezes out with a “They’ll be right in for the immunizations and you can be on your way.”
And then the pristine glass tower we’d constructed came shattering down to the ground.
“What does that mean?”
He was DEMANDING to be answered. There was no avoiding it.
“It means there’s just one more thing and then we’ll be done.”
“What one more thing? What else? What does that mean?”
There is no lying to this kid. I didn’t want to be dishonest.
I also had no desire to tell the truth.
Josh chimed in. “Man, I’m just gonna be honest with you. This is not going to be fun, it’s going to suck, but if you try and be big, we’ll go get ice cream. Okay?”
The lower lip began to quiver, but I saw it. I SAW IT, he wanted to be big. He didn’t want to be a baby. Maybe he just wanted the ice cream, but I saw him try.
Luckily (or not so luckily depending on how you look at it), the nurses were soon in the room, preparing to jab my firstborn with needles. We picked Max up to lay on the exam table, and Josh went down to tend to his feet while I held his hands and stayed near his head.
As soon as he sat down on the table, his fear overcame him and he looked back over his shoulder at me.
“Mom, I’m scared!”
I babbled incoherent nonsense as we helped him lay back, and I bent over his face and told him how sorry I was as he began to scream. He screamed that he didn’t want ice cream, he didn’t want his Nintendo, we didn’t have to give him anything, just as long as we would stop hurting him. My tears mixed together with his and I thought about all the times I’d brought him in for shots before. All the times that he’d been stuck, Ava had been stuck, all the times we’d had to cause them a little pain just so they’d stay well. I’d never been this upset by it, and I didn’t understand why.
Then I realized. This was the first time he recognized what was going on. The first time out of either of my kids that they’d turned to me, expecting comfort and expecting to be saved – and I couldn’t help them. I couldn’t stop what was happening and do everything I could to keep them from hurting…because – even though it was for the best – I was helping cause the hurt, and for the first time he realized that.
It was over quickly enough – ice cream was eaten and everything went back to normal – but oh, boy, do I hate being a parent sometimes.