Imagine if you will, your worst nightmare--the thing or situation that scares you more than anything. Imagine that you are forced to endure this torture by people that claim to be caregivers, but worst of all, imagine that one of the people you trust and love most in life is holding you down while these "caregivers" torture you mercilessly. Imagine all this, but add something, add the fact that the person you love and trust is laughing while holding you down. My five-year-old daughter, IR, experienced this very situation not long ago.
"Daddy, am I going to get shots at the doctor?"
"I'm not sure honey, but I think so."
"How many shots?"
"I don't know honey, but you will be brave right?"
"Yes. But I would like to know how many shots."
"I will find out for you."
I have been present for every shot IR has received and the pediatrician has said that after they turn four it gets better. That statement never made sense to me, because the older kids get, the smarter they get, and the smarter they get, the better they are able to anticipate and imagine, and as that happens, their fears seem to grow exponentially. IR's ability to remember, anticipate and imagine has taken her fear of getting shots to a whole new level. I have to stress that the story I am about to tell is NOT exaggerated for effect.
To save time, I scheduled ML's three year checkup at the same time as IR's kindergarten checkup. This was the first problem. ML didn't need shots so IR literally and figuratively felt the sting of unfairness.
At the end of a fairly standard visit, the girls were declared healthy and I was told that IR would need the "kindergarten cocktail" of four shots. The doctor left.
"Are we done daddy?" Asked the hopeful IR.
"No, sweetie, you have to get some shots."
"Does ML have to get any?"
"No, she doesn't need any today."
"Why do I need shots, but she doesn't?" At this point I should establish the IR Freakout Scale. It goes from 0 to 100, with 0 being completely calm and content and 100 being a complete loss of bodily control, hyperventilation, and borderline passing out. You might ask why not just a scale from 0 to 10, but I just don't feel like 10 provides an adequate description for her ability to freak out. At the beginning of the visit to the doctor, the possibility of shots had IR at about 35 on the Freakout scale. She appeared to be calm, but little things that didn't usually bother her were causing tears. When I told her that she needed shots and her sister didn't she jumped to about 55 on the scale. Tears started rolling and her hands went directly to her mouth. Bringing her hands to her mouth is a sign that the 50 threshold had been passed and we were getting dangerously close to a freakout.
After a few minutes the nurse who was going to administer the vaccinations came in. She was a little gruff and very businesslike in her approach to IR. The sight of the tray with the needles immediately sent IR above 70 on the scale.
"Daddy, how many?"
"Four?" 85 on the scale now, full blown crying with sobs and hitches and pleading for some sort of pardon. It was hard to concentrate as the nurse was having me sign the necessary papers for the vaccinations.
"Okay, I need you to put her up on the table and hold her arms, I will take care of the rest." The nurse said this to me and sent IR to 99 on the Freakout Scale. Full blown screaming and slapping away my hands as I tried to pick her up to put her on the table.
"NOOOOO...NOOOOOO...NOOOOOOOOO" She kept screaming as I finally got a hold of her and put her on the table. The nurse crossed IR's arms in front of her chest and told me to hold her that way. I leaned over her and held her down with my face right in front of hers. "NOOOOOOOOO...NOOOOOOOO...NOOOOOOOO, please daddy, pleeeaaaase NOOOOOOOOOO" At this point I might confidently say that most parents would be heartbroken at the thought of being the one who was holding this beautiful child down while she was in such pain. My wife got a little teary when I told her about it. But I guess I am different, because when IR was dangerously close to 100 on the Freakout Scale, and my face was one inch from hers and I could feel her tense as each of the four needles pierced her skin, I didn't cry--I laughed. I tried not to, but I giggled uncontrollably. I tried to hide it, but I couldn't--we were too close, and as my lovely wife likes to remind me all the time, my whole body shakes when I laugh. So my beautiful, smart, sensitive and dramatic little girl was on the verge of passing out and I was holding her down and laughing, and she knew it.
When it was over, the nurse told her to sit up.
"PUT THE BANDAIDS ON! PUT THE BANDAIDS ON!"
"Calm down sweetie, calm down." I pleaded, though I couldn't wipe the smile off my face. The whole scene was completed by the sight of my dramatic little girl walking stiff legged out to the car like she had casts on both legs.
When my wife came home she asked IR how the doctor visit went.
"I freaked out." She said and went back to her drawing.