I’m pretty sure the guy who gave my four year old his shot at the drive-thru flu shot place was low key judging me after I climbed into the backseat to hold Jeffrey’s arms and legs down, and when it was my turn he turned to Jeffrey and said, “Do you want to come hold Alizabeth down while she gets her shot?” (to which Jeffrey said, no.)
I kinda get it, and I definitely appreciate his helping make Jeffrey comfortable by asking him who his favorite super hero was and getting Jeffrey talking about batman. I really appreciate that, and I’d rather take a little bit of judgement along with a gentle, kid-friendly approach than no judgment and a no-nonsense attitude.
But here’s the thing. There is no easy way to handle something like shots, especially for a four year old who is old enough to understand what’s happening but young enough to not really appreciate the reasons why.
Personally, I always tell Jeffrey if something unpleasant is coming up, whether that is getting x-rays at the dentist or getting a shot. I let him know earlier in the day and we have discussions about dentist visits and doctor visits and shots as they come up on Daniel Tiger or Curious George or other times. Jeffrey knew we were going to get a shot, that it might hurt a little, and that afterward we’d get some food together. He didn’t want to come and told me as much, and I said, I know. You don’t have to want to come. I’ll try my best to make it quick and so that it only hurts a little, but it might still hurt. I know you don’t want a shot, but the shot is important because it can help keep you from getting so sick that you need to go to the hospital.
So we talked about it, and I knew he wasn’t down for it, and I was pretty sure that he would continue to thrash in his car seat indefinitely had I not climbed back to hold his arms and legs. I’ve sat in Doctor’s offices where I have heard a child screaming for a good half hour or so, not allowing anyone to give them a shot. Personally, I think that is more stressful than the actual shot, even if a parent a child trusts is holding them down. Certainly, I would rather be the one to restrain one of my kids than a doctor; my kids trust me, and if I’m the one holding them back as I tell them that I love them, I think they feel a lot safer than if I were to say something like, I wish you didn’t have to get a shot either but the doctor says you have to!
But even then, there is no easy way. Every parent tries to make it the best experience they can. We had also tried giving Jeffrey Michael’s phone to play a game on. He knew we would get food afterwards. There just is no easy way to make a child go through pain, whether for vaccines or any number of other medical procedures, even if it is brief and even if it is for an important reason.