Why We Don’t Get Flu Shots (It’s not what you think.)
Before I start this post, this post has nothing to do with whether or not someone should get a flu shot. That’s up to you. I think most parents have had at least one incident like the one I recount here, and since we’re in the middle of flue season, I figured I tell you why I don’t take my kids for flu shots.
The Scene—Mom, Four Kids, Four Shots
Four years ago, life was different. I had an 8-month-old (Octopus), 3-year-old (Tornado), 5-year-old (Flower), and an 8-year-old (she needs no other descriptor). Flu season was almost upon us, and like many mothers, I was bound and determined to get a flu shot for my kids. Back then, I was desperate to keep my kids from getting sick. Until you’ve spent a full three months with sick kids, I don’t think you can understand how desperate a mother can get. Cabin fever is real, my friends. Getting shots is always tough, but this was the first year I had to take all four kids to get a flu shot at once.
It was to be our last.
Leave the House
Have you ever tried to leave the house with an Octopus, Tornado, Flower, and 8-year-old?
If you have a good number of young children in your house, you probably know what I mean. The Octopus grabbed, chewed, and threw everything he could get his hands on. The Flower cowered in the corner because four days earlier, I was dumb enough to have a conversation in front of her about taking the kids to get shots. But, I don’t think she thought I would truly put her through that torture. Wrong. The tornado, yeah, he was gone. When I’d said, “car”, he was out the door before I had a chance to find my shoes. The 8-year-old, she dutifully stood by my side trying to be helpful. Bless her.
Somehow, I got everyone into the car with shoes, and most of their clothes on, and only two kids crying. Not bad if you ask me.
Shhhhh, Don’t Say “Flu Shot”
Upon entering the doctor’s office, I tried to distract the Octopus and Tornado by pointing out the toys in the corner. There was a point in time I would never have let my children play with toys covered in doctor’s office germs, but that was a line we’d already crossed long ago.
“We’re here for our flu shots,” I whispered quietly to the woman behind the counter who didn’t look old enough to be out of high school. My eyes darted to my Flower to see if she’d heard. I didn’t want her to come unglued in the waiting area as I wasn’t sure I could catch and drag her to the exam room while holding the Octopus and herding the Tornado.
“I’ll call you back soon. It will take a minute to get the shots ready,” she replied in full voice. I swear she said “shots” with greater emphasis.
The Flower heard and latched herself onto my leg crying, “I don’t want a shot!”
I tried not to give the receptionist my death glare. Obviously, she’d never been in my position before. The Flower now knew for sure that I was a traitor and sniffled not so silently. The Tornado was long gone playing with toys while the Octopus clung to my hip, dumping out a jar full of pens on the counter.
“Okay.” All I could do was peel the pens out of my baby’s hands and drag the small person hanging on my leg to a chair near the Tornado. The eight-year-old gave me an embarrassed look as she sat nearby.
They called us back to the exam room. Pandora’s box was about to be opened.
The room we entered wasn’t a normal exam room. It was big with an exam table in the middle, some random medical equipment in the corner, a sink with drawers and cupboards, and a closet with an open door. As we walked into the room, the Octopus tried to crawl out of my arms to grab a paper towel from a dispenser; the Tornado noticed the draws; the Flower dug her nails into the flesh of my leg.
“Who do you want to go first?” the nurse asked me.
I looked at the chaos growing around me and made eye contact with my oldest. I saw fear, but I also saw an underlying determination.
“I’ll go first,” she said with a quiver in her voice.
What a great kid. I hoped if the others saw her be brave, maybe they would follow her example.
As soon as the needle was out, my Flower wailed and crawled under two chairs next to the exam table. My tornado must have mistaken her cry for a starter’s pistol and raced at full speed to unload all the medical supplies from a drawer.
Who knew they had three boxes of tongue depressors in one room?
The Octopus went nuts and managed to crawl up my shoulder like a cat and reach a container of cotton balls on the counter. I bent down to talk to my screaming Flower when I realized the Tornado had opened the doors under the sink and was trying to get inside.
Meanwhile, I think they gave my 8-year-old a shot? Cause they asked me who I wanted to go next.
I grabbed my Flower by her foot, dragged her out, and helped the nurse hold her on the table while I held the Octopus under my arm football style. While they gave my Flower a shot, I reached back with my foot and tried to hook the Tornado to pull him out from under the sink. I was too slow. He’d already moved on to a drawer full of band-aids.
My Flower, now done, sat in the chair weeping pitifully. Normally, I would have consoled her, but the Octopus caught sight of something shiny and nearly jumped out of my arms. Somehow, and to this day, I don’t know exactly how I accomplished it, but I managed to get the Tornado on the table while keeping a firm grip on my Octopus. I don’t think the Tornado even noticed the shot. There were too many shiny things in the room.
Next, the Octopus. I handed him to the nurse. I figured she could handle his eight arms while I wrestled the Tornado alone. I got the Tornado out from under the sink again, closed the drawers, and tried to reorganize the medical supplies. A scream told me the nurse had bested the Octopus.
By this point, my hair stuck out in all directions, sweat trickled down my temples, and my chest heaved from the effort of wrestling these small humans I loved so much. The nurse started talking to me, but my glassy eyes stared blankly. I didn’t actually hear what she said. Her lips moved, but behind her, I could see the Tornado poking at the random medical equipment in the corner. I looked back at my side, thinking I still had a firm grip on him. Nope, he’d sensed my distraction and made a break for it. The Flower had resumed her position under the chairs, and the Octopus was trying to escape my arms again.
“Shot record?” she said louder. “Do you have their shot records with you?”
I looked at the chaos around me—a crying Flower, Tornado testing medical equipment that I’m sure cost more than my car, an Octopus reaching for freedom, and wide-eyed 8-year-old holding back her own tears.
“No,” I lied, and we left.
That was five years ago. I never took my kids to get flu shots again.
BUT, we’ve had the flu at our house for the last three weeks. My husband finally said to me, “Maybe we should get the flu shot next year.”
He’s probably right. But, I’m not gonna lie, I had flashbacks. The good (and bad) news, the Octopus has grown and shed a few arms, the Tornado has slowed down, and the Flower doesn’t wilt in the face of fear anymore, and the 8-year-old, she’s 13 and even braver now than she was then.