Monday, August 20, 2012


Recently the little man was facing his what felt like 1000th vaccination in his short life. While I don't want to go into the pro & contra debate about vaccinations I would like to share some meaningful moments and experiences I had that day.

In the morning I told the little man where we were about to go and what was going to happen. He was really interested when I told him about the doctor, the stethoscope, the ear- and throat examination just to check if he would be ok to get a shot. And then I told him about the painful part. He was nodding away, even when I said "This may hurt a little."
"Doctor! Doctor!" was all he said and when being told we would be going there by bus happiness was all over him. He loves riding the bus.

So all was well. We took the bus and we got off way too early (in his mind he would be going 3 rounds from one end to the other before getting off a bus again). We went into the building and put the stroller in the hallway. He climbed up the stairs and we went in. All happy. All smiley.
I went to the reception, handed his health insurance card over and said why we were there. He looked around and when he looked at me all the happiness was gone. Big teary eyes looked at me, he shook his head and said "No! no!"
I said: "You know exactly where we are, right?" - "Yes." Even though I told him before - reality just hit him.
He had a shaky voice. I felt shaky too. All I wanted to do is to protect him, take him and run away. But I had put this off for so long. And he already had 2 of the necessary shots for this vaccination. It would be really silly to leave out the third now. So I picked him up and went into the waiting room with him.
There were toys, small cars and other children. He couldn't care less. Sitting on my lap sucking his thumb he watched the other kids play. But I knew he wasn't watching. He was dealing with what was coming up. So I jumped in and talked to him. Again. About what was going to happen. "No!" He shook his head and started to cry. I started to cry too a little. I felt so bad for taking him there.
I looked at the other kids and felt the parents look at us, probably thinking I was mad for frightening my boy that much. And I wondered....

The other kids looked happy. They were playing away, talking and smiling. But they were here in the healthy kids waiting room so what else could they want apart from vaccinations ? So why were they not scared? Did they KNOW why they were here? Did they know what was about to happen?
So what was better? Having a happy kid playing along and suddenly facing the truth the moment the doctor set up the needle? Or a kid being scared all the time, probably building up more and more fear the longer it took till we were called in? It seemed that the first way seemed happier and healthier. But if you know me you know that I believe to be more behind all this.

I am scared of the dentist as hell. I refuse to go until it's really bad. As soon as I get the appointment I am nervous until it's all over. What if I wouldn't know about it and would be taken somewhere and suddenly realize what was about to happen? I wouldn't go in. I would run. Fast and far. I NEED this preparation time, as painful as it is.
Our neighbor is a dental assistant who does mouth hygienic treatment. It is quite expensive but for us she tries to make good deals or even swaps jobs so we help her out with stuff in exchange for a treatment. Before Christmas the practice where she works was closed but she had to go and take care of some phone calls anyway. So she called me and said that the next morning I could go with her and get treatment for free. I am scared of this as much as I am scared of the dentist itself. I couldn't. It was too short notice. I couldn't get ready for it.

What I need during those times is somebody who takes me serious. I don't need a "Come on, it won't be that bad. You will survive." kind of talk. I need my husband who is not that scared at all but says things like "You are really nervous about that right? I wish I could help you at all with this." That's it.

And so I knew that this was what the little man needed in this moment too. Me. Not us running away. No fun playing games distraction. No "It won't hurt you." talk. So I pulled myself together and decided to be there for him.
And I wanted him to experience his fear. I couldn't take that off him all his life. So why not help him go through this instead of trying to avoid for most of the time? OK I do believe that we tend to do it because we ourselves have barely learned to deal with our fears, not mentioning the fears of others. So it is probably a self protection to try and "protect" your child. But from what? Again - from dealing with his own fears. And that's no protection. That's danger.
Plus - I want him to trust me. How can he do this when I take him somewhere to play and suddenly in another room for some painful treatment without any warning but obvious knowledge of any of it?

We were called in the doctor's office. She wasn't there yet. They have a few of them and you are always called in way before she shows up. So it was waiting again. The nurse came in and prepared everything. Then it was just us again. The little man cried. A lot. And I kept talking to him. "You are scared. That's ok. You are allowed to cry and scream as much as you need. I will be there and hold you. But it is necessary that we do this."
His crying changed eventually. It went from the "I want to go NOW!" to the "I see I don't have a choice but I still don't like this" crying. And I liked this. Because he was allowed to NOT like it. I was happy with that because I could deal with that much better.

He started to look around and pointed at a picture on the wall. Cars that were painted all over the room. We looked at them and he said "Bus!" I said "Yes, when we are done we will be going home by bus." He nodded. He kept repeating it as if he was making sure that WE WILL BE GOING HOME. It seemed to help him a lot. There were moments of laughter too. All of this initiated by him, not by me trying to distract him from anything. It felt so right.

When the doctor came in it happened all really fast. I knew this because I know her. I can't remember much of what she said because before the little man and i became such a great team that I just sticked with him. Told him to scream if he needed to. He needed to. And as soon as she was done and let go off him he said "Bus!" and I smiled and nodded and said "Yes. We're going home by bus now."

It was all done. The whole day he kept repeating everything the doctor had done to him. He had an imaginary stethoscope and checked my heartbeat and his. He showed me where he got the shot and stated that it hurt. But apart from that he was fine. And I knew that we were took the right path that day.


  1. fantastic post! I was crying by the end of it. I think too, that it's important to let them know what is going to happen and not try to shut them up when the fear strikes them

    1. Yeah. It's not always the easiest way but certainly a good one. Thanks for visiting and reading !

  2. Very nice. I appreciate and admire the way you are approaching parenting. In that same vein--to respect him--think more about calling him "little man," even if you never actually say it to his or anyone's face. It is not a fair or accurate description of who he is, and I think it is bound to shape the way you and we think about boys.

    1. Hi Vicki, thanks for your comment here and on FB. I have been thinking about the little man thing all day. We do say it in German quite often and I can't really see it to be a problem. It's not that I want him to be a MAN or that I see him smaller than I want him to. I just prefer this saying rather than honey or sweety or pumpkin or something else. I do tend to to call him by his name quite often too, just so he is not ONLY the "little man". What exactly is it that strikes you when hearing or reading it? I'm curious.

    2. I don't hear girls called "little woman" or "little lady" nearly as often. I think people are hesitant to call boys by the same "cutesie" names (pumpkin, honey, sweetie) that we call girls. Little boys are often called "little man" or "buddy"---it's the beginning of the gendering and the different treatment/expectations.

  3. Yes! Even as an adult I wish more people could give a serious, simple, supportive response instead of trying to talk me out of how I feel, telling me how lucky I am, telling me how easy it would be to just do X, and so on.

    1. Exactly! Thank you! We want to know what's going to happen too (and how often tend doctors to avoid the truth). And we want empathy rather than pity or false encouragement. Thanks for reading and commenting!

  4. Validation is the key. I'm glad to see an example that I can use myself--I've tried to be very forthright with my son about his vaccinations (which didn't start until he was 2) but it's still hard to go through. It's been nice to go to a few appointments that DON'T have vaccinations (ie, going to his sister's appointments with us) so that he knows
    A) It's not just him
    B) The doctor's doesn't have to be a scary place

    I've also contemplated taking him with me to get booster vaccinations for me, to show I do not ask anything of him I'm not willing to do myself.

    1. Thank you Arual. That's exactly what we are trying to do. I took him to doctor's appointments of my own so he could see that we have to go through the same. I'm still trying to take him to the doctor's for "no reason" because so far it has always been because he was ill or because of vaccinations. I just can't set a foot in there myself right now. But I'm planning on taking him too once his little sister is born.
      Thanks for joining in !

  5. How do you handle Santa Claus?

    1. So far there hasn't been a Santa Claus since he was too young to grasp any of it and we are not celebrating Christmas very much. I am excited about this upcoming Christmas and will have to see what they tell him in the creche to see what I have to come up with myself. The plan is to be as honest as possible but keep the whole time a little bit "magical" for him. Since Santa Claus used to come in the evening when we were there as little kids and I had to sing a song or recite a poem it scared the hell out of me and I definitely want to avoid that.
      What about you ?