Mums are supposed to be tough. Any time I saw my mum shed a tear it made me feel very unsettled (and as a woman I’ve since come to realise she must have shed a hell of a lot more than what she let me and my 3 sisters see).
So I try to be the strong mum for my children, that my mum was to me – but there is one thing that just never fails to unravel me. The dreaded needle.
I spent my childhood praying for a pill that would replace all needles, and I still don’t understand why someone hasn’t invented one. A fainting spell in grade 6 while getting the rubella vaccination set me up for a lifetime of fear associated with needles. Any sight of a needle on TV and I’m looking for a pillow to hide behind. It’s not so much the pain of the needle that bothers me, it’s just the idea of the sharp end piercing my flesh and going down under my skin. Yuck.
Over the years I’ve managed to have my fair share and lived to tell the tale e.g., for travel overseas to exotic destinations with the typical jabs everyone thinks they should have ‘just in case’. Then pregnancy arrived and I had to square off with the needle regularly. I developed an effective mental warm-up, and as long as I wasn’t left in the waiting room too long I was able to get through it while still conscious.
We decided to have our 2 children vaccinated, and I got through them pretty well when they were babies thanks to their father stepping up to the challenge of being the one to hold them through it. But then my daughter turned 4 – old enough to see the needle coming towards her, old enough to assume it would hurt, and old enough to strongly refuse to let it get any closer (as I would have done). I made the appointment and spent the week before in an absolute tiz about how I should prepare her for it. Should I get the patches from the chemist some mothers recommend? How much do I tell her? How much has she already heard from other kids at Kindy? How do I best prepare her so she doesn’t end up a needle-loathing mess like her mother?
My husband of course said no to the patches, but thankfully yes to being there – not that I needed him for my own emotional support, but I wanted to have him hold her little brother out in the waiting room so his life wasn’t tormented by the shrill cry of his sister! (And ok, perhaps it was to also be a safe guard against me losing my composure and not being able to support my daughter. Just maybe).
As I kissed my beautiful girl and handed her over to the doctor I kept on my ‘reassuring face’ that she would be fine. I avoided looking at the needle and instead straight into my little girls eyes. And there she was. Innocent and unsure, but very brave. Her eyes were focused on me and fluttered as the needle went in and her expression went ‘sad’. Then it was done. She didn’t move. She didn’t scream ouch. She didn’t burst into tears. She just looked at me shocked with a confused expression – it was a look of “Why would you do this to me mummy?”.
I was so proud of her. I promised myself I would be better behaved next time, tough even – like my 4 year old!
A sticker later and a few cuddles and we were on our way home. I wasted a whole week on preparing myself for this event, and my daughter needed only a sticker.
Mum needed a sticker, and a stiff drink too.
What are some of the things that you find a little tough in your job as a parent?