Sammy was four with white-blonde hair and Coppertone-brown skin from hours spent in our backyard pool on Shamrock Drive. He was trying to let go of my hand, and our mingled sweat from the warm July day gave him hopes of an escape. We walked from the van to the sidewalk, Max on my right hip and Sammy screaming as I calmly dragged him behind. It was shot day and he knew it.
His little face was swollen and salty-wet as the cold air fought with the wall of humidity that hurried us through the sliding front doors. We were at the Naval Hospital on Camp Lejeune. Pediatrics was across the hall from the entrance, so we continued towards their reception desk.
“Hi. I have Samuel Adams here for his immunizations,” I said loudly so she could hear me over Sammy’s deafening pleas.
“Ok, go have a seat.”
I sat in the waiting room with an inconsolable Sam and baby Max on my lap. I was calm externally as Sam filled the air with screaming and crying, terrified he had to get shots. Inside, I felt nauseated with guilt.
“I know, Sammy, but you have to get shots. It will go fast and I will buy you a treat after you’re done,” I said to him in vain.
Finally, someone called his name and we went back to the room. A nurse and I had to hold Sam down while Max stayed quiet. I felt numb and wished for it to go fast. His little muscles worked hard as he tried to escape, to run for the freedom that didn’t exist for a little one with no license.
“Why did you tell him he was getting shots?” the nurse asked me. “You shouldn’t have told him.” I remember looking at her, not knowing what to say at first, wondering for a quick moment if she was right.
“You wanted me to bring him in here and not tell him he was getting shots?” I was surprised.
Not telling him never crossed my mind. I wanted him to trust me and to also trust medical people enough to know he can freely go into an appointment without fear. No future doctor visits would be harmonious, especially for him, if he always wondered. Transparency with my kids was key to their peace, and it was worth a freak-out in the naval hospital immunization clinic, chaos in their precious waiting room, and misery in my gut.
I stand by my decision to tell him he was going to have to get shots, and I believe so deeply that our relationship became a little closer that day. One filled with loyalty, clarity, and genuine belief in my word to him. A little chaos is a small price to pay for eternal trust.
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