ON THANKSGIVING DAY, OUR KIDS HAD A DATE WITH A NEEDLE.
I’m not exactly sure how it worked out that cruelly for them. I suppose a couple things came together. First, and obviously, Thanksgiving is not a recognized holiday here, so business and office places and schools were open and running just like any other day.
Secondly, the last time the kids were at the doctor’s office he noted that they didn’t seem to have Meningitis vaccinations, which are normal (required?) in Germany. I didn’t appreciate this at the time, but Melissa had experienced first hand the grizzly horror of taking the kids in for shots and decided she wanted me there for some additional firepower. I groussed a little (“C’mon, what’s the big deal with getting some shots?”) but relented and decided it would work best for me to come home a little early and help out on Thanksgiving, because that meant it would be easier to slip out in the afternoon while my US colleagues were on vacation.
MELISSA HAD A STRATEGY. This time, she elected to employ the element of suprise. The kids were unaware of their appointment all day long. We went to work and school like any other day, and then came home to reheated Macaroni and Wurst. After supper, Melissa layed out some gift wrapped presents on the kitchen counter, one for each kids, and gathered them around the kitchen counter…and broke the news that in 30 minutes, they were all getting a literal shot in the arm, but that if they did OK they would get to come home and open a present.
And that is the point at which we officially lost control, and never regained it.
The kids cried the entire way to the doctor’s office. I should say that differently…the girls cried all the way to the doctor’s office. In a proud moment as a father, crying really doesn’t explain what my two sons were doing. They were wailing.
They wailed in the house as I carried them to the van. They wailed all the way to the office. They wailed as we walked across the street. They wailed in the lobby, and they wailed in the examination room while we waited for the doctor. Then, when time for shots came, they really started to make some noise.
When we got into the exam room Camden tucked himself into the corner of the room behind an examination table and curled up into the the fetal position on the floor. He screamed louder every time we told him he needed to “come out right now!”. As Jazzy, and then Anna, and then Kiersten got their shots (all crying) and his time came closer he just cried and wailed louder. Chase was 4th up to bat, and my brave seven year old son kicked and shook and screamed like we were about to hack off his arm. In the end it took all three of us – me, Melissa and the doctor – to restrain him while the shot was administered. He hopped off the table still wailing – holding his arm like it was barely still attached- while we extricated Camden from his hiding place and forced him up on the table too and put the needle in his arm. By the time we were done we had 4 crying kids (Jazz of all of them was fine), two exasperated parents, a nurse and a doctor trying to leave the room with the big loud American family as quickly as possible.
There is no sensation like the moment you take your kids back out to the waiting room and receive the burning stares of others asking quizzically What just happened in there? I honestly entertained a thought in my head of which would worse, the Meningitis vaccination or actual Meningitis (give me a minute, still thinking). As we walked out, I asked Melissa, “So is it always like that?”
“Oh yeah,” she says, “I knew it would be bad. I’ve had to pull Camden out underneath chairs and tables before. That’s pretty normal.”
So that will go down as one Thanksgiving day where none of us felt particularly like being thankful for much of anything. Except for me…. I am thankful for my wife, who for the last 10 years has been taking our kids to the doctor’s office to get shots without me. And I am also thankful that we now have some early Christmas shopping done, as those presents “for being good at the doctors office” stayed on the counter – untouched – and will now reappear a little later under the Christmas tree.