The curious case of the flu shot

I pick my first grader up from the end of a Friday after a long week at school.  She smiles. The smile of a child with too much on her mind. Behind the sparkling blue eyes are pools of worry and doubt that should only be seen in the souls of those who have lived decades beyond her meager six years. She bounces into the car, hot pink back pack slung over one of her shoulders. She eases her arms into her car seat and buckles herself into the five point harness that comforts her and keeps her still. There is so much to be gained from monotony. 

“Can we go get a flu shot? I don’t want to get the flu.” She requested to go to the same retail pharmacy as last year because they give the best shots. Having a mom for a nurse has its perks at times, not sure spending Friday night asking for arm jabs is one of them. We pulled up and ambled into the pharmacy hand in hand. We asked the pharmacist for our flu shots.  My daughter insisted I go first. One down, one to go.

My daughter stood frozen. She looked like a panicked wild animal in the cross hairs of a hunters ‘s bow. She screamed, a wild howl of fear.  She changed her mind.  She didn’t want a flu shot today after all. No amount of coaxing or clawing from Mom could pry her feet away that were cemented on the floor.  The downside of getting your healthcare the same place you get beer and Windex is that they are limited in what they can do.  Unlike the pediatrician’s office where the friendly staff are adept in restraining wild children and quickly inflicting brief pain, retail pharmacists are more unwilling or unable to perform the immuniztion without the child’s consent.

So no flu shot today. She wailed the whole ride home.  A stream of fears a six year old probably shouldn’t have. “I don’t want to get the flu. The flu makes you go to the hospital. That’s where you die. I don’t want to be with papa and don’t want to see god.” She cried about dying, her dying, me dying, her being scared of losing anyone else around her. 

She weeps into my shoulder as I pull her out of the car. “Why didn’t you make me get my shot? Do you want to make me die?” I am sad for her.  She has such a big heart and she soaks emotion in from all around her. She loves with a fury.  She has dealt with more death than anyone should have to deal with and I see the toll it takes on her young mind.  

I hug her. I hold her. I try not to be too angry at her for wasting our time and embarrassing me. I love her. I love her. My dad died. Her papa died. One day life will go on.