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(A friend forwarded this image to me. The caption was: Tensions mount.)
The day dawns like any other. Medium and Large are at school; Small is at the counter finishing his breakfast, watching me sip my go-juice (high-test with lots of sugar and cream) and marshaling my thoughts. For once, we are not in any rush. Until I glance at the calendar. There, in my own handwriting, is my reminder: Swine – 10a.
I had been rather “anti-” about getting the kids vaccinated against H1N1, so, I was startled to discover that my husband was firmly in the “pro-” camp. Since his position was unequivocal and mine was tainted with cynicism, I decided not to oppose him. I simply made the appointment at our pediatrician’s office and then promptly forgot about it.
Henry and I retrieve Liam from school and are racing to collect Nora, when it occurs to me that she doesn’t know we are coming to pick her up. This is a problem. Nora doesn’t like surprises. Good or bad, they’re equally unwelcome to her.
Upon collection, Nora is annoyed with the day’s unexpected disruption, but I can tell—from her silence—she is giving me the benefit of the doubt. A benefit which is quickly dispelled. By the time I’ve gotten her out of the building and into the car, she is wailing. “I don’t want a shot! I want to go back to school! Take me back to school! The doctor is stupid! You’re stupid! And mean! Take me back, right now!” She is like a caged wildcat, spitting and yowling. Liam and Henry are shocked by her vehemence. I apologize over and over. I tell her that I wish I had told her beforehand (How I wish this!), that I take responsibility for not having given her time to prepare. I tell her that she can blame Daddy for having to get this shot at all (This was low but I am willing to stoop to such lows to escape her wrath.). I posit that she won’t have to get a shot at all – that it’s possible the nurses will spray a mist up her nose, instead. None of this matters to her. She is implacable.
I once read that if you want a good indicator of how your child will act as a teenager, observe them closely at the age of five. If this is a true measurement of temperment, then am I ever in for it. (Personal note: Mom, you’ll be pleased to know that your “I-hope-that-you-have-a-fifteen-year-old-daughter-who-is-every-bit-as-miserable-as-you!” curse has a good chance of coming true.)
Twenty-four minutes later, my left-hand blinker is announcing to all unsuspecting passerby that Phase One of my torture session is coming to an end. By this time, she has stopped screaming and is weeping, quietly. I mentally gear myself for Phase Two: The Interminable Wait for the Doctor.
“Nora?” Liam sounds uncharacteristically tentative. “There was this time when I was scared about getting a shot—I was just about your age—and then I got it, and it didn’t hurt…much. If you exhale when you get the shot, it’s not supposed to hurt. I’ll go first, so you can see.”
Then it’s Liam who helps her out of the van, Liam who holds her hand in the parking lot, Liam who lends her his strength.
I will not remember this day for the drama. I will remember it as the day Nora believed her brother was the smartest person in the world and the only one she trusted to guide her through it.