When I was a new olah I heard rumors that children in Israel receive vaccines in school without their parents to hold them, which is an absolutely nauseating concept to me because I have a deathly fear of needles. When I needed a blood test at the age of 15 I stayed home from school and cried most of the morning until it was time to leave for my appointment. I remember having a minor panic attack in the doctors office at the age of 12, before getting a TDaP booster. I threatened to kick a doctor who wanted to give me shot of Novocaine before a very minor surgical procedure. And though I don’t actually remember doing this, supposedly my brother and I needed to be chased through the waiting room, and brought kicking and screaming back to the examining room to receive our inoculations against various childhood illnesses.
Considering that I’ve given birth three times, which hurts a whole hell of a lot more than getting stuck with a needle, you would think I would have gained some perspective and gotten over this phobia. But even now just thinking about being poked and prodded with sharp medical instruments, is causing me to tense up, and my heart to race.
My oldest child started first grade this year, and sure enough, we received a note requesting his vaccination records to confirm whether or not he has received two doses of the MMR vaccine, and explaining the school nurse would administer the vaccine to those who are not up-to-date. My son has only had one dose so far.
The idea of sending my child off to school with the knowledge that something painful is guaranteed to happen to him that day is just agony. I look into my son’s eyes and see such complete and utter trust in me, the only thing I can think of is, “Like a lamb to the slaughter.” (God forbid.) I know. I’m horribly dramatic. It’s a friggin’ needle, for goodness sake.
My modus operandi when it comes to parenting is to trust my instincts. If something “feels right” I go with it, even if it might go against conventional wisdom. Or if something doesn’t “feel right” that’s a good enough reason for me to react to the situation, even if what I am observing with my five senses does not appear concerning.
But the other side of the coin is recognizing my own shortcomings—my playing up of such a minor, fleeting, and not unnecessary pain, to something so huge and horrific—which in turn allows me to recognize when I need to step back. Sometimes that distinction between mothering instinct and irrational fear is, for me, hard to make. But it’s so important. I see how, in my own life, certain irrational fears, of which there are quite a few, hold me back from doing some of the things I wish I could do, and the last thing on earth I want to do is pass those fears onto my children.
So yes, there are other options. I could refuse to allow him to be vaccinated at school, and bring him to our kupat cholim instead, or I could show up at school and take him to the nurse myself. But I’m not going to. Doing so would only be me projecting my own fears onto my child. Based on his reaction when I told him he’d be getting a shot the next day at school, which was basically complete nonchalance, it was clear to me he did not need my moral support in this situation, and my insisting on being there for him anyway would be at best useless, and at worst counterproductive.
I hope when my children are done teaching me how to come to terms with my own shortcomings, they will teach me to be fearless, like them.