Boo hoo, here comes the jab to fight the flu

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I FOUND myself on my hands and knees on the pavement outside the doctor’s surgery, surrounded by a duo of children screaming in stereo.

Kate Meikle.

Fighting back tears, I was frantically searching for wipes in the bottom of my backpack, but for anyone passing by, I looked like a mum who had totally surrendered.

We had (just about) survived our family’s annual flu vaccine.

Moments earlier, squished into the GP’s consulting room, we were debating the order of who would receive their needle first. Experience had taught me that the youngest will cry the hardest, so I had planned for us to go in chronological order.

Having an injection (especially if you are a wimp like me!) isn’t easy while smiling and waving to the kids who are in frightened fascination, reassuring them that it’s nothing to be scared about. Another glamorous part of the job they never tell you about before you become a mum!

The two-year-old boss baby then elected to go next, I was proud of her determination. She did great, after a little cry, it was nothing a chocolate bribe couldn’t fix.

But while I was preoccupied with the boss baby, our five-year-old started backing himself into the corner. The one kid I thought would be easy surprised me… by completely losing it.
He screamed, pleaded and wailed. It was a difficult moment; as a parent, I’m programmed to protect and care for my boy, I would walk through fire to shield him from pain and distress. If only I could.

But I also want my kids to understand that we are a “no-nonsense” family – that when it comes to unpleasant but important experiences such as vaccination we just get on with it. Yes, it will hurt, but it will be quick and, yes, we get a treat afterwards. That’s my policy.

My boy clearly hadn’t read the memo and that day nothing was going to turn him around. I contemplated rebooking, but that would only increase his anxiety. My GP had my back and while I held him very tight, she administered the needle as quickly as possible and he had a new toy and chocolate in his hands within seconds.

After the hullabaloo, the boss baby decided that she hadn’t cried enough so she joined her brother in a chorus of crying. I led two screaming kids out of the room, apologising to the waiting room for taking so long and announcing that no one had been tortured, we had just had our flu vax. People smiled sympathetically, but I think they just wanted me to exit as quickly as possible.

So that’s how I ended up on my knees in the street, about to give up. Eventually they stopped screaming, we had loads of cuddles, went home and all was forgotten.

My GP did give me a hug and told me: “Mum needs a treat, too!”

So I followed doctor’s orders and had a glass of wine that evening.

A routine injection turned out this time to really push me to my limits as a parent, staying strong, showing empathy and all the while trying to teach two little people the importance of having a flu vaccine and staying healthy this winter.

With ACT Health reporting a slow uptake in vaccinating young children in the lead up to flu season, I know other mums might also be dreading taking their little ones. With the ACT government funding free flu vaccines for under fives, I encourage parents to get it done, chances are it won’t be as hard as it was for me.

The next day, my boy proudly shared with his preschool class that he had had a needle. I was worried about what he might say next (I didn’t want him to scare the children) but he summed it up perfectly.

“It hurt a bit, but I got a treat. You have to have a needle so you can stay healthy in winter.”

He had been listening. Nailed it, mum!


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Kate Meikle
Kate Meikle is a staff reporter for "CityNews"

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