Friday marked my crossing the last of my least favorite roads – the four-year-old check-up at the doctor. I’ve dreaded it almost since the day Future Hoarder of America was born. For readers who might not be familiar with this monumental day, it’s the absolute worst of the worst. Especially for an injection-phobe like me. I’m the ultimate fraidy-cat when it comes to shots.

In fact, I’ve embarrassed myself on numerous occasions. In a former life, when I worked in the Advance Office of the Bush 41 White House, I actually declined when they offered me one of the coveted international trips. Going to the Cote d’Ivoire required several vaccines – and I hate shots! When pressed as to “why?!!” I admitted my fear and was almost laughed off the phone. The next thing I knew, a ticket was in my hand as well as a directive to take care of the necessary requirements.  As an adult, my nervous questions and moaning at the Arizona Health Department, landed me in a private room “so as not to make the other guests uncomfortable”. I still remember the mammoth Hepatitis vaccine administered into my hip that left me standing (avoiding sitting!) like it was yesterday.

In fact, I detest needles so much, I did my best to avoid any interaction with them at the birth of my children choosing to deliver naturally. Seriously, the thought of someone sticking a needle in my back was waaaaaay too much for me to handle. After delivering one of my kids (a certain 10 pound 6 ounce Slow Walker), the doctor directed the nurse to get me some Potocin “stat” in order to stop the bleeding. She was a bit taken back at my freaking out (but the lady was coming at my LEG, with a needle! – can you blame me??!!). “You just gave birth without so much as a pain pill and your crying over a shot?” she asked me in complete disbelief. Uh-huh, that’s me. Queen Weenie. And yes I actually cried.

Needless to say, I don’t do well with needles.

I’ve been telling Jon for years that he would need to, for once in his kids’ lives, step up to the plate and experience the infamous 4-year-check. As the day approached, though, my heart hurt for the overly empathetic dad and I went myself.

It was as awful as I knew it would be. Sweet little FHA trustingly jumped up onto the table and laid back, exposing his innocent little thighs to the evil needles. He said to me, “How about if we sing?” then started up one of his favorite tunes – Johnny Appleseed.

In the midst of his tender “for giving me the things I need”, the first jab penetrated his vulnerable skin. Singing instantly changed to screaming and a dejected, “Pleeeezzz STOP! OUCH! OUCH! OUCH! I DO NOT LIKE THIS!!”

My heart hurts even as I’m remembering now – and I’m laughing at his use of complete sentences even while in agony.

Five (yes 5!) shots later – okay the nurse was terrific and fast – the kid is now full out crying and yelling “WHYYYYY!!!”

He stood up after, cried at that pain, then gingerly put one foot in front of the other and, hunched over like an old man, made his way to the exit, loud “Ow”-ing every step.

Later that afternoon, after crying for over an hour (no joke – do you think he might be dramatic?), he relived the event for his sister, “The lady at the doctor … Hey, you know that lady? … She shotted me.”

“I’m sorry buddy,” commiserated the sister who, believe it or not, had just been subjected to the same experience only a day earlier. She only had two shots. “Those things hurt.” Then she turned to me, “Shots are horrible. They should be outlawed.”

I then explained to her that even though shots offer brief moments of pain, albeit excruciating, they protect people against illnesses that could be deadly – with lots more pain than the shot.

Hmmm… That one just might have some legs on it. A little short-term agony (though excruciating) often helps us to avoid much larger long-term bouts with pain. That certainly plays out in our life.

For instance…

Does it hurt when I swallow my pride and avoid pushing my agenda with my husband,? …even submit to him when I don’t want to? Yes. But allowing the short-term assault on my pride just might prove to have long-term benefits. At best, it might soften our relationship/catapult my husband to the leadership role for which he’s designed. At worst, it might strengthen my relationship with the One who directs me to submit and to die to self. … and that’s not a bad “worst”.

Does it hurt to watch my daughter be left out of the super fun party that “everyone” was invited to? Yes. I could rail on the hosts, make phone calls, gossip, try all kinds of other band-aids to temporarily stop the pain by pummeling the group that failed to include us… or I could let her lean into the hurt and realize that life is full of what looks like exclusion. I could help her feel temporary sadness/isolation then encourage her to look outside of herself and know that girls feel that way every day. Even adults! I could make the most of a training opportunity to teach her empathy and understanding so that she can see and encourage someone who might be feeling the same way. That little taste of  “left out” pain could do wonders in some hands on “loving others as I have loved you” action.

Does it hurt to let my son fail rather than step in and finagle/fix. Ouch – a zinger for him and his parents. But if I don’t let him feel that pain, how will he ever know how to handle inevitable failures in the future. That agony will be on a much larger scale later in life and I know we won’t always be there to save.

So, as I look at my drama king, laying stiff as a board, determined not to move, on the couch (“Don’t touch me! I was shotted!!), I’m grateful for the bigger lesson staring me in the face. Who knew a four-year-old check-up could be so chock full of application?!

I’m still glad I won’t be doing it again.

Thanks for walking the road with me.


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