Flu-ing the Coup

It’s happened again.  

I thought maybe we could just ride out the rest of 2021 without any major parenting milestones, but alas…kids.  Am I right?  Or rather, NON-parenting milestones.  The parenting moments your pesky teens steal from you without permission. I’ve written before about that sense of loss, like you missed an important invite. Maybe I’m a little more bitter this time.  Maybe I just wasn’t ready for yet another surprise attack from our latest entry into the young adults’ club.  

I didn’t know.  

It seems like just yesterday that I was writing about our youngest and his total disinterest in being on a family vacation.  And it was an amazing family vacation.  The only thing wrong with the vacation was that it included, well, his family.  In fairness, that was six months ago.  It seems like just yesterday that I took another stab to the mom bits.  This time it was in the form of being blocked at the door… left to sit in the dentist’s lobby all alone with my mom words of comfort and my mom hand to hold and my mom reassurance.  In fairness, that was last week.  It turned out that no one needed to hear those words or have a hand to hold.  I just didn’t know we were finished with those things as well.

And it didn’t just happen once last week.  It was a double whammy to my soft spots. 

Zack is traditionally a terrible shot recipient.  Now, before you nod and think oh, yes, so is my kid I want you to know that you are wrong.  Your kid is likely a dream compared to the child we’ve been blessed with.  This child has had to have multiple grown adults hold him down in order to get starting-grade-x vaccines.  This child has screamed bloody murder before the needle earmarked for his arm had even entered the room.  This child typically begins sulking in early Fall in preparation for (yikes!) flu shots.  We typically spend an entire month trying to guess why he’s so ugly, until we remember, oh, right, it’s shot season.  Then, as soon as I throw the words “flu shots” up on the to-do-list-white-board, the sulking escalates to an ongoing rotation of the five stages of grief.  I have tried all the tricks.  I have tried telling him well in advance.  I have tried a sneak attack.  I have tried seventy-two different ways of reasoning the merits of shots.  I have tried blatant bribery.  I have given up and sent his father with him. 

I’ve no doubt that there are pharmacy employees across the Ville that cringe when the McGillicutties enter their sight line.  Those at Target likely flash back to the kid of four years ago who tried to run while the pharmacist was still holding the needle in his arm.  There was a spatter of blood, a sprint, some yelling, and, eventually, store security looking under every clothing display and register, in every corner and bathroom, and, finally, pleading over the loudspeaker for his resurfacing.  That was the last time we had flu shots at Target.  Those at CVS likely cringe as they remember the silence – flu shots that year were meant with a terrifying silence.  Or perhaps it was the squinched eyes that offered an I’m writing down your name and I will get you back staredown.  We’ve left gift cards on the counters of most of our local grocery stores.  I thought it was genius – let’s go get a flu shot and then you can buy whatever ice cream you want with the five dollar prize!  It was not genius.  I have yet to be smart enough to have the gift card handed to me rather than allow it to be discarded somewhere along the dash to the store exit.

This year, I embraced it via the Covid vaccines.

This year, as we approached Zack’s turn for the Fauci Ouchie, I knew that we had a problem.  I knew this because I’d had my shots first and I did find them quite a bit less pleasant than the flu vaccine.  I knew that Zack would see the needle and do math on the size difference, goop difference, and insertion depth.  Fortunately, he was also ready to start putting the previous odd year behind him.  Before you ask… we did give him the option.  He opted in and with reasoning that we thought was solid enough to let him receive the vaccine.  That he opted to get the shot – or any shot at all – made me hopeful that it wouldn’t be so bad.

It wasn’t great.  He did just about break two of my knuckles with the first dose.  But then, as my fingers were losing circulation, I realized that my fifteen year old was holding my hand (soooooo tight).  How many moms still get that?  He still needed me!  He teared up a little, unfolded my crooked fingers, and sped-sulked his way to the car.  I floated a bit.  He held my hand!  He still needed me!  We did a repeat performance two weeks later.  He held my hand again.  I knew it wouldn’t last forever.  I knew this was one of the last benchmarks I’d lose (likely without notice).  I promised myself never to be annoyed with his dislike of shots again.


Last week, it was time for flu shots.  I signed the family up at our local swim club as they were being given on a night when Zack would be working.  I had a great plan to meet him as he came off shift, lead everyone into the clubhouse, hold his hand while he went through DABDA, and treat him to Subway after.  When I arrived at the clubhouse, I gave the nurse my last name and indicated that there would be three of us, including one less than willing participant.  Except, that’s not how it went.  What actually happened was the nurse looked up our names and super casually said Oh, Zack?  He’s already been here and gone.  


Yeah, Zack got his shot about fifteen minutes ago.  

WITHOUT ME?  The nurse was looking at me with an odd expression.  


Oh, nope, he just came and went – no problems at all.  

Why was I sweating?

Oh.  Just like that, there was another space in which I was no longer needed.  

Dang it.

Honestly, I figured it was a fluke.  I figured Zack probably just didn’t want his work buddies to see him holding my hand.  Sure, that made sense.  Right?  We were days away from a wisdom tooth extraction and I just knew he would absolutely want me by his side for that.  There was no way he’d, what, leave me sitting in the lobby at 7:00am while he walked confidently through the door, never looking back, to have his first experience of a twilight?  Right?  Except he just left me sitting there in the lobby at 7:00am while he walked confidently through the door, never looking back, to have his first experience of a twilight.  


Had I just been retired?  Had I just been put to pasture when it came to needles and scary medical things?  Why was I not made aware that this was happening?  Shouldn’t there have been a memo or a telegram or some flowers or a glass of wine?  Anything but a casual stroll away?  I didn’t even get a smirky I’ll be fine as he left me sitting in the lobby at 7:00am.  


How did I not see this coming?  Again?  I should have suspected something in the previous weeks – yes – like when he started eating cauliflower without complaint.  We’ve since realized this year’s Fall Funk was unrelated to flu shots and totally related to sore jaw.  Oops.  I did not get a hug before the extraction, but I did get the first fairly groggy attempt at a high five when he came back to reality.  

His aim was a bit out of sorts. 

Much like my soft spots.

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