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The real reason I’m dreading the beginning of school

Miles starts school this month.  I haven’t written too much about it, save for a post about his desire for a Toy Story backpack, partially because writing about it means thinking about it and thinking about it means admitting that he is growing up and will one day soon be going away to college.  And then partially because I’m not really sure to say about it and I feel like I should be able to write a post that will make everyone cry.

But I’m writing about it today because I want to ask you for advice.  Yes, you.  You right there, in the pajamas!  Or maybe you, hiding your computer screen from your boss.  You.

We had to make several doctors’ appointments for Miles before he starts at his 3 half-days a week preschool this fall, all of those school entry exams — a vision exam, a dental exam, and an exam/physical from his pediatrician.  He had his vision exam with his regular ophthalmologist a few months ago and the other two appointments are scheduled.  He goes to see the dentist later this month and the pediatrician is scheduled for next week.

Now those of you with older kids or kids this age (4) might already see where I’m going here.  You know that there’s a certain something that happens at the four-year-old well child exam that parents dread.  Moms and Dads tiptoe around the delicate subject while the kids are generally oblivious to what awaits them.  We know it’s important and necessary but whyyyyyyyyyyyy?  Whyyyyyyyy would science force me to deal with this and my increasingly whiny and dramatic child??  Why now??

Yeah.  The shots.  The shots are coming and I’m not sure how to handle it.

Before I go any further, I’m just going to throw this out there…*deep breath* Please fortheloveofallthatisbrightandbeautiful do NOT make this a vaccine debate.  (And if you’re new to the Internet, yes people actually engage in CAPS LOCK BATTLE ROYALES over whether or not to vaccinate one’s children.  But not here, my friends.)

The way I see it, there are basically two ways I can deal with this upcoming nightmare appointment.  I can A) Ignore reality and just let it happen, pretend I’m just as surprised as he is that two or three nurses are charging the exam room to stab him with needles, or B) Gently inform him about the shots, perhaps show some selections of PBS Kids shows that might help him understand or might backfire and cause before-the-fact screaming on Tuesday.  I’ve had the vaccine dread before, when the boys were babies and were so tiny and helpless.  But now?  I have to think about kicking, flailing, murderous threats, weeping and gnashing of teeth!  Oh my…hold me.

I think it’s timely that I share the way this all went down when I was preparing for Kindergarten.  I had never been to preschool and when we went to Kindergarten Registration, it seems I overheard (Oh let’s be honest, I was eavesdropping) my Kindergarten teacher informing my mother that I would need to get vaccines before I could attend school.  Apparently I took this to mean they would be administering the shots right then and started crying.  It turns out it might have been best to give the shots right then, because I think my anxiety was pretty high until The Day Of The Shots.  My mom took me to the health department, a building neither she nor I had been to before, and though she doesn’t recall this, she was so nervous and flustered about the shots, she missed the health department entry at least twice before parking and going in for my appointment.  I’m sure I was a screaming brat about the whole shot thing but the good news is that I’ve made a full recovery…from the crying anyway, I’m still a brat.

So here’s where I ask for your help:  How would you handle the shot situation?  How did you do it with your 4-5 year old and how did it go?  

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About Krista

Krista is a full-time working mom of two boys, currently aged 6 and 7. She lives in Kentucky with her husband, Brandon.


  1. I just broke the news to Langley that at his next doctor’s appt he will get shots, but up until recently I would have done the “Oh My GOODNESS!! SHOTS! I didn’t know that– those nurses are HORRIBLE, but Mommy is nice and will get you ice cream” bit. I’m not looking forward to it either way. (FYI I was so tempted to put up a fake immunization rant, BUT I didn’t 🙂

  2. Bribery. Find his currency (milkshakes work for M and a bottle of new nail polish for S and a car for C) and use it to your advantage. I am normally a pretty laid back parent, but one thing I cannot stand is whining/crying over something that hasn’t even happened yet. I give the facts. “You are getting a shot because I don’t want you to get sick. If you do not whine/cry, and act like a person, I will get you a milkshake immediately afterwards- even at 10 a.m.” I tell them in the car on the way to the appt. Unless they read the calendar and it says “M-shot Friday 10:00” then, you fess up.

  3. With Connor I told him on the day of the appointment that he would be getting shots for school. I told him that everyone (almost everyone) gets them. I also told him that it would pinch for a few seconds and that I had to have these too when I went to school a million years ago. I did use bribery by asking him if he would like a movie after the whole ordeal if he handled it without a major meltdown. At that time, he wanted the movie Over the Hedge. At the end of the day, he went, had his shots (with a little watery eyes) and then I made a big deal about it and took him to get the movie. And going forward with him, there has never been an issue. He since endured yearly flu shots, his tonsillectomy (which required an IV), and a overnight stay in the hospital when he was dehydrated (which required another IV) and handled every situation very bravely. WIth Reese, she is my tough one and took the whole shot thing as a challenge. When we arrived at the office to get hers, the nurse said for me to hold her arms and have her sit on my lap and Reese said “no way, I am actually going to sit here by myself and watch you!” The nurse and I got into a bit of a curt discussion on how I was fine with letting her be independent and how the nurse was not into that. In the end, the nurse was very shocked at how Reese handled it. And who knows how Sloane will handle it! She goes this week since she is starting full time preschool in a couple weeks at Rivertree Christian!

  4. Since our oldest Lilly is off to school, and had shots at her 4 year check up, the next oldest Ryley is already being primed by her sister that she will need shots when she turns 4. Thus, Ryley has decided she is not going to turn four at all. I kept Lilly in the dark about her shots until the day before. I told her it would hurt but be over quickly and we’d get a treat afterwards. Its the only thing I’ve ever been known to bribe a kid for. And the vaccine debate can get crazy heated huh? Even though we are pro-vaccine here, it still sucks so bad, and I think that even though the helpless baby shots are more sad, the older, knows-whats-going-on kid shots are the worst! 🙁

  5. Make dad take one for the team and take him that day!!

  6. Haha! Angie, I like the way you think!

    I am definitely not above bribery! His appointment is at a decent-enough hour that I can let him choose his sugary poison as a treat. I think part of it is that I’m not sure how they’ll handle it at his doctor’s office. Before, with the itty bitties who don’t know what’s going on, they have 3-4 nurses come in and hold down the legs (Mom gets to hold down the arms) and they do it all at once. I’m not sure what to expect with a big kid.

    I think the anticipation is worse for me than the actual thing will be for Miles!

  7. My oldest was horrible at shots, she would need held down (the last time took 7 adults, I left the room), it was horrible. My next one was tough and would just wince, till she got older, now at 13 she cried like a baby at her last shot, I laughed (ok not nice but it was funny). My 4 year old is wishy washy, she can be very brave but can also be very whiny. So I let her know she could get a shot and that it will sting, but it keeps her safe and healthy. And usually Mc Donalds is the treat if she takes it like a big girl. My one year old hollers and cries for about a minute, then it is back to life.
    I agree with Angie, have it be Dad’s task. My husband can’t handle it, he almost passed out when they were babies, so it is my job.
    The worst part here is getting the dang band-aids off, they stick so much they cry more over that than the shots.
    And heads up, the finger prick for iron check is the WORST!!
    Good luck!!

  8. We waited until 5. They were excited to go to Kind. You know your child best. Noah I explained and he did ok. Still cried. Eli I didn’t tell (he would have never gone in). We ambushed/held him down. All 3 were fast. They understand it was to keep them healthy. We explained why they get them. They both got Lego sets afterwards. I’m not looking forward to Ben in the spring considering he punched the dentist today and spit in his face. It was fun.

  9. I had to take my toddler for his well-baby check-up last month. Kept telling him that he would be getting shots. I got all worked up myself and lo and behold, the doctor said he was up to date. So I dodged a bullet on that one, but I was able to talk with my three year-old and he seemed alright with it. I think it’s always best to be up front with your child–especially when it comes to something that may hurt. I do think a treat is good afterward for being a trooper. 😉

  10. Oh good grief, I didn’t know anything about an iron check!

    This bribery discussion brings up another question for me…

    What do I do if he is AWFUL? Does he still get the treat because he had the shots in hopes that he will be better next time? Or is that setting a horrible precedent where he needs to learn a lesson?

    School me, mamas.

  11. I just went through this with Lauren for Kindergarten. I made the horrid mistake of telling her ahead of time that she would be getting shots. Don’t do it! At our doctor’s office, they do the shots at the end of the appointment. But because she already knew about it, she would not cooperate for even the simplest painless things before that. Fortunately, when it was time for the shots, they sent in another nurse to hold her because being very pregnant, I couldn’t do it myself. I was so very grateful for that. But afterward it was my job to spend about 15 minutes calming her down. Nightmare! So like I said, my opinion is to just wait until it comes.