This week, I got to accompany my daughter and her children as they got their first covid shots.
This was hard for me. When my own kids were little, of course I took them for the vaccines, and all the other seemingly millions of other shots they had to get. I am absolutely not an anti-vaxxer; I never did anything other than take them exactly on schedule for everything. I was and continue to be overwhelmingly grateful to the scientists who have created the miracle that is vaccination.
But I do admit to wishing that while they were busy inventing the medication, how lovely it would have been had the scientists gone just a bit further and come up with some other, better delivery device.
Kids hate shots. They’re scary. They don’t necessarily hurt — although certainly sometimes they do — but they seem as if they would, terribly, all the time.
Now that we’ve all read more about how they work, I have a better understanding of why the mRNA gets shot into arm muscles. The vaccine turns them into little fake-spike-manufacturing factories. It all makes sense. But really, a pill would have been so much easier.
When I finally screwed up my courage to get a flu shot, a few years ago, I realized that my childhood memories of huge needles and the monstrous nurses who wielded them were a total invention. I found that the people who give shots are sweet, kind, careful, and solicitous. It is an easy and reassuring experience.
On the other hand, I am neither 8 nor 5, as my grandchildren are.
Because my son-in-law had work engagements he could not break, and both he and my daughter wanted to get the kids vaccinated as soon as possible, I volunteered to be the second adult.
It was a surprisingly moving experience.
We took them to the old Sears building in the Livingston Mall; I’d never been there when it was a store, but the ghost of retail past lurked in its corners and wafted across its vast open spaces. It’s now a county vaccine center. Most of it still is for adults, but there’s been a section that’s been set apart for kids.
The vaccines are by appointment only, but it’s easy to get an appointment online; the shots are in demand, but there doesn’t seem to be the frantic desperation that overcame us adults when our vaccines first were released.
When we got there, the very kind workers took our information and sent us past the plain adult booths to the cartoon-bedecked kids’ section. We were allowed to go in together, and were assigned to one with an Under the Sea theme. (“We got to see mermaids!” my granddaughter later enthused.)
Nava sat on my lap as she got the shot. She did not flinch. Judah, on the other hand, who had become increasingly nervous as the time for the shot, and the realization that there was no way out of it, approached, howled. The woman who gave the shot was unflappable; she was kind, she was warm, she was sympathetic, and in the end Judah was vaccinated. Loudly.
After we left the booth, another family group entered; one of those kids was even noisier than Judah, which was a neat trick.
After the shots, the kids got to sit and watch a Garfield cartoon on a huge screen, as nurses walked around, checking the kids’ responses to the shots and making sure that they stayed in the room for 15 minutes, until it was safe to leave.
As we sat in the waiting room, the family behind us recognized Nava and Judah as Golda Och students, because their kids are too. When we got to the parking lot, the car next to us had a GOA sticker, as ours did.
So in the end, that one experience was about many things. It’s about community — the school community, the county community, the fact that each person who gets the vaccine is protecting not only him or herself but everyone else as well.
It was about the kindness and patience of the staff. It was about the creativity of the scientists. It was about the hope for a better life, once this plague is over, and about the desire to help bring that about, one shot at a time.
When we registered, to my surprise, I found that I was crying. It was about the infinite possibilities that these kids will encounter, and the love that has prepared them to meet them.
Get your shots, please!