Doing Shots (with Kids)

Nearly two years into this nonsense, my kids FINALLY are vaccinated (I say FINALLY as if I don’t know that this vaccine was developed rapidly and I should be grateful it didn’t take ten years).

We got our appointments the first week they were available. An actor I’ve worked with is now a reporter at our local public radio station. They wanted to do a story about how parents felt about their kids getting vaccinated. I offered to let them come along and record at CVS.

Photo by Randi B. Hagi, WMRA

After the story aired (with, surprise!, our friend Kirsten also featured), Silas became a tiny bit local famous for a few weeks.

The kids did great with the shots. They didn’t get worked up about them like they have over every other vaccine of their lives.

They had a doctor visit a few days later. Petra had to get her flu shot at that one, but Silas (surprise!) was due for that plus three other vaccines. So in a week, this kid had five shots. And he handled them like a champ.

When my kids were smaller, I used to try to explain the point of shots to them by showing them a picture of my grandfather wearing a leg brace. I would explain to them that he had polio, and for his whole life, he had pain and mobility challenges. When I knew him, he always walked with a cane. I explained to them that they got shots to prevent them from having the disease that caused his disability.

My grandfather, Don Samuels, 1937

It uh…never really worked, honestly. They never knew him (he died when I was in high school), and so it was all pretty abstract to them.

But with COVID, having lived through an experience where they could witness a whole world changing because of an unseeable virus—they understand now how important vaccines are. They have had long periods of not seeing friends, of not being able to pop into the store, of not going to church or the movies or the theater or the trampoline park or the children’s museum or the library or … anywhere. They understand how our lives have been constrained because we don’t want to catch COVID.

It’s not that we’re afraid for ourselves (although, I do have several friends who are my age who have long COVID and I sure don’t want that). Mostly, it’s about not wanting to give the virus an opportunity. Each person it infects is a lab where it can try out new mutations. This is how we have the rapid-spreading omicron. The fewer labs we offer it, the better for all of us. We also don’t want to be asymptomatic carriers and make someone more at-risk terribly ill. We vaccinate to protect our neighbors—our elderly neighbor, our infant neighbor, our immunocompromised neighbor.

On Friday, to celebrate the kids’ official day of being FINALLY fully vaccinated (that is, after two shots + a waiting period), we had a day of YES. After ukulele and pottery lessons, we took them to Kyoto for a hibachi lunch. They had never seen anything like it. Before we went, I asked around about the best chefs in the area (I wanted to make sure we got one who did the Whole Thing with catching eggs in their hat and making an onion volcano). Everyone I talked to said to ask for Isaac. We did, and he did not disappoint. He was so fun! The kids’ eyes were huge the whole time. They were absolutely enthralled. They’d never seen anything like this before. It was also a classic Harrisonburg experience; we had a Latino Hibachi chef, and while he mostly spoke to us in English, he threw in a few phrases of Spanish and Japanese. At the next grill over, a Latine family was having their meal; their chef’s patter was entirely in Spanish.

Silas tries his hand at Hibachi

They both agreed it was an amazing experience.

Then we got to do a classic…BUT THAT’S NOT ALL!

We went to the movies! At a movie theater! We actually did this one other time during the pandemic, when my mom and stepdad rented out a theater for the kids and their pals to see Raya, but this was the first time we’d been to a regular, open-to-the-public situation. There was only one other family there, as it was a school day. We saw Encanto, and loved it! The music is very Lin Manuel, which is great, but also like…I’d sure love to hear some other things. The message was solid, though, and it was a very pretty movie with good storytelling and well-developed characters. Strong recommend.

The kids keep talking about this. I wanted to make a memory for them, something for them to be able to say, “That was a big deal, when we got our COVID vaccines and could finally go do things again.”

And the next day I got boosted and spent all of Sunday on the couch asking everyone to turn down the volume. But hey, protection against Omicron!

(ps Isaac the Hibachi Chef told us that he was vaccinated + boosted, but he hadn’t gotten his three kids’ shots yet. He was concerned because he’d heard that some kids had gotten sick from it. After we had our lunch and our kids told him they hadn’t had any side effects at all, he said he was reconsidering. Please get your kids (and yourself) vaccinated. The only way we end this is together.)

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