The moment had arrived, the needle was ready.
We’d come late to our appointment, and so for a half hour we cooled our heels in an empty examination room. We carefully inspected every article of furniture, peeked inside drawers, and batted at the battered posters hanging from the walls. All the while muffled sobs wafted in from the room adjacent to ours.
Finally, the door swung open, and the doctor, shock of white hair, long past retirement age, enveloped in a breathing helmet, came in. I scooped the boy up, and placed him standing on the padded table.
The doctor briskly, but gently, poked, and prodded, and patted, and measured, and weighed the boy, who protested uselessly as we wiggled him out of his clothes, and held him down against his will. Formalities dispensed with, I held the boy and soothed him, pressing him against me.
Now, I told the boy, as he choked back tears, now, the doctor is going to hurt you.
I extended my finger, and jabbed his meaty, fleshy thigh. The doctor is going to hurt you right here, because he has to give you medicine. You need this medicine to be healthy. It’s not going to hurt for very long, okay? And I will be right here with you.
Then, I counted to ten.
And I thought to myself: to have children is to hurt them. To bring a child into this unkind, uncaring world is an act of violence. First we birth them, then we boss them around, we set boundaries, we deny them their wants, and we give them vaccines. We keep hurting them, well into adulthood, because we love them.
Most of the time, it works out OK though.
As we headed out the door, the receptionist produced from under her desk a vast cache of stickers, shiny and sparkly, strategically held back for this purpose, and briefly he was very happy that we visited.