Ponies are the Answer for Kids With Needle Phobias

January 29, 2014 | 49 Comments

Emma on the rocks eating lunch

I haven’t been updating partly because having a domain makes me feel like every entry needs to be A Thing About A Thing. I don’t have many Things to say.

Sometimes I just want to ramble on for the purpose of documenting my life in the presence of my fallible memory.

So here you have it:

I kept Emma out of school today because she had immunizations and her serious needle phobia had her tummy in knots all week. I thought if we did something together that was fun, I could abate some of the mind-torture she’d put herself through today.

We spent the morning puttering around the house, and just before lunch we headed over to North Van—our new favourite place to hike with the dogs. There’s kilometers of off-leash hiking along a river bank that’s almost always busy with every kind of dog you can imagine. All five of us benefit from the socialization. We stopped at Tim Horton’s for some take-out and headed to the trail where we found a spot on the rocks near the river to munch while the dogs explored. I’m so pleased at how well they stick around while amusing themselves. It was a peaceful, soul-filling time.

On our walk Sloane got ahead where I couldn’t see her. I eventually spotted her across the path jumping up on another woman. I kept calling Sloane over and the woman kept looking at me. Sloane ignored me, so I mustered up my stern voice for one last, “Sloane! Come!” The woman yelled back, “This is my dog!” and kept walking.

Emma and I bent over laughing at my mistake. Part of my Instagram profile says, “Also: my vizsla is cuter than your vizsla. Wait–which one’s mine?” And if you didn’t understand it before–now you do.

After our three-hour hike, we headed to the health clinic. This is when it became almost impossible to distract Emma from the impending shots (she needed three). I took to telling her the best-of stories from my childhood. Like the time I showed up at my very first job one day and announce that, instead of coming into work, I was going shopping with friends. Or the time I was in grade 12 and my dad came home in the middle of the day to grab something to find the car missing because I’d been driving it to school for weeks without permission.

Emma and I arrived at the clinic over 30 minutes early. I was running out of stories, so we switched to guessing what conversations people in the waiting room were having based on facial expressions. One little girl came out with a tear-stained face and bandaged arms, obviously having just gotten her shots—but she was smiling. I guessed that her mom probably promised her a pony if she got through it. When Emma looked over at the girl again, she was speaking to her mom with an angry face, and Emma quipped, “She probably just found out the pony thing was a lie.”

I decided it would be HILARIOUS if when we were in with the nurse Emma said, “My mom promised me a pony if I don’t scream.” Emma began reciting her line, trying not to giggle. She got pretty good.

When the nurse finally called us in, Emma lost it, stopping halfway down the hallway to cry. “Mom, I can’t do this. I can’t.”

I felt pretty helpless. She cry-screamed through the whole thing. I said, “Emma! Remember the pony!” She giggled and then returned to hysterics. I grabbed her little face and got close and said, “Em, we gotta do this one way or the other. Bury your head in my chest and let them do their thing and we’ll get out of here.” And so that’s what she did. I tried to muffle her screams without suffocating her. She came out alive, so I guess it worked.

The nurse asked us to wait in the lobby for 15 minutes to make sure Emma didn’t have a reaction. Emma started to complain about how much her arm hurt. “Well, it’s better than dying!” I said, and we both giggled some more.

Playing out the scene in her head, Emma remember her screams. “Oh man, the whole lobby must have heard me scream!”

“Yep! And imagine all of the families in the waiting room trying to convince their kids it wasn’t going to be that bad—cue Emma screaming! It’s like a scene from Full House or something.”

Despite how awful it was for her and how hard it was to listen to her scream and know that there was nothing rational running through her in that moment, we managed to make the best of it. I felt pretty great that I was able to be there for her and make her laugh and let her know that even screaming and crying is a strategy.That she did it even though she was terrified—and that’s courage. Tears and shrills don’t cancel out courage.

I sure love that kid. And I love sunshine and river-trails populated with puppies and kind people 5-minutes from my front door.

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