My kids are pretty different when it comes to pain tolerance. P hates pain and goes to great lengths to avoid it. But, when he's actually experiencing it, he's pretty stoic. He responds incredibly well to placebos and actually believes me when I tell him that panicking and screaming is probably making it worse. If P ever does something that results in pain, he connects the dots instantly, and never does it again. Sylvia, on the other hand, has really high pain tolerance and frequently doesn't notice when she gets hurt. She often doesn't make the connection between the things she does and the pain that results. If she thinks she's been insulted, however, she wails and wails and won't calm down. If there are several adults in the room when the floor hits her or a wall jumps out and smacks her in the head, she will often go from one to the other, just to wallow in her misery with everyone who might have a sympathetic ear. But it's not actually the pain she minds, it's the audacity of the object, animate or otherwise, that dared to assault her.
This makes getting shots a radically different experience for each child.
18 month shots, Peregrine: I laid my fully trusting, very verbal toddler down on a table and held his hands. A nurse proceeded to insert 3 or 4 needles into his legs. It was a terrible shock, he cried and cried, and experienced little PTSD flashbacks every single time I laid him down to change his diaper for at least the next week. We talked about it, a lot, and explained what shots were and why we need them and how he wouldn't be getting any for a long time. Every time we had to go to the doctor, I always had to tell him we weren't there for a shot. Thankfully, his beloved pediatrician wasn't giving the shots, so no PTSD there.
18 month shots, Sylvia: I laid my wiggling toddler down on a table and held her hands. She instantly resented me for holding her hands and pinning her down. A nurse stuck three or four needles into her legs. She screamed for a few seconds and glared daggers at the nurse. I let her up. She was mad at me for pinning her, but as soon as she was released, life looked a lot better.
2 year shots, Peregrine: For several weeks, we went over the fact that a shot was coming. We talked about immunity and antibodies, and how he only needed one, and how shots actually hurt less as you get older. Peregrine believed me, and let his worry about the shot be drowned by his intense love of his pediatrician. I put P's pacifier in my purse and told him he could have it after the shot. They let me hold him on my lap and he chatted the nurse's ear off as she got everything ready. He watched the needle going in with scientific interest. Then his big blue eyes filled with tears, and his lip started quivering, and he looked at the nurse and said politely but rather brokenheartedly, "You're hurting me!" Fortunately, she was wicked fast and already had the bandaid on. Peregrine lost a bit of trust in nurses, though several months of mom-therapy later, seemed to accept that they had their jobs to do. He got his dee, and was very glad we had brought it.
2 year shots, Sylvia: Sylvia had no idea what a shot was. So I didn't tell her. She felt privileged to be going to see Dr. Elahi, whom she loves solely because Peregrine loves him. As we walked in, I thought she might need some preparation. So I told her she'd get a bandaid because shots make a little owie, and after that, she'd get a sticker. I laid her down on the table and the nurse stuck a needle in her. She was fairly sure that insult was involved there, somewhere, so she started to glare, but then I said, "All done!" She wavered a bit, feeling like she hadn't given the insult the notice it deserved. But if she was all done, she knew what that meant, and so she started in like a broken record while I talked to the nurse: "I get my sticker now? I have my sticker now? I have a sticker? My sticker? Sticker? Sticker?" Then she got a sticker. She still doesn't know what a shot is.
2 year shots, aftermath: Peregrine talks about shots a lot. What they are, why we need them, with science. He's dreaded his kindergarten shots for literally 2 years. He was horrified when he learned they're giving them at the 4 year appointment instead of the 5. He thinks about shots a lot and is already dreading his next ones, which are at least 5 years out.
2 year shots, aftermath: Sylvia asks daily, "When I getting my shot? I still need my shot."