Sally will go to her 3-year-old well child doctor’s appointment in a few weeks, and she’s going to get a flu shot and at least one booster. I can’t decide whether to tell her ahead of time that someone will be shoving a syringe into her thigh.
I see two possible scenarios:
1. I don’t tell her. She skips happily into the doctor ready to have them check her heart, ears, etc., and see how big she’s grown. She plays with the germ-smeared toys in the waiting room. She shows off her 3-year-old skills to the doctor, and then–surprise!–we whip out the needles. She threatens to go live with her grandparents if I let this happen. She screams, she cries “Save me, Mommy!” (Lest you think I am exaggerating, I have precedent for every item here.) After, she complains for three days that her battle scars still hurt, and she tells me the story of her torture every day for the next six months.
2. I tell her. She talks about it every day until the day of the appointment and tries to negotiate her way out of it (“I won’t get sick! I’ll stay away from people! I’ll eat broccoli!”). She asks if I will be getting a shot at the same time and declares it’s unfair that I don’t have to go through the same pain. On the day of, I’ll wrestle her into the car. She won’t cooperate with any of the exam. I’ll be the crazy mom who touts that YES, her kid really is a normal 3-year-old as her child alternates between clawing at the exam room door and cowering in tears behind mom. And then I’ll still hear about the event for six months but without that sneering “You LIED to me” tone attached to it.
I’m no expert, but I suspect with a lot of kids you’d just let that bit of fun be a surprise and they’d get over it in a day or so. But let’s face it, Sally isn’t normal. And she always–always–handles new things better when I prepare her as much as possible ahead of time. When I moved the furniture all of 24 inches a couple months ago, I didn’t tell her ahead of time. She’s still peeved. The shots will be 100 times worse. So I think I’ll go with telling her the truth. It might make the whole experience worse for me, but at least she won’t worry for the next year about what else I’m not telling her. Plus, the promise of a post-shot chocolate milkshake can do wonders.