This is Only Going to Hurt a Little Bit — Six Times

As you might know from reading about Arlo’s visits to the dentist, or my circus-like ability for overcoming this gawky six-foot six-inch frame to change a crap diaper in an airplane lavatory, I’m in charge of the gross/nasty/painful parts of parenting. These aren’t to be confused with the hard parts. Those involve things like being patient while playing games with malleable rules.  I’m simply not wired for that. The emotionally and physically treacherous, but very brief, parts of overseeing our children’s lives are my territory. Need to get the blood out from under a smashed toenail? Ask Dad. Need someone to watch quietly as you try for 10 minutes to put toothpaste on your toothbrush? That’s totally mom.

When Lindsay asked me last week if Tuesday was good for me to take Arlo for shots (vaccines and such, not Jagermeister) and Wednesday for Silas, I said I’d rather take them at the same time so I could get it over with. She responded with a dubiously cheery, “OK!” as if I’d told her I was capable of doing a back handspring on the balance beam.

I simply prefer my suffering in concentrated form. As long as I can see the finish line, I can endure two shots in the leg for Arlo and four in the arm for Silas. Six total minutes of lying about how much shots hurt and then ten more minutes of picking out candy at CVS. Add thirty minutes of waiting and driving, and it’s a full day of parenting packed into less than one hour, and my wife thinks I’m a goddamn super-hero.

All Silas (5) could talk about the entire time was shots. He pointed out every single thing in the examination room and asked, “Woh, what if THAT was a needle!? I bet that would hurt!” Arlo (2 1/2) nodded silently in agreement. “What if the chair was a needle?” Silas asked again. “Well, then you’d be getting a big shot in your bum!” I responded, because I’m unfathomably hilarious and creative. The rubber gloves would be used for needles if anyone needed a shot in their hand and the ear examination tool was for BRAIN SHOTS!!!!! I was crushing.

Silas continued to talk, whistle, shake his leg and ask questions to which he already knew the answer. It was his way of dealing with nerves. Arlo simply sat on my lap and stared straight ahead, occasionally asking, “Shots now?” without even looking at me. He’s the strong silent type, and Silas, the nervous talkative type. It makes sense; they share DNA from Lindsay (strong) and me (nervous).  When the nurse came in with the shots, I pulled up Arlo’s pant leg, and pow-pow, both shots done; band aids applied and zero crying, wincing or complaining. I don’t know where he gets it, but I’m jealous. Silas, who clearly has my emotional constitution, was quaking in his Velcro New Balance. Bam, boom – arm one complete and crying commenced. Zing Kaboom – second arm down and cue the hysterics. Arlo just looked on as if to say, “Dude, just turn yourself off like I did.” To his defense, Silas got twice as many shots and two of them were boosters, so the needle was long. Also, the arm hurts more than the leg. So listen, I’m not trying to say he’s not a strong little guy, I’m just shocked by how different my kids react to the same situation.  Arlo did cry on the way home, but only because I accidentally finished the last stick of our shared Kit Kat Bar.

I'm a contributing writer to Parents Magazine, GQ, Psychology Today and some others. My book, "This is Ridiculous. This is Amazing: Parenthood in 71 Lists" is available here Look for two more books in 2015: "Must. Push. Buttons (Bloomsbury Kids), and an as-of-yet untitled memoir I’ve appeared on Comedy Central’s “Live at Gotham” and “Nick Mom’s Night Out." I live in New Jersey with my wife and two sons and enjoy making them laugh more than anyone else.

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