How to Make Flu Shots More Appealing to Kids

Flu shots are as much a part of our October calendar as Columbus Day, Halloween and Columbus Day (observed). Before I became a Dad it was a simple 6-step process:

Step 1: Get e-mail from employer saying shots will be administered on XYZ date.
Step 2: Get reminder e-mail day before shots will be administered.
Step 3: Get final e-mail reminder 20 minutes before shots will be administered.
Step 4: On way to get shot, get distracted by free donuts in the break room.
Step 5: When wife asks why you didn't get your shot, tell wife they ran out of shots.
Step 6: Wipe glaze from cheek and prepare for flu.

Now that I'm a father, I'm not the only one I have to worry about getting vaccinated. I have two toddlers to keep in mind. They are so miserable and pathetic when they are sick that they can't eat. They can't sleep. They can't tolerate my beautiful singing voice (my wife claims this one is not flu-related). In fact, I can only assume that having the flu as a kid is almost as bad as being forced to watch a "Jersey Shore" marathon as an adult. The only difference is that the flu will leave you, but images of Snooki never will.

When shot day arrived, my wife and I took the kids to the doctor's office. The waiting room was packed with toddlers who were either sneezing on everything, coughing on everything or licking everything. It was as if a mushroom-cloud of illness filled the air, affecting everyone in its wake, and the only way to avoid it was to huddle up in one corner chair, cover up with our jackets and continually douse our bodies in hand sanitizers.

My kids immediately deemed this plan unacceptable, as they preferred to wander around freely and get licked.

(Thankfully the nurse called us back before any licking took place.)

It was there in the room that the kids started to question our motives.

"Why are we here?" asked my 3-year-old Ella.

"We're just here to get a quick flu shot that will help you from getting sick."

"Is Anna getting one too?"

"Of course."

"WHAT!?" screamed Anna, as she put her snacks back in the bag and started heading for the door—not seeming to care that she wasn't wearing pants anymore.

A brief pause and look of concern crossed Ella's face. I was fully prepared to hug her and give her the fatherly, Don't-Worry-It-Will-Be-OK-You-Can-Barely-Feel-It speech. I even placed my hand on her shoulder in preparation. Then she hit me with the question that she'd thought so long and so hard about:

"Will I get a sticker?"

In the few years I've been a father, I've learned that the keys to any good flu shot are Band-Aids and stickers. Without them, you're scum. With them, you'll finally get that "World's Greatest Dad" mug you've secretly (and desperately) been dreaming about (hint, hint).

Of course, that doesn't mean all Band-Aids and stickers are built alike, nor will they all dry your kids' tears. That's why I've created this handy Good/Bad chart so you know what will work and what won't:

Good: Dora Band-Aid, Elmo Band-Aid, Handy Manny Band-Aid.
Bad: Skin-colored Band-Aid, duct tape.

Good: Tinkerbell sticker, Diego sticker, Any-Disney-Character sticker.
Bad: "Paid" sticker from Kroger, "Hello My Name is" sticker, duct tape.

So when the nurse finally poked both our kids and the tears started to flow, I was armed with a pocketful of Dora Band-Aids and Disney stickers in tow—ready to earn my "World's Greatest Dad" mug. Unfortunately my kids immediately deemed this plan unacceptable too, and instead preferred the nurse's Tasmanian Devil Band-Aids (even though they had no clue who he was) and wanted to pick their own stickers from the nurse's sticker bin. I guess my mug will have to wait for another day.

And as I sat there, waiting for my kids to decide between a green Dora sticker, a red Dora sticker and another green Dora sticker—which looked identical to the first one but, according to Ella, wasn't—I realized something about myself:

I really, really wanted a donut.

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