My son, Jacob, is a creative, genuine, and expressive kid.
He’s a man grown at 20, but when he was little, he had some major fears. First, was the fear of bugs, any bug, any creepy crawly thing, he was horrified of it. Second, was the fear of vaccinations. Outside of those two things, he was a very charismatic child who enjoyed anything he could conquer and create.
For the most part, Jacob was a very compliant little boy. He could have his fits like any other, especially when it was time to go to bed and put away the Xbox. But, we learned quickly when he was around four that we didn’t discuss or mention going for a checkup. We just had to arrive at the medical office and face the music.
During that time, we lived in the East Bay of California, and to go three blocks was an adventure. I’ll have to tell you the story of our first weekend living in short-term housing in Berkeley and strolling four kids down the streets. The looks alone made enough for a short story. Robyn was working in Sunnyvale, my office was in Newark and we lived in Hayward Hills, walking distance from East Avenue Park. One particular day, we were not going to walk in the park, we had a visit to the pediatrician for annual vaccines. We did not tell Jacob.
So, passing the park, getting on the freeway, and making our way through all the five-lane exchanges, we finally arrived in Oakland and pulled into the parking lot of the doctor’s office. I turned off the car, got two of the kids out, and Jacob, just by instinct started out of the rear van door. Then he looked up. That was it.
I cannot describe in words the detail of this experience. Even acting it out, which I have done many times, doesn’t do it justice. His eyes grew wide and his conscience attested to the reality of what was before him. His body took over and it was a big, fat, NOPE! He was not exiting the vehicle. My two oldest girls were standing beside me in the lot, my youngest daughter was awaiting Jacob’s removal from the door frame so she could get out. But that even never took place. Pleading with Jacob, “Son, it’s ok, let’s go in and see the doctor.” In a few short words, he replied, “I am not leaving the van.”
Well, I am the dad. I can surely get this 25-pound son of mine out of the van without incident. Boy, was I wrong. Something in him established a superhero strength and resolve. He became slippery, then rigid. Placing his right foot in the door pillar, his left foot under the seat brace, his right hand grabbing the driver’s seatbelt bolt, and his left hand affixed permanently to the grab handle, this young boy of mine was now Spiderman and he was just as strong.
For about ninety seconds I tried to pry him loose. Nothing would work. He got louder and louder with his assertion, “I am not leaving the van!” Now my oldest was trying to get involved and my youngest decided she would push, “Jacob, get out!”
“I am not leaving the van! Nooooooooooooo!”
Well, that was it. The other people around us begin to look and seemed concerned. If ever you didn’t want attention, it was dealing with kids in California. So, I said, “OK, son, let’s just get back in your seat. We’re going to the Park.” And with that, Spiderman released his grip, slid into the seat, and buckled himself in.
Now, I am not interested in how others would have handled that. It was a one-off for me and trust me when I say, it is never good or moral to make a scene with your child in public, especially in that part of the world. As my dad always said, “You may beat the rap, but you won’t beat the ride.” (Retired LEO) I knew when to throw in the towel and why.
Needless to say, we had another day in the park and again, another day at the doctor’s office. This time, we discussed it ahead of time and told Jacob of our expectations. He complied, with sad little tears. Jacob behaved normally in both situations. The problem was the fear and my idea to hide the fear from him until the last minute. Remember, fear, no matter how silly to us, is trauma to the one experiencing it.
What neat adventure have you had with your kids or siblings? What adventure do you remember from your childhood? What lessons can be learned from an experience like this? What are you afraid of?