Ida is starting preschool this fall. In preparation for this momentous happening, we are spending a considerable portion of our summer slogging through a shit-ton of paperwork and fulfilling a plethora of inane background checks, tuberculosis and blood tests, and lead screenings. I won’t keep you in suspense – we both passed on all counts with flying colors. 

I’m ever so slightly regretting my decision to send the kid to school. Not on an ideological level – I’m 100% behind the play-based-eat-paste-or-whatever approach this place employs. It’s just that I naively thought that preschool would provide me with some kind of a break. After almost 3 years, I really should just go ahead and finally learn this lesson: “some kind of a break” is like an oasis mirage in the dessert for a mother – I can squint into the distance as hard as I like to find it, but once I arrive it’s never where I thought it would be. 2-and-a-half hours two mornings a week? That’s like a fart in a whirlwind. I’m not sure I can even schedule something fun like a toddler-free pap smear in that window and still get to pick-up on time. 

But no matter. I’m not entirely sure she’s clear on what she’s in for, but Ida is very much looking forward to school. A playmate of hers from the neighborhood will be in her class, and she has been assured that there will be outdoors time and unfettered access to messy art supplies almost every day. Her bases are covered as she sees it. 

So it was for the sake of this endeavor that I took my toddler for a fun morning of mother-daughter blood tests at the hospital. To prepare, we talked through the process and played phlebotomist at home a few times (which is fun for a number of reasons, not the least of which is hearing your 2-and-a-half year old say the word “phlebotomist”). At the hospital, I let Ida be in charge of the proceedings as much as possible. She decided that she would like me to go first. “I’ll be a good audience,” she announced. I’m not sure what to do with the fact that my kid believes most events to be some kind of performance. She has been known to break into spontaneous applause when someone finishes unloading apples at the grocery. This may be an indication that I’m dragging her to too many weird art events, so that now she cannot distinguish between performance and real life. It could also mean that she knows fine work and wants to celebrate it wherever she finds it. Oh well. That will sort itself out, right?

Anyway, I had my blood drawn without much fanfare and then it was Ida’s turn. I was prepared. Every mother knows the awful feeling of having to wrestle their child into stillness and hold them there while a trained professional inflicts pain in the form of shots or perhaps more gruesome medical stuff. That look of utter betrayal is heart wrenching and in our household, results in the rest of the day being spent in a non-stop montage of television, treats, and unlimited bike rides to the playground. It also usually results in an extra-long nap that I feel a tiny bit guilty about looking forward to. The nap of suffering. 

The nurse suggested that Ida should sit on my lap. “No” Ida said firmly. Indicating the chair where she had just been sitting, she said, “You sit there and be a good audience.” Ida climbed up into the blood-drawing chair, and watched with steely resolve as the phlebotomist put the tourniquet on. When the needle went in, Ida looked out and began belting out a stirring rendition of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star that drew the attention of a dozen nurses and other professionals who stood slack-jawed in the doorway. Again – not sure what to do with the fact that my kid’s go-to coping mechanism is a Broadway belt. I was blown away. Ida is such a badass. Once she finished and the needle was out, she hopped out of her chair and took a solemn bow to thunderous applause. My kid got blood drawn like a boss. At that point, she could have flown out in a harness and I don’t think I’d have been surprised. 

Then came the culmination of any kid-gets-a-shot experience – the Band-Aid. At first it was a plain beige specimen strapped atop a cotton ball, but Ida was having none of it. She began to wail, her (understandable, as I had dumbly promised otherwise) impression that she was to receive a “fancy” band-aid shattered. A nurse quickly proffered a Disney princess band-aid featuring the gals in all of their dimorphic splendor. Ida was satisfied and gazed at the band-aid as we walked out and to the car.

Apart from a gifted baby Rapunzel for her 2nd birthday that Ida immediately renamed “Baby Frank”, she has not been exposed to the Disney princess franchise. We were almost to the car when she said, “this band aid is for girls.” My heart dropped. “Already?” I thought to myself. “Why is it for girls?” I asked. “Because when girls are brave and strong at the hospital they get a fancy band aid like mine.” Oh. Okay. I said “what about boys? Do they get fancy Band-Aids when they’re brave and strong at the hospital?” Ida said “Oh sure. But this one is mine from the audience at my performance.” 

Sometimes I am pleasantly surprised. Sometimes the things I’m dreading end up being moments of realizing that I don’t have to hold her down for shots after all – that she has her own wonderfully weird project in mind. Sometimes, not always mind you, but sometimes I realize that I don’t really need that oasis after all. 

The nap of suffering never hurts either. 

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