I’d heard my friends’ kids talking about the routine vaccinations they get when they turn 9 years old.
The Dutch call it the “9 year prick”.

I wasn’t surprised when a letter from the health department turned up last week, telling the boy that it was his turn for the vaccinations (actually 6 different types of vaccinations, but who’s counting?)

We were very blase about it. I casually mentioned to the boy he’d be having “the prick” it in his near future.
He was unconcerned.
We let it slide and went about our lives.

We. Had. No. Idea. 

Today we had to go get ‘the prick’. I picked him up from school and on the way, I described the scenario for him, so he could get an idea of what was to come:

We’d drive to the Health Centre. When we got there, he’d go into a nurses’ room, roll up his sleeve, the nurse would give him a teeny jab, he’d get a bandaid, maybe a sticker and lollipop, job done.

He was unperturbed. It sounded alright.
The lolly sounded cool – He wondered if it be one with gum inside or just straight sugar.

None of this was true.
Apparently I am a massive LIAR.

We drove to the health centre. When we got there, I realised that it was the other street called the exact same name over the other side of town.

Unstressed, I drove 20 minutes in the other direction.
It was OK,
I had this,
I had allocated ‘mama fucks up time’.

We drove to the other Fanny street.
No really.
Our town has 2 streets called Fanny street.
Yes, I snigger everytime I hear it.
If you don’t, it means you are a mature and worldly individual and deserve an accolade for your sensible nature. 

We drove up outside a sports hall. The parking was carnage.
There were children crying EVERYWHERE.
Serious faced adults talking in soothing tones.

We did not put it together.
Both of us totally unaware of the nightmare fuel we were about to saunter into….

We followed the signs for the Health Centre and walked down complicated brown tiled corridors, and walked straight into the set of ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’.

(If you haven’t watched it, just visualise some other jaded dystopian environment, where hoards of minors are rounded up and medicated en mass, in an outdated school gym.)

Rows of medical staff sticking needles in kids’ arms.
Big eyed kids queuing up, watching their fate.
Kids recoiling.
Sounds of terror, wails, tears, screams.
Smiling nurses assuring them everything was fine.
Somehow this made it all worse…The robotic assurance.

It all just felt so wrong.

The boy was distracted, because his old teacher happened to be in the queue behind us and her kid is a total dote. He was totally absorbed by the rarity of seeing them.

He had his back to the whole scene.

I was in dumbstruck-autopilot-survival mode. A therapist told me it isn’t a healthy place to live, I am not so sure I agree….It feels like a safe place to be a lot of the time.

Our turn came.
The friend left to face his fate.
The boy suddenly noticed what was going on.

There was a chair.
With a nurse on either side. 

The boy started to back away. Strong survival instincts in that one. 

They suggested he sit on my lap.
And then said,
“Hold his wrists”
Ehrm what? Sweet Holy Jaysus…What the actual f? How was that OK?
I held his hands.
He was making a high pitched keening noise. Inside my brain shrieked with him.
We counted to 3. It was over. 

There was no lolly.
No sticker.
Just a band-aid and off you go.
Not even a smiley face drawn on the plaster.
I was outraged on his behalf.

We scrapped the, “After the shots we are going to judo” plan and changed it to “Let’s immediately get ice cream and lie down”.

I drank wine with my choc ice and tried to delete the images from my brain.
The 6 year old asked him, very wide eyed, what it was like.
“It wasn’t that bad”, he shrugged, he proudly displayed his double band aid, and went back to playing Minecraft.


I was born in Ireland, grew up in England and met my Cornish husband in Catalonia. We now live in the Netherlands, in Dutch suburbia with our two differently wired, small kids. I spend my days parenting, writing and being amazed at all the Dutchness around me.

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