The last time I saw my doctor, he was very firm on the subject of flu vaccinations. Get them for myself, and get them for my kids. Get the H1N1 vaccination for my kids the instant it becomes available. Do not pass Go, do not fiddle-fart around, go directly to the pediatrician’s office.

I planned to do so. Then, after a while, I started feeling unsure. Specifically about the H1N1 vaccine. I started worrying, in my non-medical-professional mouthbreathing sort of way, about potential dangers of a fast-tracked vaccine, and about reactions and side effects. You know, like a fever. Or . . . Guillain-Barre Syndrome. Death. Little things like that.

Then I read that in preparation for the swine flu vaccine, Washington has temporarily lifted a restriction that limits the amount of thimerosol—a mercury preservative—given to pregnant women and children under 3. Only around 15% of the vaccine supply will be mercury-free, and people may have to wait longer for it to become available.

Huh, I thought. That doesn’t seem good. Isn’t mercury what made Jeremy Piven such an insufferable douchebag, or something?

The FDA assures us the trace amount of mercury in an influenza vaccination is fine. The CDC is recommending vaccinations for people 6 months to 24 years old, among other groups. And since it seems inevitable that my kids will be repeatedly exposed to the flu this season—you can throw all the hand sanitizer you want at a daycare, but it’s still basically a toy-filled, skill-building petri dish—it would be irresponsible for me to not get that vaccine, right? I mean, statistically if we’re looking at worst-case scenarios the kids are probably much more likely to have Something Bad happen from the flu than a vaccination. JB’s coworker had the H1N1 virus a couple weeks ago and described how it made him feel like he couldn’t breathe for a couple days. Well, jesus. If there’s a way to help my kids avoid getting an illness like that, I should be ALL OVER IT.

… right?

So why does this feel like such a creepy, shitty decision?

Where are you at with the swine flu vaccine, with regards to your kids? I’m really interested in hearing your thoughts.

Thank you for the ideas/commiseration on Dylan’s sleep issues. Sometimes it’s just immensely helpful to hear “oh my god, my kid does that too, and it SUCKS”, you know? JB reads my comments too, and I think we both breathe a giant sigh of relief when we learn that whatever parental challenge we’re struggling with is not unusual and that other people are in the same boat and we’re all frantically bailing water while looking for the goddamned hole.

Dylan slept through the night last night but woke up, as usual, way before any normal human would choose to start their day, so I went and brought him to bed with us. This always seems like a good idea, and at first he’s a dream. He snuggles belly to belly on top of one of us, usually JB, and all is cozy and comfortable and warm and loving, until out of nowhere he jerks his head upright and brightly announces, “HORSE!” Then he’s off and running:

“Horse! Neiggggh. Cow. Cow. Moooo! DUCK. DUCK. DUCK. Donkeys. DONKEYS! Sheep.”

(Despite how I make him sound he doesn’t actually communicate exclusively via farm-speak, but it sure seems to be a conversation starter for him. I can imagine him at a toddler cocktail party, wearing a wee little bowtie and accepting a sippy cup from a passing waiter, then turning to his companion and chirping, “So . . . HORSE?”)

Once he gets started with the Naming of the Animals, all is lost; he’s all over the bed and joyously sticking his grimy little fingers deep into our eyesockets. At that point Riley usually comes padding out of his bedroom and climbs up and we endure maybe 5 more minutes of total physical chaos before the blankets are on the floor, both kids are crying about something, and JB and I are bolting for the coffeemaker.

I’ve never particularly wanted to co-sleep past the newborn stage, but then again I’ve never really had the opportunity to give it a try. Both boys have always acted like they regard our bed as a thinly disguised ball pit, even in the dead of night. I think I remember one time when Riley slept with me when he was little and sickly and JB was out of town, but I woke up at the exact moment he was happily starting to roll off the edge of the mattress, and hoo boy. Never again.

I was thinking how our mornings seem extra crazy lately—starting with the Great Family Bed Fail and moving immediately into the breakfast madness which involves Riley acting sullen and grumpy until the first Honey Nut Cheerio hits his system and Dylan saying “Waffle? Waffle? Waffle? Waffle? Waffle? Cook? Cook? Cook? Cook? Cook? Hot? Hot? Hot? Hot? Hot? Hot? WAFFLE? WAFFLE? WAFFLE?” until I think I’m going to go slap out of my damn mind at which point Riley inevitably sighs with great put-upon drama and wonders out loud why no one got him anything to drink—but the truth is, EVERYTHING is crazy. Mornings, afternoons, dinners, naptimes, bedtimes, it’s all shouting galloping couch-jumping shrieking open-mouthed-chewing craziness all the time, and while I obviously wouldn’t trade it for the world I think it’s one of those parenthood truths you really cannot imagine until you’re in it: the peace and quiet in your life is going to go away. Altogether. Except maybe between the hours of their bedtime and yours, which you will come to defend like a starving buzzard hunkered over a flattened, steaming chunk of roadkill.

Such is life with kids, though. It’s loud and there are many bodily substances. It’s basically like belonging to a fraternity, where your roommates spend their time hazing you, barfing, and screwing with your sleep. It’s steeped in ritual and there are songs. Also, you will forever have something in common with your fellow members, which is one of the things that makes it all survivable.

Well, that, and . . . you know. The children.

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