Why I won’t tell you to vaccinate your kids
It is 10:00 in the morning and already the list of parenting mistakes I have made is massive.
I fed my kids slightly moldy bagels for breakfast. Knowingly. I told my 6 year old that “I don’t care one bit about your Christmas dress” when she couldn’t find it. I tried to rush the goodbye hug and kiss from my 8 year old because I was so ready to get her out the door, something she of course called me on.
If we are going to go any further back than just the current day, my list is too extensive to even begin compiling. I thought it would be a good idea to have both my children’s tonsils out at the same time. I forgot to check my 3 year old’s room for sharp, pointy metal objects before sending her to time out. I don’t dwell on these instances. There are too many and it doesn’t do any good. I forgive myself, hope that I learn a lesson, and I move on.
There isn’t really any other way to do parenting. If we spent all our time focusing on the mistakes that we make, we would never get to the good stuff. My kids have fallen off of changing tables, beds, and every other object I wasn’t supposed to leave them unattended on. I’ve lost my temper and said mean things that I shouldn’t have said. I’ve had to deal with countless decisions about whether to medicate or not, treat or not, deal with things or not. I haven’t always made the right decision.
When my oldest was born it was 2006 and the peak of vaccination frenzy. It was 8 years after Andrew Wakefield published his study linking autism to the MMR vaccine and 4 years before it would be fully debunked and pulled from publications. I was brand new at this parenting thing and I didn’t know who I should listen to. I understood the idea behind vaccines but I was terrified at the thought of my child having a reaction to it and there being no way to get it out of her tiny little body. I did some research, I asked around, and ultimately I sat down with my doctor to discuss the options. My doctor is someone that I deeply trust, and I wasn’t afraid to say “I’m considering not vaccinating, or postponing from the normal schedule.” When I did say those exact words, she didn’t judge me, she didn’t shame me, and she didn’t act like I had just committed some horrendous crime. She talked to me. Calmly, rationally, and with extreme care for my concerns.
In the end, I vaccinated. Fully. Both kids, on schedule. That, I believe, was not a parenting mistake. But let’s pretend I didn’t choose to vaccinate. Let’s pretend that I decided it would be in the best interest of my children to forgo vaccination at that time. Let’s pretend that decision was a parenting mistake (because I believe that it would have been). What would allow me to rethink my decision? What would allow me to admit I had made a mistake? What would ultimately make me reconsider and vaccinate my children?
Not name calling. Not people calling me selfish or uneducated. Not pointing fingers. Not hearing phrases like “keep your kids away from my kids.” None of that would make me feel anything except angry and alone.
I can confide in this place just a small sample of my parenting mistakes because I have a support system of wonderful, caring, compassionate people who will listen even if they don’t agree. I could confide in my doctor, and potentially avoid making a parenting mistake, because she listened without judgement and didn’t assign shame.
Ultimately, I want children to be vaccinated. But I want parents to be able to have those necessary conversations to come to that conclusion on their own. Not through snide comments and shaming articles. Not through ultimatums. Not through parents acting like they are perfect when the reality is we all make mistakes every single day.
So I will not tell you to vaccinate your kids. Instead, I’ll listen if you want to talk about why you haven’t. I’ll be that same calm, rational, and caring person who listened to me when I was unsure. I believe if people really want to do something about the vaccination rate, they will do the same.