Rob Taylor: ‘Being a little kid is tough’
March 10, 2008
The average guy is solid where it counts: No Arachnophobia (fear of spiders) and no Helmenthophobia (fear of being infested with worms). It’s the flip side of man’s nature that often gives birth to marital conflict – fear of the opera (couldn’t find a name for that one), Dentophobia (fear of dentists) and the grand-daddy of them all: Iatrophobia (fear of doctors).
According to this list, I am average. Furthermore, my excuse for Iatrophobia is unparalleled.
The year was 1972. I was 3 years old, diaper-free and off the bottle.
While the country agonized over Viet Nam and Watergate, I enjoyed a sheltered life in a good neighborhood that was brought to order weekdays at 10 a.m. by Mr. Rogers. One thousand sweater and shoe changes into his public TV reign, my mental tape recorder logged its first images.
It began with my father, who dabbled in Aquanet Hairspray and polyester leisure suits, though he drew the line at nipple-length collars.
After calling an emergency “family meeting,” he served up a kiddie portion of “American Pie” – exposing my brother and me to life outside the Utopian bubble:
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“We’re putting the dog down,” he began in somber tones. “She’s 13 years old and in a lot of pain. Don’t worry, boys. She will be in a better place.”
“What better place, daddy?” my brother asked.
In his best Cronkite-like “that’s the way it is” delivery, he downplayed the animal doctor’s mercy killing, painting a picture of the afterlife and peddling the virtues of death by hypodermic needle.
“But I thought doctors were supposed to make us better,” I objected.
The toddler jury’s objections fell on deaf ears.
A few days later, the poodle was laid to rest in the rose garden.
My father concluded the ceremony with a moment of silence and a prayer.
“You better watch your back,” my older brother Michael whispered before the “Amen.”
The next day, mom stuffed me with Cheerios and loaded me into our black ’69 Mercury Marauder – yesterday’s canine hearse – to run a few errands.
Mid-morning, we found ourselves in the pediatrician’s office.
Distracted by the sweet set-up of Legos and Weeble Wobbles, I mostly ignored the doctor. He just glanced at me, feigned a smile and exchanged pleasantries with my mother in front a Dr. Benjamin Spock wall shrine.
A couple of minutes later, the room grew silent. I looked up in time to catch the glint of his vaccination needle as he came for me.
It didn’t take me long to put two and two together.
“Noooo!” I screamed, flinging open the door.
The outburst drew ogles from the waiting room, which was teeming with concerned mothers and children.
My mother caught me just outside the door.
“What’s the matter?” she asked calmly.
“Don’t do it, mommy.”
“Don’t do what, honey?”
“Don’t kill me! I’ll be a good boy. I don’t want to be buried in the rose garden!”
Waiting room mayhem ensued. Some toddlers screamed. Others fled the scene as their parents gave chase. The receptionist lost her color.
The distraction allowed me to give my mother the slip and join the stampede.
“Noooooo! Don’t kill me!” I shrieked, racing down the hallway.
When my mother finally snagged me, she wiped my tears and held me tight, whispering assurances that I wasn’t on the family’s hit list.
That’s how it went down, recorded forever in the annals of my mind. I still remember that building’s musty smell and seeing the doctor – minutes later – stuffing golf clubs into his car. I cleared his afternoon schedule.
Conquering my needle phobia (Belonephobia) will take a lifetime. But I force myself to take baby steps.
Now, I voluntarily see the doctor and even take one in the rear if I must, but only after exhausting all other options.
Even so, my inner child surfaces from time to time: I still overreact to Dr. Kevorkianan photos or “Terminator” movies (no name for those phobias). Can you blame me?
There is no sugar-coating it. My first memory was a nightmare that Mr. Rogers or Dr. Spock never prepared me for. In my opinion, the only voice of reason in the ’70s belonged to Charles Shultz, who said: “Being a little kid is tough.”
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