For years, Ronan’s siblings have been praying for a miracle. On any given day, they share one of a few consistent requests during our family’s evening prayer time. They ask God for Ronan to be able to speak again. They mercifully beg for the seizures to stop. They ask for his full healing. I pray along with them, but sometimes it’s hard for me to “offer it up”. The times it’s the hardest is after Ronan’s had a tough day or after he’s had seizures. Those days, one of the sibs laments, “Mom, we’ve prayed a lot and for a long time. Why haven’t our prayers been answered?” I tell them what’s been told to me – sometimes a prayer is answered with a yes. Sometimes the answer is no. Other times, the answer is yes….but not right now.
I was reminded of those three different answers when I stated one of them earlier this week. It wasn’t about Ronan’s miracle his siblings are still waiting for; it was about a topic that has spurred the desire for that miracle – vaccines. It was a short conversation with a nurse but one worth noting:
Has he had a flu shot?
You don't do those, right?
Easily, the nurse who was asking me that simple question could’ve taken it upon herself to lecture me. She could’ve belittled me as others have attempted to do before. She could’ve also loaded me up with industry propaganda about how “safe and effective” the flu shot is even though the HHS has neglected to study vaccines for the last 30 years as they had been charged to do. I’d have been more than ready to defend myself and my answer in why we “don’t do those” had she persisted, but I didn’t have to. The nurse kept things simple and civil. That’s because she, unlike other medical professionals we’ve encountered, respected the answer that I provided to her.
I was so excited about how the conversation went that as soon as I could, I told Ronan’s siblings about it. They were as grateful as I was. In thinking about how that appointment could’ve played out, I was reminded of the three answers we may get when we ask for prayers:
-Some people give a yes answer to any and all vaccines. That’s their right.
-Some offer a no, nope, or never to one or to all vaccines in reply. That should be everyone’s right, but we know that some people in some states are no longer given that option.
-Other people would like some time to mull things over and respond with not right now because there is so much to learn about disease, about the immune system, about vaccines, and about the law. Taking time and delaying, or eventually forgoing, one or all vaccines being offered should be allowed. But, again, some places have restricted vaccine choice.
Not right now.
All three answers should be acceptable. But they aren’t. Instead, parents are misinformed, bullied, or even kicked out for going against the mainstream norm. I see and hear those kinds of scenarios in the message groups I’m in. Young parents share that just them asking questions is seen as a threat. Later, after questioning and deciding against vaccines, some parents disclose that their pediatrician’s group sent them a break up letter. That goes something like this:
We note that your child is missing x-number of vaccines. If you don’t vaccinate according to the CDC schedule and catch them up within the next 30 days, we will be forced to dismiss you from the practice…
I see and hear that schools as well as local health departments are doing no better. That’s because where they should be citing the entire vaccine state law, they neglect to mention that submitting an exemption is acceptable. Which states have exemptions? All 50 of them! (Each state has at least 1 exemption.) As they are the messengers, exemption information should be clearly noted on any and every school vaccine letter, on every Facebook post about “school shots”, and in the school nurse’s tab on a school’s website. Sadly, it isn’t.
Happily, though, some people are doing something about that, like the brave group of Texans from Texans for Vaccine Choice. Those Texan quickly call attention to a school’s post that has missing, misleading, or false vaccine info. Not only that, they edit a screenshot to include relevant wording that helps a parent to be more fully informed. And why not? If those who are tasked to educate the public choose to not do their job fully, who better than parents in the know to step up and give them a hand? Stepping up and speaking up can be hard to do, especially when parents’ comments on social media posts get deleted, but calling a public school district out online is one of the simplest things to do. Since they’re funded by our taxes, I don’t think it wrong to tell the staff …thanks for sharing the vaccine info, but you forgot a thing or two. Here’s what’s missing…
If your kids haven’t gone back yet, be on the look-out. Those school reminders are coming. So will the requests for school physicals and sports physicals. Before you get that paperwork done, take a look at what your state says regarding “school shots”. Prepare yourself with what you need to know. Prepare your answer beforehand, too. Most parents have rights. But they can’t use them if they don’t know they have them.
If you going to say yes – you can.
If you’re going to say no – be firm when you say no.
If you’d like more time or want to space things out, be confident in your reply when you say – yes, but not right now.
They may not like it, but my children learned early on to respect the answer I give them when they ask me for something. I’d expect an adult to respect my answer, too. While my kids know to respect the answer, they’ve yet to hear the one they want with regard to Ronan. They pine for healing for their brother. They yearn to hear his voice again. They can’t wait to see an end to the seizures, especially after he had some again last week. As they wait for yes answers to their prayers, I make sure to point out some improvements we’ve see in Ronan’s behavior and in his typed communication. Could those simple things be leading up to something bigger? We certainly hope so! It’s hard to be patient, but as long as we keep finding the positive, like we did in that quick convo with the nurse last week, I think we’re going to be okay.
Cathy Jameson is a Contributing Editor for Age of Autism.