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Vaccines & Asses


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Jan 13, 2024
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The opinion piece written by the doctor for the NY Times says there are four types of folks who are resisting the Covid vaccine: the Watchful, the Cost-Anxious, the System Distrusters, and Covid Skeptics.* None of these describes Ula.

She was fine when each of us became eligible for the vaccine and she remained below the age threshold. She never resists double masking, even as the rest of us are able to now go mask-free. And she never complained when every tentative plan with a friend was suspended unless proper quarantine measures could be instituted.

But now she’s eligible. And she’s not champing at the bit to go start on the path to freedom.

Is it the needles?

No. She vaccinates the sheep herself. No issue with needles.

Is it about putting something into her body?

The idea of accepting a relatively new vaccine is a tiny bit unsettling, but she watched her grandparents, parents, Corey and Saoirse all weigh the issues carefully. We all chose to take it. She never debated with any of us on those grounds. And she saw that none of us had any adverse side effects.

Something else entirely is stimulating my fourteen-year-old’s vaccine hesitancy.

I’m in the bath, soaking in epsom salts Saturday night. The cafe today was crazy. My feet are killing me. Ula comes in and perches on a stool beside the tub. I don’t want to think about how many miles that kid put in, carrying plates of omelets, pastries and coffees to hungry guests. Then, as soon as closing time rolled around, she was off to the farm to give a tour, then to spend time training Xote, our young guardian donkey.

Ula regales us with her exploits with Xote every night. She mimics his faces, reports in what ways he was naughty, how she disciplined him, how he responded. No Xote story concludes without my being reduced to a heap of laughter….especially when she sums it up with his signature deep breaths, hep hep hep, before he releases his toddler’s version of a brey…Hawww….

But I gently nudge her past tonight’s story. Summer is rolling in fast, and with it will come the question about social gatherings with her friends.

And that’s where the vaccine hesitancy lies.

Ula was always my social butterfly. Where Saoirse was usually content with her solitude, Ula has always made friends wherever she went. We used to joke she was a lonely extrovert in a family of introverts.

But prior to the pandemic, life was changing fast. The issues of teen sexuality and gender identity were bubbling to the surface, just as they do for every kid that age. She witnessed bullying at summer camp, negotiated confusing sexual advances, and was daily torn trying to protect herself emotionally without wanting to hurt anyone else’s feelings. That’s a really hard thing for an empathic kid to do. She feels what everyone else feels so powerfully, she must work really hard to identify which feelings are hers, and which are someone else’s. That makes it tough to set boundaries.

And then along came a pandemic. And the boundaries were set for her.

No, you cannot get closer than six feet.

No, you cannot remove your mask.

No, I will not remove my mask.

Ula retreated to the shelter of family and farm. Her world was clearly defined, and she moved within it, becoming best friends with her donkey foal, spending every afternoon with him.

And I breathed a sigh of relief. It was as though fate let me put a giant glass dome over my daughter, preserving her childhood innocence just a little bit longer. For an entire year, I never had to worry once about where she was, who she was with, or what insidious emotional tortures were being inflicted upon my kid by some angsty adolescent. Sure, she met up with friends online, but all those encounters were buffered by the grounding realities of farm and family life. She participated in the exchanges from a safe distance, and brought any concerns immediately to us. We kept her safe and free from injury. The only wounds my daughter battled were from a bike crash and Xote’s nips.

The vaccine means the glass dome comes off. Ula returns to growing up in a modern world. Is she ready to face it again? She openly admits she doesn’t feel ready to unmask.

I’m sinking deeper into the steamy bathwater as the subject turns, once more, to Xote.

He’s really stubborn. (I guess that goes without saying). He likes to bite. She bought him a ball, and he picks it up to smack her with it. When she leads him by his rope halter, he bites the rope. So she gave him a piece of rope to carry in his mouth while she leads him. Daily she picks up his feet to train him to accept the handling. Daily he kicks her. But each day passes, and Ula gets a little stronger. She’s learning that if she’s too sensitive to Xote’s feelings, he bites her. If she’s indecisive, he bites her. If she doesn’t firmly discipline him, he bites her.

And I notice that, in this time with him, her voice has changed. It’s lower, more confident, less shrill. Her empathic abilities let her tune into him, which has led her to become a fabulous raconteur of their adventures, telling the tale from both their points of view. But she’s learning that feeling his feelings doesn’t mean she should give in to him. If she does, it could be bad for them both.

And that’s when I recognize the crux of Ula’s vaccine hesitancy. She doesn’t want to confront those angsty teen coming-of-age dramas unmasked from closer than six feet….

Because I don’t want her to.

And before the pandemic, she really did struggle with them. But she’s grown. She’s so much stronger now. She’s literally spent the last six months learning how to handle an ass. If I don’t step back and let her take the reins on her life, I’ll be the ass.

The conversation drifts back to the vaccine. “I think I’m ready to get it,” she tells me. “I think I’m going to be okay.”

I think she is, too.

Two days later, she gets her first injection. She calls her friends to let them know. Five weeks til freedom… And all that comes with it, for both daughter and mother….

*Sgaier, Sema, Meet the Four Kinds of People Holding Us Back From Full Vaccination, New York Times, May 18, 2021.

Folks, don’t forget that my newest book, Redefining Rich: achieving true wealth with small business, side hustles and smart living, will be launching through BenBella Books this August. There’s a way that you can help me get the word out AND earn a summer-long discount at our online farm store. We are looking to put together a launch team of volunteers who can help promote it. If you’re interested in joining, details are at the top of the blog page at sapbush.com but basically, you’ll

  • Pre-order a copy of the book
  • Fill out our launch team form, which is found at the top of the sapbush.com blog;
  • Promote the book through your social media channels
  • Request the book at your local bookstore and library
  • Leave a review wherever the book was purchased

But WAIT! It gets better! As an expression of my thanks, here’s what you will receive in return:

  • A 15% discount code for anything in the online store at sapbushfarmstore.com, good through July 31, 2021
  • A free digital chapter from the book in advance of the release date
  • Entry into a giveaway for a signed copy of the book and a throw blanket from my store
  • Official graphics for sharing on social media
  • An invite to an exclusive virtual book club meeting so I can answer any questions you may have once you’ve received your copy. Note: Book club sessions will be limited to ten participants per session to ensure everyone has a chance to talk — we will keep adding on additional sessions until every launch team members who wants one can get it. So, everyone get’s a chance to have an intimate hang (bring coffee or cockails, depdending on the time), and we’ll have a lot of fun together. So please sign up – just go to sapbush.com, click on the blog, and the details are at the top.

This podcast happens with the support of my patrons on Patreon. And this week I’d like to send a shout out to my patrons Sarah Karker and Sally Goldin.

Thank you, folks! I couldn’t do it without you! If you’d like to help support my work, you can do so for as little as $1/month by hopping over to Patreon and looking up Shannon Hayes.

Also: Big Thank YOU to Saoirse Hayes Hooper for the photo of Xote!
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