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Sink or Swim

This Day in History

Noah had his annual physical today -- his first time at our new pediatrician's office, oddly enough, as he hasn't had a single sick visit or injury or general health concern since we moved. This makes for a fairly boring check-up, although Noah remained in a low-level state of anxiety because I'd warned him he most likely was going to get a shot. 


He brought his Marty McFly jackets and his history textbook along to help keep his mind off of it.

(Just when I think this kid's love of history can't get any better: He's now borrowing additional books from his teachers [as he's devoured all the main school library's offerings and still can't get enough] and I catch him reading them under his covers at night, or reading charming bedtime stories about the Boston Massacre to his brothers. Okay.)

I already wrote a Big Whole Screed about the HPV vaccine at AlphaMom last year, but just to have it on the record here as I am a Wee Bit Het Up About This Topic, and want to make it clear that I followed through on everything in that rant: Yes, Noah got his first Gardasil shot today, and will get the second in six months. Ezra and Ike will also get vaccinated when they are old enough. I think this is an incredibly important, yet wildly (for boys in particular) underrated vaccine. Sure, shots suck and I had to body-lock Noah down in order for the nurse to administer it and he complained that his arm stung for about 15 afterwards. But I'm relieved to offer him (and his future partners) protection from something both ridiculously common, and yet frequently super scary and even deadly. Ain't got no time for anti-vax nonsense today or eight years ago when people used to ask me if I intended to vaccinate Ezra after....(quiet voice)...Noah turned out to have YOU KNOW WHAT. 

Autism. He has Autism. You know what he doesn't have? The measles. Or fucking polio or whooping cough. He has Autism and he brings American history books to doctor's appointments and charms the hell out of everybody there, and he likes Happy Meals as a special post-shot treat before going back to school in time for Social Studies. 


But only if his books can come too, and he can read his favorite parts out loud to me and the little girl in the next booth over. Because he's super awesome like that. 

(Spoiler Alert: All the parts are his favorite.)



Thank you for being unapologetic about vaccinating your children.


Noah is awesome. And you're awesome. That's all.


My kids really like this book called How they Croaked. It is all about how famous people died. Perhaps Noah has already read it - but if not, it might be of interest.


That kid. <3 My heart just swells. Well done, parents. :)


YES. Go Noah, and go Amy for making sure he and his future partners are well taken care of!


I adore you.


Many years ago, more than I care to count, when I was newly married and we had friends named Larry and Janet, who had an adorable little four year old named Theresa, my husband came home from work early in the morning, totally devastated. Larry had stopped by his job and told him "we lost Theresa last night". She'd had measles, and died from it. Died. Four years old. Had she lived, she'd probably be a grandmother today, she'd be in her late 50s.

There was no measles vaccine then. There is now. No good reason not to get it, or any of the other vaccines. I'm glad to see you share this attitude, and more than glad that your little boys are protected.


Does he like other history, or just American?


I think I was eleven when I read "Johnny Tremain" for the first time, igniting a small obsession with the Revolutionary War. Rock on, Noah!


I am always amazed with the nurses say to me "So, Child is due for Such and Such vaccine." (Side glance at me) "Would you like them to receive that today?" Me: "Well, duh." Of course, I always, always wince when it's my babies getting stuck with a needle. And I always forget that I wasn't vaccinated growing up- I had parents with actual religious convictions, so now I'm catching up on everything I can. My doctors during my first pregnancy: "You, um...you aren't immune to anything." Me: "Yes, I know. Can we change that?"


You and your kiddos are awesome! And, as a vaccinating mama and mother of a little girl, I hope the parents of all little boys think the same way you do. I would feel damn lucky to raise my child to be as smart and confident as Noah is. I'm still searching Amazon for the magic potion that guarantees me a super cool kid, as soon as all this toddler shenanigans is done...


i heart noah!


Yes to all of this. Thank you.


When Max was 6 months old, we came back to Michigan for Christmas and went to a holiday party thrown by friends of my parents. Their children and grandchildren had come home for the holidays as well, including their insufferable hipster daughter and son-in-law and their three-year-old Violet, who was clearly not feeling well but was obsessed with Baby Max. I spent the whole party trying to keep Violet from coughing on him. Two weeks later, my mother called me in tears. Violet's parents, following a "modified" schedule, had lost her to pertussis. They were older parents and had waited until their late 30's to try to get pregnant, had many rounds of IVF and several losses, and couldn't bear the idea of "hurting" her with vaccines. What an unspeakable loss. What a waste.

Thanks for your common sense parenting and your willingness to share.

Samantha Leslie

Yes to vaccinations! And yes to your handsome (not-so-little) history lover!!! Good for him, -'d you :)


Love! It is absolutely magical when they learn to read and find their gateway books/topics! World conquered, right there!


I loooooooved social studies when I was his age. My favorite was second grade when we learned all about local history. You're lucky to be so close to DC! It's like Disney for history nerds. :)

He's great and you're great.

ccr in MA

He is totally awesome. Rock on, all of you.


More studies have come out recently that have proven that vaccinated boys against HPV is actually way better for them than even protecting their future partners. A very large percentage (don't really want to look it up) of head and neck cancers (tongue, esophagus, etc.) that are caused by HPV. Since they have been vaccinating boys for some years now, there is data that shows that those cancers are being prevented also. Win, win!!! And why my son is getting the HPV vaccine, go in next week for second shot.


THANK YOU particularly because Boy Child.... and I know so many who think it is only girls who need this vaccine. THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!!!


Is Noah completely into Hamilton? Did I miss it?!?!


Team Vaccines! My older son, and every other kid in his class, got chicken pox at daycare when he was 7 months old. I could have happily throttled the parents of the unvaccinated little urchin who exposed a baby to an unnecessary illness. It was miserable.


Thank you so much! I work in oral health care, and it's true that oral cancers can be caused by HPV.

My next door neighbor, who friended me on FB, so now I know WAY too much about her, declared that because her oldest child was "vaccine injured" that neither of her other two children are vaccinated. Greeaatt..

Vaccines are lifesavers.

And Noah is awesome - I majored in History and LOVED it (still do).


My history loving, autistic, totally vaccinated son of 9 has enjoyed Horrible Histories which is available in mags, TV shows, and many, many books over here in the UK. Also Horrible science, for a little change. Don't know if it translates but some of it is not European based and it is very funny and often quite gross. Over here the writers and illustrators are celebrities with the kids.


I just love you. A lot.

Mary DeGroot

Timely post as my almost-13-year-old daughter received her third and final Gardasil vaccine shot yesterday afternoon (along with a flu shot.) She's a total needle-weenie and haaaaaattes shots, but I'm her mom and it's my job to protect her. So she got two shots. No biggie. My 15 year old son was there for his flu shot, too, and I had to remind my freaking-out daughter that he, too, had to get all 3 Garasil shots once upon a time. Of course he did. Boy, girl - doesn't matter. Vaccinate them! In the olden days of the 80's, my mother worked in health research. I remember being mortified - many times - because my mom would pick me up somewhere (or really, just live in the same house as me) and have this canvas tote bag emblazoned with Human Papilloma Virus on it. Ew - ick! But you see, that was the research study she was working on: HPV. Way back then. And she would tell all 4 of her daughters all about it (ew! ick! gross, mom!). But the message stuck so it was a no-brainer (and kinda cool) that once the vaccine became available I would make sure my kids got it. I was only disappointed that I had "aged out" of it once it hit the market or I would have gotten the vaccine, too. Good for you for protecting your boys - against HPV and everything thing else. Hard to imagine not doing it.....


"We run races and wear ribbons and wristbands to raise money and awareness for diseases and different cancers in hopes of science finding a cure…or a vaccine.

And then we get a vaccine for a cancer that is the third most common cancer for women worldwide, and kills over 300,000 women a year (not to mention the related cancers that men can get!) and we’re all collectively like, eh, I dunno. I think I’ll pass."

As soon as you referenced the Alphamom column, I saw this in my head. It remains one of my favorite things I've read that you've written. Thank you for protecting his future.


I got the Gardasil shots in my early twenties and those suckers HURT. It burned for sure. Poor Noah. =(


I was all for getting my daughter this vaccine when she is old enough, but then I was talking to a nurse the other, a nurse who got her daughter the vaccine, and she said there are some really scary side-effects, that she didn't know about before she made her daughter get it, and that if she had known, she wouldn't have made her daughter get it (and boy, that is one long run-on sentence). Her daughter didn't get the scary side-effects (numbness of extremities, for up to one year). So, I'm just wondering how Noah is doing. After 10 years of HPV scariness for myself, I would really love making my daughter get this, without fear of weird side-effects.

Also, history is amazing (I have two MA's in History, no Ph.D. though, ended up having a baby and really didn't want to take said baby to Russia to do research). However, I found out, the hard way, no one actually pays you to just read history books!


My son got all three. No scary side effects.


For anyone still on the fence: I would normally to link directly to a peer-reviewed article or a summary on a government/public health website, but I really love this summary of the whole Gardasil adverse event business on the Skeptical Raptor's blog: http://www.skepticalraptor.com/skepticalraptorblog.php/one-stop-shop-science-myth-debunking-gardasil/

There are risks to everything we do, but the risk of an HPV-related cancer is far greater than that of a serious adverse event from the vaccine - or any vaccine. That's exactly the point.

Thanks for flying the flag, Amy!

LD's Mom

You rule! So does Noah!


I know personal anecdotes will never equal real data, but my cousin's wife was recently diagnosed with cervical cancer from an HPV infection. And she's 23! So she's in the age group that could have been protected by the vaccine, but her parents were worried about the side-effects. Well now she's dealing with side effects from radiation and surgery, and the knowledge that now she'll never be able to safely carry a pregnancy to term. So long story short, thank you for vaccinating.


My son gets his second shot in the series next week and my daughter will get it when the time comes. Glad to know we aren't alone!


Thank you for being an informed parent and vaccinating your children and sharing that with the world.

I have a degree in history and still love it. There are lots of neat things that history can teach us that translates into a career. My love of history lead me to politics and then into government as a civil servant working in education and library for public health. Your post touched on all things I love


@Stacy TBH it sounds like your nurse friend found some of the (many) sketchy sites that are full of misinformation about the HPV vaccine. Medical professionals aren't immune from scary shit. But those side effects do not exist in actual trials and clinical studies. HPV is a nightmare. Noah is already fine and over the jab. Please vaccinate your daughter.


Awesome! I recently requested the hpv vaccine for my 13 and 11 year old stepsons. Their pediatrician didn't bring it up at their last visit, which disappointed me.
We're about to enter the journey of getting a FINAL ANSWER about whether or not 11 year old is on the spectrum or not. It's terrifying and....not, at the same time. It doesn't really matter.


Noah seems awesome.

Has he gotten into Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales? The Harriet Tubman one is especially fantastic.


You might want to check out the World Book Encyclopedia bookstore for some pretty good History and Social Studies books.

Jenny Pecht

Ditto the recommendation for Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales...my almost-10-year-old daughter loves them. As for vaccinations, I'm pretty ardent about them, in part because, duh, and in part because my beloved grandma contracted polio shortly after giving birth to my mom and dealt with the repercussions for the rest of her life.


I read the entire biography/autobiography section at the school library when I was in sixth grade. All of that is actually history if you think about it. If he is out of the history books, that would be great new supply.

Janice Barnett

Thanks Amy for doing the right thing. I am working so hard to get my daughter in the frame of mind how important this vaccine really is.

Jessica G

My 11 year old son just got his second Gardasil vaccine - there was drama and many tears in the doctor's office, but hey! That's my job as a mom to see the bigger picture and make sure he's as protected as he can be. Thanks for vaccinating!


Thank you Amy, and Kate for the link.


Just this morning my BFF from childhood went in to have part of her cervix cut out due to some nasty HPV cells that just won't quit. We were in college right before the vaccine came on the market and she contracted it from her longtime (and only sex partner at that point) boyfriend who cheated on her.

Amy A

I love this. People--vaccinate your kids!!!!!


As someone who contracted HPV from her first and only (at the time) sexual partner - please vaccinate kids against HPV everyone. I've thankfully never had cancer from it, and have had normal paps for the last 2 years. But I have had abnormal paps and had to get sketchy cells on my cervix removed by laser. It sucks. It's humiliating, and scary, and that's not even the worst part.

It sucks that some day, I have to tell my future partner that I have HPV and that he'll probably get it too. Almost makes a girl want to stay single.

PS. I did get the vaccine. It was unfortunately too late. :( Vaccinate early people!


God, yes, vaccines. Polio is horrible, cancer is horrible, and I don't understand how this is even up for debate. Even if vaccines could cause autism (THEY DON'T) but even if they did, the risk still isn't worth it!


I love Noah. He's the best. The Marty McFly plus the history obsession is just perfection.

Is The Bowery Boys podcast too grownup for him? If not, he might FLIP for it...


Yes, to all of this. I am 40-something and everyone my age, including me, has had HPV if they've ever had sex. Thank you for promoting reason regarding vaccinations.


Yep. My son has Autism, too. He didn't get it from a vaccination -- he got it from my husband and me. Because it runs in both our families, and has for generations. We're doing everything we can to help my son with the challenges he faces. While we don't have any choice about the genes we inherit, but we do have choices about how we protect our kids from terrible illnesses. We vaccinate our kids.


Oh my god. I'm 99% convinced this is what my child will be like one day and I read this post to my husband and he's super excited. He is a quirky history buff who believes in science so he appreciated this.


At 34 I had a hysterectomy because of cervical cancer caused by... you guessed it: our old friend the HP Virus. Good on you for getting Noah vaccinated against it. I sure wish those shots had been available when I was a kid.

Rebecca Van Hout

So glad you went ahead and got the HPV vaccine for Noah. My sons are getting it as well, wish I had convinced my daughter do it before she was old enough to say no. I think I'll try asking her again to get it since she's still under the maximum age. I fully vaxxed my kids even though two of them are on the spectrum as I knew that it was genetic not from vaccines. We have lots of family members on the autism spectrum on my husband's side and likely mine as well.


Poor Noah. I remember being his age and needing a little extra incentive (doll clothes from the Disney store and lunch at chick fil a) to get my vaccines. At 35 I still haaaate needles. But, I get my shots because my mom (like you) helped me understand why they're so important. At 20 I met my husband who is immunosuppressed because of a severe flare of lupus in his teens.

Please vaccinate y'all. Not just your kids, but you and your spouse too. Get your teen the flu shot. Get your dog the rabies vaccine. Not just for your kids, or kids too young to be vaccinated, or your grandma on chemo, but for people like my husband who have to suppress their immune systems, or for all the people who've ever wondered if rabies is why the family dog never came home. This is such an easy way to do that tangible good in the wourld.

And finally, I'm sending a big hug to Noah, but not squeezing his injection arm too tight. I know they can be sore for a whole after. (Pre-college tetanus. OUCH!) But I'm proud of him, and happy to see what a wonderful young man he's becoming. :')


I am a Gardasil advocate as well; had my boy vaccinated when he was 11 because that is what people do ------ they keep the herd safe.

As a fellow history nerd, I saw go, go, go Noah. And I highly recommend a copy of Liberty's Children make it's way into his Christmas haul. Great book for the history nerd crowd (full disclosure: I teach history to 7th graders).

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