I wasn’t prepared for it, but I should have been.

Walking into the doctor’s office with little Samantha holding my hand, I figured it would be no big deal. Just a routine set of vaccinations.

Samantha is 4. To be honest, she usually goes to the doctor with her mother, but Christine had an important meeting, so it was up to Dad today.

Everything seemed to be going fine. Samantha had been quiet but cheerful on the ride over. She had gotten out of the car and dutifully held my hand as we went into the office.

The nurse called her name and then led us to one of the examination rooms. This was one of those rooms where there’s a chart on the wall showing some poor guy who’s been sliced in half the long way so you can see inside his nose and eyeball and brain. Then there was the red bio-hazard box for disposal of needles over the sink. I am a germ phobe and hypochondriac, and the mere sight of a bio-hazard symbol set my teeth on edge.

And because it was a children’s doctor’s office, there were some toys and children’s books. Samantha sat and quietly played with one of the toys while I wondered if some sick child had recently slobbered all over it.

“Do you know why we’re here today?” I asked. This was a stupid question because I wasn’t really sure whether it would be better to warn her or not.

“Uh-huh,” Samantha said. She never says yes, but uses the affirmative kid grunts.

“Why?” I pressed.

“To get shots,” she said so matter-of-factly that I figured she wasn’t very concerned about it.

I nodded and allowed my mind to wander. The fact that Samantha has a reputation for being pretty tough and taking shots well had lulled me into a state of confidence about the mission. She recently had a round of shots and behaved admirably. For Mom.

Then the nurse came in with the needles, adhesive bandages and assorted alcohol swabs.

“I don’t want to get shots!” Samantha said and her pale blue eyes turned red and filled with tears.

The nurse and I tried to explain that she needed to get them, that they would keep her from getting sick. That doesn’t cut any ice with a 4-year-old.

If Samantha is aware there are microbes and viruses out to get her, she’s doing a good job of not showing it. She manages to touch every surface and trash can she comes to, while resisting instructions to wash her hands.

If washing your hands is an unacceptable inconvenience, how do you think getting poked with a sharp needle will go over?

I tried to reason with her. I offered bribes.

When she’s naughty at home, we give her time-outs during which she has to sit on the stairs and think about it for a minute. It’s the equivalent in our house of standing in the corner. I asked her if she wanted to go sit on the stairs. What is normally a threat was met with a look of hope. She nodded immediately. “Yes, absolutely,” her face told me. “Let’s go do that right now!” I could think of no punishment in my arsenal more frightening than getting poked with needles.

Samantha had made her decision.

But today, she learned that no matter how hard you fight, sometimes you lose. The doctor held her tight and the shots were administered.

“Well, that was an ordeal,” I said, putting on her coat.

She must have been louder than I realized because when we came out into the waiting room, everyone was looking at her with great sympathy. I also detected some apprehension from the children waiting for their appointments. What awaited them that could make someone wail like that?

I had to stop at the bank on my way back to the office, and I was dreading the experience. I couldn’t take another public tantrum.

The teller was this sweet lady who looked at Sam’s red eyes and said, “Would you like some stickers?”

A strip of wax paper with four stickers depicting farm animals was produced and to my surprise, Samantha’s eyes dried up.

“Stickers!” I said to myself. Why hadn’t I thought to bring some stickers?

Another bank employee came out of an office with a little plastic piggy bank for her.

I’m sure we could debate whether she deserved these rich rewards after fighting tooth and nail. I had already informed her that the bribes previously offered were off the table. On the other hand, a child given three shots does deserve comfort.

Anyway you want to cut it, I won’t soon forget how nice the people were at the bank.

And I won’t forget the healing power of stickers.