Like most everything I do in life, I second guess myself every time I let the boys have sick days from school. Sometimes, it is obvious that they are sick. Some dead giveaways are:
- the puke on the bathroom floor,
- the pile of underwear that needs to be thrown away because I’m not putting those in my washing machine, or
- the forehead so hot I could fry an egg on it.
More often, though, deciding on which days will be sick days is not so clear.
I suppose I could use the method my mom used when I was a kid. If we had a fever, we stayed home. No fever, no sick day. Stay up all night puking your guts up? You better have a fever in the morning or you were going to school. The exception would be if you actually puked in the morning as you got ready for school, and that was mostly because you didn’t have another clean uniform.
For me, deciding whether my kids should stay home from school is never so cut and dry. Sure, I would keep them home if they had a fever, but how high should it be? My pediatrician says I shouldn’t give my children any fever reducer until the temp gets to 104. The school says that a fever of 100 or more should keep them home. Both of my boys have a normal temp of 97.7. Do they have a sick day worthy temp at 98.6? And, what if they had a fever last night but not this morning?
Believe me, from personal experience, I know that having a fever isn’t the only way to be sick. I don’t want to send my kids to school sick. I, also, don’t want them staying home if they aren’t.
Fevers, vomit and all other disgustingness aside, deciding when your child is sick enough to stay home can be tricky business. Does your kid really have a tummy ache or does he have a math test? Is that sluggish child coming down with the flu or did she stay up all night reading the latest vampire novel? Will that scratchy throat turn into strep or did your kid realize he didn’t do his homework, again? I don’t want to be duped into a sick day.
You know what I mean. Your child comes to you in the morning looking weak and sounding weaker. “I’m too sick to go to school,” he manages to squeak out between coughs or wretches. You look at your child closely. You take him to a room that has better lighting to see if his skin really is pale. You tell him “have some breakfast and wash up because sometimes that will make you feel better”. You watch to see if he is quieter, slower, more cooperative than usual. The signs are unclear. You don’t think he is sick enough to stay home, but what if you are wrong? What if he pukes at school. In the lunch room. On the gym teacher. He will never forgive you.
So, you let him stay home. Ten minutes after you have called the school to say he will be absent, you notice the color coming back into his cheeks. An half-hour later, you hear him yelling at the top of his lungs while pretending his brother’s stuffed animals are being eaten alive by mutant toy trains. At lunch, he asks if you can take him to McDonald’s and if he can watch more TV this afternoon because he needs “to rest”.
Now, you are frustrated, annoyed. You feel deceived. You have canceled appointments, missed a day of work, or didn’t going to the grocery store because he was “too sick to go to school.” You swear to yourself that you will never be duped again. Until the next time.
To save myself from the guilt of sending sick child to school or the resentment of keeping a healthy one home, I devised my own set of “sick day” rules. They are designed to discourage false sicknesses. The rules are:
- No use of the computer or other electronics (excluding TV) on sick days.
- When the TV is on, I will pick the programming. I am especially fond of watching all the TV shows that the boys watched with me when they were toddlers. A day of Barney, Blue’s Clues and Oswald videos would be soothing, right?
- No sweets on sick days. A sick day requires bland foods. Broth, unsalted saltines, and water are available in ample supply. All other foods will be served at my discretion. (Which means not at all.)
- If you miraculously recover from your illness by noon, you will go to school. If you miraculously recover by 1:00 p.m., you can go to the grocery store with me and you can bring in the groceries.
I have found these rules have been very successful in keeping healthy kids from faking sickness. When I do get tricked into a “not-so-sick” sick day every once in a while, I try to remember that my kids are only human. Maybe, they just needed a mental health day. I can live with that.