Home > Uncategorized > Eliminating Sick Days: A Guide

Eliminating Sick Days: A Guide

I am something of a difficult mother.  I have high expectations of my children.  I expect them to do more than they think they can do.  I have been known to tell toddlers to “suck it up, buttercup.”  I don’t have a whole lot of softness in me.  This is not to say that I’m always harsh and demanding.  I have a couple soft spots, and I am capable of being warm and nurturing.  I just feel strongly about teaching these kids the virtues of sucking it up and getting through stuff without collapsing into a quivering heap on the sofa at the first sign of a sniffle.

Yeah, this only works on stupid parents who don't watch movies.  via doctorsnotetips.com

Yeah, this only works on stupid parents who don’t watch movies. via doctorsnotetips.com

Enter the child too sick for school.  This rarely plays in this house, especially not this year, when we have endured an entire semester of homebound school for the oldest while she battled gastroparesis.  I now have everyone back in school as normal, and, by God, they are going to GO TO SCHOOL.

Disclaimer.  My kids really are troopers and they make me proud.  Recently the only calls I’ve gotten from the school nurses have been because teachers have sent my kids there.  Please.  I don’t send fevering kids to school, I don’t send kids with strep or the flu or Ebola to school.  If they’re dealing with the cough, you can, too.  Everyone here is old enough to cover their mouth and wash their hands.  Don’t freaking call me at work for this ridiculousness.  If your fifth graders are coughing on each other, sharing drinks, or licking one another, then perhaps you have an issue bigger than my kid’s cold.

Anyway, the kids are familiar with my stance on this issue.  They have been told (jokingly?) that if they’re not bleeding from their eyes, they go to school.  I have developed the following guide for all other parents who just need their kids to man up already and go to school.  At 6:30 am, I am full of lies and trickery.  There will be people who tell you that it is wrong to lie to your children.  These are people who either do not have children, or prefer to spend their days with kind-of-sick children.  There’s no shame in my game.  I’m a mom.  I do what works.  (Don’t feel bad for the kids, either, they know I’m a liar.  They’re just not brave enough to call me out on it.)

General malaise

  • Was the kid sick last night?  No?  Then it must just be a little morning discomfort.  Once you get up and have breakfast you will be fine.  At the very latest, you will be miraculously healed by lunch time.  Just muscle through the morning and it will get better.  Certainly you’ll be fine by dinner time.
  • Was the kid up late last night?  Yes?  Oh, I know you’re tired, you have a rough night.  Once you get up and move around, you will feel better.  Would you like a Red Bull good, healthy breakfast to get you going?  Go on to school and you will be fine.
  • Are you feeling a little poopy today, too?  I know exactly how you feel, I’m not feeling well, either.  I know we can both get through the day, then we’ll have soup and rest tonight.  (Faking illness on mom’s part is acceptable for this approach.)

Sore Throat

  • Is there fever or spots?  No?  The air in the house is very dry, I bet that is making your throat hurt.  Come have some tea with $10 honey, that will help you, then you can get ready for school.  As a side note, I should mention that I bought the $10 honey for a special recipe and have since discovered that it’s a remarkable item for bribery of all sorts.  I suspect my children were honeybees in a previous incarnation.  And, I refer to it as $10 honey because that’s what the boy calls it, lest I accidentally give him “regular” honey.
  • Can the child talk?  Yes?  You just need a drink.  Come have some water and I’ll pack you something soft for lunch today with an extra juice box.

Stuffy/runny nose, cough, congestion of any kind

  • No fever?  Come have some cold medicine and a hot breakfast.  Here, you can take these cough drops and a tiny box of tissues to school today.
  • Congestion?  Would you like some Vick’s Vaporub before you go to school?  No?  Then you must be okay.  Have a good day.  (This only works if your children hate Vick’s like fire, as mine do.)


  • Sorry, parents, there’s not much you can do here.  I have, however, had some success with my daughter, since she currently vomits a minimum of a dozen times a week, on a good week.  I have been forced to send her to school puking all day.  Not nice, not pleasant, and makes me feel like a real turd, but honest to God, she’s got to go to high school next year and since her lame doctor insists she return to school, we don’t have many options.  Fortunately, she’s a good sport about it and the middle school nurse knows where I’m coming from on this.  Unlike the elementary school nurse, who chooses to make snide comments to my son about the choices that I make for my own children…but that’s neither here nor there.

No matter what the illness, the common theme is, just get through the day.  This approach is much more manipulative kinder than strong-arming them to school and it cuts down on a lot of calls from the nurse.  However, if you continue to receive calls from the nurse, I would encourage you to tell your child, “Do not call me today.  I will not come get you.”  (This is only acceptable if you are 100% sure that the kid isn’t sick.  Otherwise, you are guaranteed to get a call from the nurse reporting that your child has a fever of 118 and has contracted diptheria.  Karma’s funny like that.)  I have previously been known to have moments of weakness and let them stay home when I knew they really didn’t need to, but having a child miss an entire semester of school has hardened me a little.  I need them to go to school.  I am desperate for some kind of normalcy.  I am also desperate for children who grow up and manage to get themselves to work even if they’re feeling bad.  I want them to know how to suck it up and do what needs doing.  And if I have to get creative to accomplish this, then I’ll lie my ass off.  It’s for their own good, after all.

  1. January 27, 2013 at 11:03 am

    Hmmm – you might wish to reconsider.

    I think I see your tongue in your cheek with some of this, but I also see the determination of a loving mother who thinks she’s doing right by her kids.

    But lying to your kids is wrong – always wrong. It cheats both of you. It makes you what you shouldn’t want to be. It victimizes them. It inculcates the wrong values in them. It establishes a bad foundation for your relationship with them.

    If going to school is really a good, so much so that doing so is more important than staying home with a cough, then it is better to teach them to act from their own interest than from deceit.

    The relationship between parent and child should be based on respect. To lie to your children is to disrespect them, just as they disrespect you should they lie to you.

    Before there was compulsory schooling, children still grew up, became responsible adults, and worked to support themselves and their families. The idea that forcing them to go to school is teaching them to be responsible adults is simply wrong.

    And school? It’s a prison. “Go to school” means “go to prison.”

    No one loves or knows children better than their moms and dads. What moms and dads should be teaching their children is that they are their own, best teachers. Moms and dads should be inspiring their children to be autodidacts – self-taught people – rather than subjects of a mass social experiment designed to produce obedience to the state and conformity.

    Children resist forced schooling naturally and healthfully. It’s bad for them, bad for families, and bad for society.

    • January 27, 2013 at 11:15 am

      I’m afraid you’ve taken this far more seriously than I intended. Nearly all of my writing is tongue in cheek, especially when I’m writing about my kids. I’m not sure if I agree with you on all points, but I appreciate your thoughtful comment.

  2. January 27, 2013 at 5:51 pm

    OK..I confess. I used to use earaches as a defense against going to school. Earaches are a sure winner because no-one can prove you don’t have one. When I had my own kids and they tried it on me, I was prepared with ear peroxide, cleaned their ears and told them “Off you go!” Never had to pick up my kids at school because of earaches!

    • January 27, 2013 at 7:06 pm

      Poor kids…they don’t stand a chance against prepared moms! Excellent job!

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