Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Playing Ferris

Quite a few times, I've sent an email that goes something like this,

"I realize that your offspring spent hours in our home yesterday.  If your children come home with tales of my children not being in school today, please relax, there is no need to stock up on Clorox wipes and brace yourself for the worst.  You are not about to catch anything, unless mental illness is contagious."

I don't usually keep the kiddos home completely gratuitously, but that said, I do keep them home when they are over-tired, fighting a cold, have bad allergies (like today), a headache, out of sorts, didn't sleep well, or just need a break.  I'll be honest, I don't know if I'm doing the right thing.  Who ever does in parenting?!  I guess we'll see eventually, and my gut tells me this is the right thing (my gut is usually right, unless referencing my original instincts on my DH).  

In my mothering defense, I don't let them stay home whenever they want, this isn't a weekly or monthly occurrence (anymore-- maybe tri-mester-ly?); I don't pathetically give in after they have begged and pleaded.  They can ask, they can state their case, but if they whine or ask again, the answer is always no. I do have some other questions that I internally debate before finalizing my decision...

How Sick?  - Obviously, if they are traditionally sick (fever, throwing up, contagious), they don't go to school, but if they are borderline (let's say, they would be well enough for a b-day party at Enchanted Castle, but not well enough for school), I determine how "sick" they really are.  Sometimes structure rather than staying home is the best thing.

What are they Missing?  - It is not okay to miss school because they didn't study for a test, their homework isn't done, they aren't getting along with a friend, or any other impending natural consequences.  I'll be honest, finding out the truth on that sometimes takes a little bit of "Mentalist" work on my part.  I don't ask directly, but I try to feel around the situation.  

What am I Missing?  I know this shouldn't play a role but it does.  If I'm going to miss an exercise class, work, or even lunch with a friend, I will often say they need to go to school. 

NO LYING!  If we are going to take off, we can have reasons but we can not say we were sick when we were not.  If we would be embarrassed about running into someone, we should not participate in that activity.*

Now for the stuff that the kids aren't ready to read...

1)  Life is way over-scheduled, not just for kids, but kids are getting the brunt of it.  Frankly, I think there should be 3 recesses a day, for LIFE.  People need a break, they need to get fresh air, they need to socialize, they need to stretch and exercise, they need to use a different part of their brain.  I'm confident (as confident as one can be without scientific proof) that productivity and comprehension would go way up if more breaks were incorporated into the day (and not just for smokers; "they" should make a fake cigarette so that I could take a break, get fresh air, and socialize but not get lung cancer).

2) It could be selective memory, but my kids are not genuinely sick terribly often.  When I sense something coming on**, I back off on everything.  They skip all extras unless they REALLY want/need to go, and I pull them out of school.  We spend our time relaxing and eating whole fresh foods.  I make smoothies and we rest and stretch.  We go for walks and take deep breaths of  fresh air to clear our body, mind, and soul. 

3) There is an emotional balance restored from dropping the schedule, especially with our son.  When I feel him spiraling out of control and getting angry and frustrated, we need a break.  If he keeps getting pushed, he eventually snaps and gets in a fight (that is apparently how 11 year old boys react, personally, I just cry, but whatever).  He does poorly in school and with his friends. He doesn't concentrate but given time to decompress, he goes back refreshed, with a clear head, and a patient heart.  Personally, I'd like to think that the teachers would thank me if they knew.  

4)  In the end, I really don't want to raise adults who think that school (or their job) is the most important thing in life. It is important to be dedicated and to work hard but it is also important to give yourself pause.  It is important to have a life outside of work.  It is okay to take a break when the sun is shining, not just when collapsing in a heap of influenza. 

So with that, I close this blog on this perfectly lovely First Day of Spring.  Even if your kids don't need a break, give yourself a break.  Play a little hooky.  Go for a walk.  Order out dinner.  Make some spring-time sangria and enjoy the season.

*Along with that, if they miss school, they also must miss the after school activities (sports, friends, playdates).  I usually have a rule that there are no electronics (especially for the mental health days) until school would have been out, although now that they are older, that is much looser.  There is also a rule that if there is complaining or fighting or arguing, I can always bring them right back to school.  Since I don't do idle threats, they are usually perfectly behaved.

**I can smell impending sickness, which cracks my DH up, but I'm sure other mothers can smell when their kids are about to get sick too, right? or am I just crazy?  Again, rhetorical.  I don't want an answer.

--Visit my probiotic smoothy recipe (link)!  I seriously credit it for my kids lack of antibiotics (although the days off don't hurt).


  1. I wholeheartedly approve! I think mental health days are the best gift we can give ourselves sometimes. And you're teaching your kids to know when things get to be a little too much. Better to step back than to dive in and make decisions on a tired, overworked, frustrated brain.

  2. Thanks Distracted Mommy! As always, nicely phrased, and since your kids are so well adjusted and you have a couple of years on me, I'm hoping we are right.

    And now I'm toasting a glass of springtime sangria in your direction! While a simple dinner of taco meat made with salsa and a packet is simmering on the stove. Here's to well deserved breaks!

  3. This is so timely for me! I just finished reading it as my hubby, kids and I are at the start of a mental health day. He has been out of town for almost 2 weeks for work. I am exhausted, he is exhausted, kids have been overstimulated. We just needed a quiet family day. So glad I am not the only one who does this.

  4. Absolutely Sharon! Take a break! You will all be better for it! Hope you thoroughly enjoy your day to reconnect.