Sick Day

The thing about back-to-school is all the back-to-illness that seems to come with it. “Hey, Mom!” Mark said gleefully, “You’ll never believe it! The school has water fountains and I can drink from them whenever I want to!” For someone like me – and I say this without pride – the knowledge that Mark has been drinking out of a public fountain practically necessitates the consumption of a tranquillizer. I could almost visualize the germy viruses entering his body via the water fountain. What I’m saying is that I have a teensy bit of a germ phobia. And by teensy bit, of course, I mean that I’m having a love affair with hand sanitizer. I love hand sanitizer so much, I want to take it out back behind a middle school and get it pregnant. On that note, anyone know when the season premiere of 30 Rock is on?

Anyway, Mark has been in school for almost a month and is sick, again. The first time was a very minor case of the sniffles, and the second time – the current incident – was a cold that morphed into a gross, hacking cough. It was worse on the weekend, but this morning he woke up pale and hollow eyed and said he wasn’t sure he could go to school today.

And I let him stay home!

By 9:30 he was playing happily with his brother, coughing only sporadically and making me feel like I just allowed my five-year-old to play hooky.

It seems that I have two little Nicoles on my shoulders: one who thinks, austerely, that unless a child is vomiting, feverish, or completely incapacitated, he should attend his learning institution without fail. The other one thought about all the other pale, coughing, hollow-eyed kindergarteners lined up for class and thought maybe everyone deserves a sick day now and then.

It’s a hard call, this middle ground. I mean, I don’t want to send a slightly sick child to school and then have it morph into a massive, feverish illness that makes me feel completely negligent, not to mention responsible for the infection of all his classmates, but I feel silly keeping home a slightly sick child who becomes, apparently, JUST FINE. I guess the latter scenario has much less dire consequences. Anyway, I will chalk this up to a day of rest and send him to school tomorrow – because the other Nicole? The little austere one on my shoulder? She’s killing me!


  1. My son’s school has asked that this year all kids with a cough or runny nose be kept home from school.
    So basically, I’ll have him home from October to March.
    It’s always such a tough call, whether to send em or keep em.

  2. You did the right thing! Coughs are so tricky, but I shudder when I hear a child cough in public.
    You see, I have a daughter who struggled with respiratory illness, and a simple cough would turn into a six week extravaganza, with all of us missing our sleep.
    Four times a simple cough/cold turned into pneumonia for my 7 year old.
    Some kids can shake these things off and bounce back. Others can’t.
    Coughing children bring out true fear in me.
    I applaud you for erring on the side of caution.

  3. Just stumbled (literally) onto your blog, so I’ll keep myself anonymous BUT good post!

    As a teacher I always want kids to stay home if they’ve had vomiting or fever in the last 24 hours, green runny nose and/or coughing.

    Oh, and you might consider easing up a little on the hand sanitiser in order to let little ones build up their immune system. Obviously you need to be cautious about this but the little ones always need some time to build up immunity (often why the oldest child in a family seems to get the colds first, then the little brothers and sisters are more immune).

    Good luck!

  4. Heather, thank you for telling me that. I think we tend to say “just a cough” – I will definitely think about your girl when my kids have a cough. Good reminder!

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