I’m being a heartless shrew toward my middle child right now. He’s a boy. Thirteen, almost fourteen. A pissy teenager more often than I’d like. He’s also a giant baby when it comes to being sick. Oh, and an occasional faker, too!
So, when the nurse called me from school to tell me he wasn’t feeling well, my bullshit-meter kicked in. Here’s the thing— without visible symptoms, there is no way to tell if your child is truly sick or just wants to be at home. In my experience, it’s about 50-50.
I can relate. When I was a kid, I regularly visited the nurse’s office claiming to be sick when I wasn’t. Always on a Thursday. That was my mom’s day off. It was also her grocery shopping day. So, double bonus, I got time with my mom and could raid the fridge before my three brothers got home from school and scarfed everything down.
I have no idea my son’s reasons all those times he’s faked an illness. I don’t think it has ever been about spending time with me. Though, I have to admit, I’d be flattered if it was. I tend to believe he’s trying to avoid something he’s dreading. Or he just wants a day to lay around.
I find it hard to muster up sympathy for a kid who spends weekend after weekend running around with his friends all day long and comes home at 10pm every night only because he has a curfew. Oh, and did I mention he plays on two hockey teams. Yes, two. That means practice five days a week, sometimes more than one a day, and games at least three days per week. So, if he wants a break, I GET IT! But take it on the weekend, not during the week when you should be in school.
Because of my learned skepticism, when he was in elementary school and faking illness way too often—a threat to my sanity—I made a rule. If he doesn't have a fever, isn't puking or coughing up a lung, or shows no visible signs of illness, I will let him stay home on one condition—no electronics for the day. That’s right, he gets to sit on the couch or in his room and stare at the walls. Or read the book he’s been avoiding reading for school.
That is what he’s doing right now. Needless to say, he’s not too happy with me.
The truth is I’m putting on an act as well. I feel guilty. I hate being so tough on him. Still, I refuse to give in, even if it’s secretly killing me inside. I hope he gets so bored he thinks twice about staying home from school again unless he is actually sick. My husband laughs at me—says I’m liberal when it comes to politics, but at home I’m a hardcore conservative. No sympathy, no handouts, my way or the highway. Maybe he’s right, but I know from experience that I need to stay the course or he’ll walk all over me. And then teach his brother and sister to do the same.
So, what do you think? Am I mean? Or just a good disciplinarian?
DISCLAIMER: I love my children dearly and couldn’t imagine my life without them—even if I bitch and moan about them sometimes.