"Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to let you in."

-- Robert Frost

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

gullible

When it came to illnesses, my mother was relatively insistent that as children, we woke up, showered and dressed before accepting that the day could in fact be called a "sick day". It was almost impossible to pull over a fast one. Somewhere between the miraculous healing powers of the hot water and a healthful bowl of boiled wheat, a faker could be called out. She was compassionate yet discerning. From one direction, she was teaching that to face the day ready to stand would make most problems dissolve. But, from a mothering standpoint -- learn the ins and outs of the word gullible and never fall victim to it's prey.

We had a bit of a cold ripple through here late last week and into the weekend. I do sincerely wish I could keep even the slightest ill child home from school until every ounce of symptom disappeared completely so as to avoid infecting the world. I deplore the spread of illness bearing germs. I dislike being on the receiving end, and I dislike knowing that multiplied by six, we can sometimes be assisting the spread more than our fair share. But if I were to keep my children home for every sniffle and cough, I'd have to home school and that, my friends, is where I accept my limitations as a mother. Disclaimer given.

Friday morning, Annie awoke with a cough, terribly runny nose and eyes red and watery. She's my asthma girl so I deemed it necessary to keep her home from school. Janie was not pleased and claimed a cough as well. In the words of my father, "She didn't look sick to me" and so I sent her regardless.

It's a very small school and everyone knows everyone very well. Little did I know how well my own daughter had been working the system since day one to take ownership of such a small stage.

The secretary at the school called me to say that Janie had been to the health room complaining of a headache. They had given her a dose of Tylonol and sent her back to class but asked that I check by the office at kindergarten pick-up to see if there were any other needs. Obediently, I did. Both office secretaries are big fans of Janie's. I constantly hear stories and scratch my head that she has these two so tightly wound around her finger. It is endearing and yet lends credence to the term "pulling the wool over one's eyes".

And so they rounded on me. Yes, Janie seemed down in the dumps. Yes, Janie seemed not her self. Yes, Janie seemed out of sorts. ??? (I put question marks here because I'm wondering when Janie is not out of sorts.) One of the secretaries had even gone to sit with Janie at one point during the morning hours to ask her what was wrong and why wasn't she feeling like herself today. With a shrug, Janie'd replied that she just didn't know. And then down the hall came Janie's beloved teacher. She too, gave me the run down. She'd been walking down the school hall holding hands with our dear Janie, and had asked if she was feeling any better. Janie just didn't know, and had thought that after lunch she might need to go home.

Well, is she sick or is she not sick, I questioned these figures of authority. And then these three well meaning women turned me into what my mother had been teaching me as a future mother to avoid becoming -- gullible. All three stood before me and proclaimed with straight faced innocence that sometimes a girl just needs an afternoon home with her mother.

And I took the bait -- hook, line and sinker. Visions of cookie making and playing card games danced through my head. Oh, the Valentine's we could create as we lay in the sunny patch on the carpet in the living room! Needless to say, I signed my girl out and whisked her to the car where Grant sat buckled in, awaiting the trip home. And that's when it started ...

"Get out of my way!" she says, pushing her way past him. Is that the moment when I knew my mistake? If I'd turned around would I have seen a teacher and two secretaries snickering behind their hands safely locked behind the security doors of the school? Or was it when I got home and the demands for equality, that all that sick Annie had been bestowed and more be visited upon the new "sick" arrival, began. Either way, as I glanced at the clock and wondered to myself how unintelligent I might be perceived if I returned to the school, daughter in hand to finish out the day, I knew at that moment I'd been played. I was in fact -- gullible. And on so many levels, too.

But nothing cures perceived naivety like an afternoon of Windex, mopping and laundry to fold. Like hot water and boiled wheat cereal, it too can smoke out a faker and send a message as well. But the message I'd really like to send to teachers and secretaries alike, I may be easily fooled today but all good things must come to an end. I can cure a cold, and tomorrow is another day.

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