Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Playing Hooky


            This morning as my six-year-old son James was getting his coat on he announced that he wasn’t feeling well. He had been awake for almost two hours exhibiting only the slightest sign of having the sniffles. Being a concerned parent, I naturally responded with sympathy. I believe my exact words were, “Get your coat on.”
            James somewhere, somehow acquired a penchant for drama. So I’m not quick to believe that he’s sick—even when he’s putting on a pretty good show. This morning he wasn’t even putting on his normal Oscar worthy song and dance. I figured he’d be distracted once he got to school and forget about being “sick”.
            A couple of hours later (while lying on the copy-room floor attempting to extract a sliver of paper from the inner workings of the copy machine) my cell phone rang. It was the school nurse. He didn’t seem that sick to her either. But there he was in the nurses office coughing—but only when the nurse said, “You don’t seem to be coughing.” 
            Back in the spring, I wrote the following piece for a writing class. It is written from the point of view of myself as a five-year-old and is based upon a day I remember spending with my dad. Thinking about days like this are probably the reason I left work and picked James up instead of sending him back to class. It's called “The Best Day Ever”.

It’s still dark outside when my mother wakes me up. I want to stay under my green and white gingham bedspread. She lets me hide a little longer while she works on getting my brothers out of bed. I can hear my sister in the shower. Kindergarten starts later than everyone else’s school and they are too busy in the morning to try to get me out of bed early. I love my bed—it is a river raft, and a stage, and a parade float, and a trampoline.
            Eventually my dad comes in to wake me up. They had something called lay-offs where he works so he gets to spend more time with me. He goes to school now too—just like me.
            “Come on My Little Chickadee,” he says. “Time to get up.”
            “I don’t feel good.” I tell him.
            “Why don’t you come downstairs? Maybe some orange juice will make you feel better.”
            “Okay. But I don’t think it will work,” I say with a sigh.
            He gets me an English muffin and a glass of orange juice. It does make me feel better but I still don’t want to go to school.
            “What’s the matter Sweetie? I thought you loved kindergarten.”
            I do love kindergarten. I love learning my letters and numbers. I love snack time—sometimes we get saltines with peanut butter! I love the monkey bars at recess. I even like naptime. I just don’t like the bus. Lisa will make fun of me. She is tall and wears pretty dresses.  She has shiny blond hair like Nellie on “Little House on the Prairie”.  My hair is brown. Lisa makes fun of my sweater—it is navy blue. Hers is pink. She says my sweater is black and looks like a boy’s sweater. I have begged my mother for a pink sweater. But she says my navy blue sweater is very practical—it goes with everything and doesn’t get dirty as quickly. I don’t want to tell Daddy about Lisa.
            “I do like kindergarten Daddy.” I tell him. “I just don’t feel like going today.”
             “Well I wasn’t going to get any yard work done today anyway,” He says looking out the window at the rain. I suppose one day off won’t kill you. Okay. But you have to help me around the house this morning and let me get some homework done.”
            I giggle when he says that. I think it’s funny that Daddy has homework like my sister and brothers. He is studying to be a teacher like Mommy.
            Daddy vacuumed and I dusted. I got to watch “Sesame Street” and “Mister Rogers” while Daddy did his homework. He bought a small bag of potato chips to have with our lunch. Mommy doesn’t buy junk food so it was a big treat. The best part was playing checkers—I won three times.
            I tried to get Daddy to let me stay home again the next day. But he said if I was well enough to beat him in checkers three times, I was well enough to go to school. At least it isn’t going to rain tomorrow. We’ll be able to play on the monkey bars at recess. Lisa may have a prettier sweater than I do, but she misses all the fun trying to keep it clean.

            So today, instead of telling the school nurse to send James back to class, I said, “I’ll be there in fifteen minutes or so”. He definitely has a little cold—the inconsequential kind most of us work through and try to ignore. We had chicken noodle soup and peanut butter sandwiches for lunch. James helped me clean a little and he watched a little TV. When it was time to pick up his big brother at the bus stop, James declared, “I feel better Mom!” Maybe it was knowing he’d miss tomorrow’s Cub Scout Christmas party if he missed another day of school. But I like to think having a little one-on-one time with Mom made him feel better. Hanging out with him certainly made my day a little better.