Out of the corner of my eye I see my daughter’s head raise as I open the shutters letting early morning light into her room. She slowly sits up and eyes me from beneath a mop of golden hair.
“Good morning sweets,” I offer with a smile she meets in return.
“Mommy? I don’t feel well.”
Here we go. Recollections of her hurt feelings from a good friend the day before come to mind.
“Let’s get some breakfast and see how we are then.”
“But I don’t feel well.”
“So I can’t go to school.”
“We’ll see. (A firm “you will” response would add flint to potential flambé.)
“Let’s first get breakfast.” I call back while descending the stairs. I check the kitchen clock: twenty-five minutes and counting before school starts.
Lauren continues to eye me as I bring breakfast to the table.
Her four-year-old brother offers “I don’t feel well too.”
Lauren whips her head in his direction excitedly. “Do your insides hurt? Well, mine do William! And my head is burning. Feel Mommy!” She turns back to me with her hand across her forehead.
I place the palm of my hand on her lukewarm, non-fever forehead. Her blue eyes stare up at me. “What? Feel how hot it is?”
”Well, it’s not hot (Don’t add fuel! Stay even-toned) and feels pretty fine.”
“No, it’s not fine! I’m burning up! I can feel it. I’m sick. And what are those?” She points to the cooling sieve by the stove.
“Tortellini’s for your lunch.”
“Lunch?! But I’m not going to school.”
“No Mommy, you don’t get it. I’m sick. I might not look sick but my insides are all hurting and I have a fever. “You want to send me to school?! And get all of the kids sick? That wouldn’t be right!”
Time to walk the walk. I pull up a chair to the table and sit down. “Is something bothering you?”
“Yes, two comments (a term learned in her first grade class apparently.) One, I’m sick and don’t want to get the other kids sick. And two, I’m worried that (her close friend) is going to ignore me again when I’m talking to her and only sit by (another close friend. Yes, three is a bad number) and exclude me again at all three recesses.” Her head falls.
“Look at me” A little flushed face meets mine. “Just tell her to be nice if she’s not, then ignore her. (Yes, easier said than done). The funny thing sometimes is that if kids know that they’re hurting you, they’ll keep doing it. It doesn’t make sense but that’s just what happens. So don’t let her get to you. Tell her to be nice and then ignore her being mean.”
She thinks for a moment. “But I’m too sick to go to school.”
“I’ll be right back.” School starts in a scant fifteen minutes! Stay calm, stay calm.
I dart upstairs and pause for an absurdly long minute before descending the stair.
“I just spoke to the doctor’s office and they said that it sounds like you’re well enough to go to school but if you still don’t feel well after school they can examine you.”
She pauses. “Okay, here’s the deal. I’ll go to school but if I keep not feeling well then I will need to go home because I can’t be at school sick.”
A quick hug followed by a mad scramble to change clothes, brush teeth, gather supplies and rush to the car ensues.
As I leave her classroom two children pass me carrying attendance slips to the front office. “Lauren – tardy” I see on the green slip.
Tardy but present.