Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers. ~Charles W. Eliot

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

To your health!

The 1986 film, Ferris Bueller's Day Off is, arguably, the quintessential, not to mention beloved, statement on faking sick. Ferris told kids precisely how to fake sick. He was a genius and legions of young moviegoers left the theater to see if his charm and savvy had rubbed off on them. One of our daughters rivals Ferris in his faking sick prowess. Except that she doesn't always realize she's faking. And some of the time when we're sure she's faking, we get it completely wrong! I'm ashamed to say that on more than one occasion we've insisted she go to school only to have the school nurse call less than an hour into the school day, letting me know she had a fever and needed to be picked up. The problem is that an embarrassingly high percentage of the time, we let her stay home only to have her suddenly spring back to good health just a few hours later. As you can well imagine, this has lead to repeated boy-who-cried-wolf kinds of lectures.

A few days ago, two of our daughters complained they were sick. One was burning up with a fever and was the very picture of illness. The other... well... you can imagine who that one was. We took both girls to the doctor because they were both complaining of terrible sore throats and since one needed to go, why not take both? They each had strep tests. One clearly needed it and the other, well, not so much. I got the feeling that even the doctor didn't take her complaints seriously. The tests were negative; no strep. The girls came home, took some Tylenol, drank some tea and were told to rest. We agreed that the daughter with the fever would stay home from school the next day and we would just have to see how her sister was feeling. Needless to say, when I woke her up for school, she moaned, "I'm too sick to go to school today". I repeated the boy-who-cried-wolf story, I lectured her, I nagged, I pleaded - but she wouldn't cave. So I did. And wouldn't you know it; at 10:30 a.m. I answered a call from the doctor's office letting me know both girls had strep throat. I was at work when they called so I called home to tell my daughters and she who was not crying wolf after all answered the phone. "Guess who has strep?" I asked. "Who?" she asked back. "You both do," I answered. Silence. "Hey, are you there?" I asked. "Yes," she replied. "You got quiet. What were you doing?" I asked. "Smiling," she said. Sweet smell of vindication!

It's a tough call. Tough and frustrating. How do you know when your child is really sick? Quite honestly, if there's no fever or projectile vomiting, then it's anybody's guess. Parental instincts only get you so far! Maybe the trick is to remember that if your child stays home an extra day or two, it's not the end of the world. Or conversely, if you have to pick your sick child up from school early on account of illness, disaster won't strike.

Sometimes far-fetched kid stories actually turn out to be the truth - at least in kids' books! Consider The Boy Who Cried Ninja by Alex Latimer. Tim's outrageous excuses that turn out to be true would make my daughter proud. You can guess what story this one is based on but you've never heard or read it told quite this way before. This book is actually on display in my office now and every time I look up and see it, I can't help but smile - I don't know if it's just the word "ninja" or if it's the cover that just cracks me up or it's the fact that I know this is a book that would please my sweetheart of a daughter. If you or your child loves ninjas, time-traveling monkeys, sunburnt crocodiles and astronauts – then this is the book for you.

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