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Is My Kid Faking It To Stay Home From School?

Photograph by Getty Images

“Mommy, my throat hurts. Like, really hurts,” my daughter recently declared on a Friday morning. “I really don’t think I can go to school.”

I went through the steps that we parents are trained to perform.

I checked for a fever. She was at a very normal 98.4.

I looked at her throat. It wasn’t bright red and there were no wacky white spots.

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I asked her oodles of questions like, “On a scale of 1 to 10, how sick do you feel?” And, “If you stay home, will you read and rest not play video games all day?”

I then did what many overprotective parent do—I kept her home.

A couple of hours later the inevitable happened. She was totally fine. Bouncing off the walls, fine. She wanted to go out on her scooter. She wanted to go get ice cream. She wanted to go to Target to buy new toys. The answer to those “Yeah, you are sooo not sick” requests were no, no and hells no.

But here is the thing: Had this happened just once, it would have been fine. But no, this happened three Fridays in a ROW. Not only did I lose valuable work time, but also she missed very important days at school. I learned four big lessons after this string of sick days.

1. I’m a total sucker for a sad face.

2. Turns out she has seasonal allergies, hence the sore throat.

3. When I say she will have to rest and read all day, this will NOT happen.

4. I have no idea when I should keep my kid home from school or just send her in.

“It’s not practical to keep everybody out who’s shedding virus”

During her last not-so-sick-day I went to Facebook and asked my fellow parents where they draw the line. “Fever or projectile vomiting or doctor's orders,” one pal wrote. “My kids know too well how to work the system. They would much rather be home than at school, so they will work whatever ailment for as long as possible.”

Another stated, “I play it way too safe too, but sick days are kind of precious in a way, so I might enjoy them more than I should. Plus I think it's thoughtful to not send them sick.”

Two very different views on the same parenting challenge and, no, that didn’t help me figure it out.

"In general, children should stay home when they don't feel well enough to participate in normal daily activities and lack sufficient alertness to learn or play," says the Mayo Clinic. As for the signs of when your kid should stay home, they include:

• Vomiting twice or more over a 24-hour period or being unable to tolerate normal food and drink, or both.

• A temperature of 101 or higher.

• Severe coughing or difficulty breathing.

• Repeated bouts of severe diarrhea for at least a day.

• Persistent abdominal pain (more than 2 hours).

• Open sores on the mouth.

• A skin rash or red eye from an undetermined cause.

• Head lice or scabies.

• Other contagious conditions such as strep throat, chicken pox, impetigo, etc.

As for that cough that lingers, that is often just your child recovering. “It’s not practical to keep everybody out who’s shedding virus,” the New York Times states. “That’s everybody all winter long.”

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Looking at this list above, it really does hit me. That girl of mine should have gone to school on all the days she stayed home. I got played.

Where do you draw the line? Do you prefer to keep them home or just send them in?

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