Dear Dave

Wednesday 20 January 2010

Making school seem attractive

Dear Dave,

Sorry you're under the weather. I'm not feeling too great myself. It's the usual blend of sore head, indigestion, lethargy and achiness. Could be a virus, could merely be parenthood - it's hard to tell.

The last couple of years haven't been so bad for random illnesses. I thought leaving parent and toddler behind had cut down my exposure to fun and exciting diseases. This winter has been one bizarre virus after another, though. Barely a week goes by without comparing notes in the playground with other parents, matching symptoms of sick children and trying to work out who gave it to who and whether it's swine flu... again.

Getting fed up now.

To make it worse, Fraser has got to an age where he's liable to milk a minor sniffle as an opportunity to stay at home all day and play the Wii. Last Saturday, he declared himself unwell shortly after getting up and refused to get dressed or eat anything except toast for the whole weekend. He simply found himself a controller and took up residence on the sofa.

When Monday morning rolled round and he claimed to be too ill to go to school, I was dubious. He looked tired but he didn't have a temperature, a runny nose or spots. Heck, he didn't have so much as a cough. I suspected a bout of pre-pubescent Man Flu.

That said, he didn't really seem himself, although he could have been faking it. I began to regret sending him to drama class...

I wasn't sure what to do. In these situations, my mum used to say stuff like, 'In a couple of years you won't want to have time off school. You'll have too much work to do.' This was hardly motivational. Surely all the more reason to kick-back and get my strength up while I had the chance? Besides, I hated school for a number of reasons and was keen not to go - telling me it was only going to get worse wasn't hugely inspiring.

I decided against taking a similar approach with Fraser. Instead, I checked there was nothing else bothering him that he was attempting to avoid. He reckoned there wasn't but he was adamant he was incapable of making it through the school day. Reluctantly, I kept him home. I'm sure he could have coped if he'd had to but I figured he was probably at least a little ill and there was no harm letting him rest up for a day.

The only problem was, I could quite easily envisage us having the same conversation the next morning and the one after that. Given the opportunity, he might try to make a week-long holiday out of it and I wasn't having that. I'd attempted persuasion and already dismissed using guilt and duty. What to do? Then it occurred to me that all that was required was making the thought of staying home less pleasant.

I told him he had to stay in bed and rest for the morning without computer games. In the afternoon, I gave him a talk about the facts of life.

The next day, he was up like a shot and off to school without even the slightest quibble.

Coincidence? I'll let you decide.

Get well soon.

Yours in a woman's world,


PS I think I'm going to go back to bed. I may have struggled on with far worse at various points over the last ten years but I didn't have much choice - there were children constantly around to feed, change and entertain. Just because I didn't take a sick day then, doesn't mean I shouldn't take one now I can.

I only hope my mum doesn't find out and phone up later for a quick chat about birds and bees...

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