It is a truth universally acknowledged that any child sent home from school is a targeted victim of a classmate who wants to wreak havoc on the well-being of that child's family.
Work meetings have been scheduled, carpools have been arranged, the contents of the refrigerator is not set to expire for another 24 hours. The entire work/school week is planned down to the second. Pee breaks are even accounted for, as long as no one washes hands for more than the AMA-approved 30 seconds.
So how dare little Jared or Jenna so much as breathe on my precious spawn. At drop-off this week, I am pretty sure I saw a globule of snot perched precariously on Penelope's nose. She better avoid my kid like the plague. I know for a fact that her father freelances at home, so if Penelope's nasal mucous starts to turn, she can go home, use the neti pot, and plant herself in front of Yo Gabba Gabba until her sinuses get aired out. (Dads are OK with TV on sick days; moms generally are not.) I, on the other hand, am utterly useless at home during a weekday, and cannot afford to spend an entire day sitting in the home office, refreshing the screen of my iPad over and over, making a concerted effort to ignore my child so she does not think sick days are fun.
Last week, I dabbled in staying at home. My child displayed some of the classic components of malaise, and it was a Friday anyway, so I worked in the morning while my husband stayed at home, then switched with him at mid-day. I spent most of the morning at work trying to figure out which child in my daughter's school was the germ bully who had the nerve to inflict this unwellness on her.
Within a four-hour span, I had cleaned and vacuumed the entire interior of my rather large car--the first time in its 10-year lifespan that I can recall "tidying it up." I unearthed permission slips from 2004, a Power Rangers VCR tape, and a bag of Pirate Booty that had inflated like a balloon. I also tilled bare patches on the lawn, and mowed the grass, which included three different areas of the property. I updated Little League websites and sent snack reminders to the teams' parents. I made an actual phone call to someone to schedule something, but never heard back. I picked up my son and a friend from school--when school actually let out! True, it took me about 20 minutes to figure out where to find him on the campus, but, hey, I was a woman of leisure, I had nothing but time! I continuously fed my son's bottomless pit of a friend, who apparently has not learned that the question: "Can I get you anything?" is meant to be purely rhetorical.
I was utterly exhausted from four hours of channeling my inner Ann Romney.
OK, I will confess to the fact that I have sent my very own Typhoid Child to school on more than one occasion. If there is one thing parents who work in and out of the home all agree on: Children must be out of the house as much as possible. It is imperative in order to preserve the sanity of the parents. That is not to say I doubt the psychological stability of those who home-school their kids*. Well, maybe I am saying that. Anyhow, from infancy to about 2, a feverish, inconsolable child can be deposited at daycare guilt-free by pronouncing the child to merely be "teething" and to note that you will be unreachable for the rest of the day. From preschool through elementary school, bags under the eyes and lethargy can be written off to the child "not being a morning person" before being dropped at the school office door. In middle and high schools, a mid-day call from the nurse can be brushed off by proclaiming how "dramatic" your child is, and allude to a Language Arts test the child may be trying to avoid.
Working parents know that sick days are precious commodities in the corporate world, not to be wasted on days where anyone is actually too sick to take advantage of the day off. So just a warning to my children's classmates: If you have so much as a sniffle, convince your parents you need to stay home. That will make me happy. And if you see my child vomiting on the playground, discreetly hand her a paper towel and don't tell the teacher. I've got work to do.
*Editor's note (by the way, I am the editor): I recently met a family who home-schooled their kids not because they were religious fanatics, but because they were an impressively bright and creative family... granted, an impressively bright and creative family with ample free time, patience, and income to stay home with their children while fostering their being impressively bright and creative.