Yesterday, I performed a minor miracle in my living room. I actually got my son to want to go to school.
If you’ve been reading this blog, you know that last spring, he was trying everything imaginable in order to stay home. Well, thanks to EP reader Shelly Hopkins, who was one of our “Consequences Story Contest Winners” in August, I was prepared. Shelly’s suggestion was to make home into school. Brilliant, right? I realized that what I’d unknowingly been doing when Alex stayed home in the past was to make a day at home with mom into a reward. He would watch videos, help me make lunch, paint — and I’m kind of embarrassed to admit, we usually baked cookies or something after my work was done. (What was I thinking? Of course the kid wanted to stay home!!)
So, his first week of kindergarten went off without a hitch. (Ahem. Except, on the first day of school, when all the kids were asked to draw a self-portrait, my son chose to draw himself naked. That’s right — completely nude. And anatomically correct. And the crucial bits were apparently in some shade of bright green. He informed me of this when he got home. A proud parenting moment, lemme tell ya. But I digress…)
Then last week, we all caught a bronchial cold thing that was going around. He complained of a stomach ache and was sent to the nurse’s office on Wednesday. “He’s so talkative!” she said on the phone, “He’s interested in absolutely everything in my office!” This immediately got my supersonic mom antennae up and beeping–I know my son, and when he’s really sick, he’s as limp as overcooked spaghetti. But we kept him home from school the next day, just to be sure.
I was a little apprehensive. “Uh oh,” I thought. “He can’t be bored of kindergarten already!” That’s when Shelly’s wise words sprang to mind: “We came up with the following consequence: If our son was sent home from school, our home became his school.” And parents, I’m proud to tell you, that’s exactly what I did! I got out a bunch of math and alphabet workbooks, put him to work cleaning his room, and cleaning up the living room. By 1 p.m., Alex was telling me that he was “all better” and that he was “ready for school now, mommy!” At two p.m. he brought me the telephone and asked casually what the phone number for school was.
“Why?” I asked, all innocent-like.
“Because I want to call Mrs. P. and tell her that I’m better and that I can go to school. Pleeeeeeaaaase let me go to school.”
“Sorry, Honey,” I said. “When you tell your teacher that you’re so sick that you have to go to the nurse’s office, that means you have to stay home with me. And from now on, no T.V. and videos when you stay home–you can play quietly in your room and do your workbooks on home days.”
“Mommy,” he said, his brown eyes full of 5-year-old conviction. “I’m never going to be sick again!”
Bless you, Shelly Hopkins.
And since this might not always work, does anyone else out there have some mom or dad “tricks” up their sleeves for those “I don’t feel well” days?
About Elisabeth Wilkins
Elisabeth Wilkins was the editor of Empowering Parents and the mother of an 10-year-old son. Her work has appeared in national and international publications, including Mothering, Motherhood (Singapore), Hausfrau, The Bad Mother Chronicles, and The Japan Times. Elisabeth holds a Masters in Fine Arts in Creative Writing from the University of Southern Maine.