Am I stretching a point weirdly when thinking about applying some of the principles of radical disability acceptance outside of its remit? I’m talking about my kid and (relatively) minor illnesses and injuries.
This afternoon he took a pretty awful stack on the bitumen, with two well-scraped knees and one knee with a mild to moderate amount of soft tissue bruising and swelling. This did buy him his first trip as a scooter passenger, but he didn’t enjoy it much because of the pain he was in.
At bedtime he was still hobbling, and was asking for a day off tomorrow. I’m inclined to say ‘yes’, even though he could probably technically manage a (calm) day at school. Firstly, there’s really no such thing as a calm day at school for him – he’s constantly knocking into things and banging about. Secondly, if he says it hurts and he wants to rest for a day, should I not accept his account of events, privilege that over my observations, and embrace his request for rest? He has a full range of motion, albeit painful where it stretches the abrasion, and no alarm signs for fracture or major joint injury, though I’ll check all this again tomorrow.
Same argument for mental health days? He hasn’t asked for one yet, but when he does – I’m inclined to overrule myself and let him have one.
He’s not a systematic school refuser at all. Only hasn’t gone when he’s had a nasty URTI, and on those occasions has usually complained that he’s missing some particular craft (etc) activity. He had 3 absent days last semester, all contiguous, with a nasty URTI just as swine flu panic was hitting.
What do you think? What do you do?
Categories: education, Life, work and family
It does sound like he deserves a day off and no I don’t think it would be a bad example. If he has to walk at lot a school or has gym, he’d probably be uncomfortable (and would he be able to get tylenol or keep his leg up at school).
Alan only had one day off last year for illness, when he was sent home with pink eye. He’s grumbled about staying home from camp, but I won’t set an example there – I don’t think he’s really unhappy with camp, just would like mom (or grandma)’s company.
For a kid who’s not a school refuser, I definitely go with the “have a mental health day and enjoy each other”. Especially because he’s too young to, as you say, take it properly easy if he does go to school. Have a day off together and enjoy!
It seems like a good principle for him to take into the rest of his life (which I guess without knowing anything about his body, will be most likely mixed TAB and disabled like many people). There are a couple of injuries and illnesses I’m prone to and I try and apply principles similar to intuitive eating with regard to rest and work. It seems sensible to apply it from childhood. It could be also that he’s finding the pain frightening or it’s feeding into some kind of sensory overload, and those are more reasons to train and trust in his intuitions about his body’s needs.
Definitely keep him home. It’s so important for childrens’ development that we show them in a concrete way that we hear them when they tell us about their needs.
It’s hard to say without knowing his age but I find it helpful ask what classes or subjects will be missed if they stay home. If encouraged to look at his time table and weigh up the pro and cons himself, my son will usually make the ‘right’ decision for him. I think this helps them to develop their decision-making/reasoning skills.
One of the many things I love my parents for was giving me the space to decide my life, and it started it things like when I just didn’t feel good enough to go to school. I knew that when I was under the weather and they asked me whether I was OK to go to school that there was a responsibility in that… I took days off when I was really unwell and a few when I needed a mental health day. Yes, I probably made the wrong call a couple of times, but when I realised that, I felt the guilt of having betrayed their trust.
I think you’re making just the right call, though I can only say so from the way my parents treated me. I have no children and my only dependent is my cat who, quite naturally, only has 100% mental health days!
Poor wee lad.
I’d ask him in the morning what he thinks – sleeping on it might make him feel better.
What milylasouris said (is it possible we had the same parents? 😉 ).
I hated missing school, especially when I was younger, and Mum always believed me if I said I was too sick to go. I’m sure there were a few times when I said/though I was too sick, and by the middle of the day realised I would have been fine.
When I hit about 14 or 15, it was enough if I just said I didn’t *want* to go, ie even if I was quite open about it that it was a mental health day (although I didn’t know that term at the time). Possibly Dad would have been more strict, but it was Mum who was generally the one getting us packed off to school. I’m pretty sure she treated my brother & sister the same way.
Even if we were sick, once we were in high school, her notes to the school would never give a reason – they would just say “Jo was not at school on [date].” She figured it was none of their business why I wasn’t there. All they needed to know was that I had her permission.
Anyway, I think she figured that she could trust me – and she wanted me to keep trusting her, too, in the sense that had she not let me stay home when I needed to, I might have played truant; as it was, although I occasionally skipped individual classes, I don’t think I ever skipped a whole day other than when I’d already told Mum I wasn’t going. Which had the advantage – to her 🙂 – that she always knew where I was. Had I wagged without telling her, she would have had no idea that I wasn’t at school, and I know now that that thought would have completely freaked her out.
My 6 yo had two days off for a cold this week, one of which he probably didn’t “need”. But I wasn’t working that day, I asked him what he wanted to do and he wanted to stay home. Today he wanted to go to school. I think we all rush ourselves well (when we can) and it’s good for kids to loll about in their jarmies watching Spongebob all day occasionally.
[Disclaimer: another childless person jumping in to offer peanut-gallery parenting advice]
I can’t see anything wrong with letting a young child under physical or emotional stress stay home; hell I know I’d do it. As long as there’s some kind of consistent rule for when he’s older, though; and I think that consistency’s what you’re unsure about.
What I mean is that sooner or later he’s going to work out, as every teenager eventually does, that school is a futile, mindless exercise, run on a set of arbitrary rules and carelessly exercised power, populated with unpleasant, immature, callous and cruel young people, with a curriculum designed to suffocate intellectual curiosity and fit students into patterns of industrial blue-collar and white-collar work. The whole point of presenteeism in education is to train young people into patterns of punctual daylight-hours attendance, whether they’re enthusiastic, bored, hungover, or totally alienated, with the threat of punishment. Turning up to work in the morning five days a week is the pattern of most people’s lives in industrial society; so it’s obviously important that it be drilled from early childhood.
He’s going to conclude—correctly—that the schooling environment itself is the most immediate significant negative factor in his own mental health. I don’t know how you convince a teenager that the long-term benefits of staying in school outweigh the very short-term appeal of just-not-wanting-to-go-today. I can’t even remember how I was talked into it; I think I was simply too unimaginative to even conceive of not going.
To be clearer: good luck, and best wishes, reconciling the irreconcilable.
We must be related, Liam! That was exactly me.
Speaking as a member of the institution Liam rubbished, I can’t see any problem with a day off for what sounds like a bit of a nasty injury, or the odd mental health day. I wish I could do that more often sometimes, but I only have a finite number of sick days (unlike students) and aranging relief is a pain the in butt.
Thankyou for all your comments! I’m really interested in the general topic of applying disability rights* and self-determination ideas to children and their lives, so please feel free to keep chatting about it. (I’ve been quite off-line today of course; am hanging with the Lad.) Long rants about the pros and cons of school in general, not so much. Not that it’s not a worthy topic, but perhaps I’ll start another thread on it sometime, or any of you are welcome to take it to your place and post a link here.
I’ve posted a followup note here.
* this particular injury not being a disability, of course
I remember when I entered high school and my English teacher asked us to write down our number one goal for our time there. Mine was to get my school absence down to less than 10 days/year.
My absence only climbed year by year… I don’t even want to count my senior year; it’s in the dozens certainly.
It was so hard for me to figure out when to go in and when to stay home. My mom was sometimes understanding and sometimes hardass on me (she also has fibromyalgia, so she knows what it feels like, but she would also use it sometimes as a sort of “I can do it so you have no excuse” thing). But I missed a lot of school days, some days genuinely awful and others where I wasn’t really so awful I couldn’t attend — but which I gratefully took advantage of because I was just so tired of pushing, always pushing, always fighting, always “toughing it out.”
I liked Linda’s comment; talking with your child about what the situation is and letting them exercise their decision-making skills will be valuable throughout their life. Also, I honestly think many adults could do with an understanding that we all need rest sometimes, sometimes it is better to scale back for a bit than to push through and possibly make it worse or make it last longer. It is impossible to lay down a rule for when to do one or the other; that’s something a person has to learn about his or her own body and mind, has to negotiate. But encouraging Lad to identify his own limits and respect them — that is a Good Thing, which will benefit him later on as well as others (as he brings an understanding of “everyone has limits, and they must berespected” to his interactions with others).
As far as applying disability politics to it, absolutely. The radical idea of understanding one’s own self and one’s own needs outside of the boundaries imposed by the outside world — of exploring and learning one’s own self, and learning to respect and appreciate. It applies to everyone. And even abled folk would be better off to have this understanding, and they will be better prepared to understand the experience of disability with that framework already set up, as well.