Frequent Flyer

I must start this post by saying that my first grader loves to visit the nurse.  She goes there for just about everything.  Technically, I have no idea how many times she goes because I don’t get a phone call for each one, but I can tell you that NONE of them have been emergencies or even urgent for that matter.  I have no proof, but I am fairly certain that they consider her a “frequent flyer” AKA “faker”.  This is not how I raised her.

One time she was on the bus…on her way home…and she accidentally bumped heads with another kid.  She insisted that she get off the bus to see the nurse for a “head injury”.  The bus driver obliged.  Flynn got off the bus and explained how “Molly wasn’t even hurt but she wanted to go to see the nurse.  The whole bus had to wait for her.  I told her to wait and you would help her but she wouldn’t listen!”  A few seconds later, the nurse calls to tell me she has Molly in her office…”Can I come get her?”

So.. Flynn forfeits his snack and  I load the 2 little ones up in the car and off we go to the school.  There she is….sitting in the nurse’s office.  She is smiling and doesn’t even have a bump on her head.  [Grrrrr!]  She is holding an ice pack in her hand and refuses to put it on her “head injury” because it’s “really cold”. I grab her by the back of the neck [firmly] and escort her to our car.  Flynn is prepping her the whole way home “Mom is very angry at you Molly!  You are a big faker!” [Usually I would not allow this type of sibling heckling, but today it seemed appropriate. Preach on Flynn!]

Lets just say….drama queens and nurse’s don’t mix well..  She got the riot act.  “Why would you go see the nurse, when you could have ridden the bus home and [voice getting louder] I’m a nurse?”  She gave me the standard “I donno.”   That night our dinnertime conversation consisted of a lengthy lecture “Do NOT ever go to the school nurse unless you are hemorrhaging or puking!  They are busy and you should only go for emergencies.  Got it?”  Both children shook their heads and agreed not to cry wolf any more.

[Fast forward to 2 weeks].

Molly wakes up with a slight cough and a runny nose, no fever.  It’s probably allergies but she has a history with the school nurse so I drug her up good.  “Here Molly” [I give her some Advil and cough syrup, rub some Vicks under her nose and shove some cough drops in her book bag.]  Then I give her a pep talk.  “You have a common cold.  It’s called that because it’s common.  The school nurse can NOT help you anymore than I have.  You do NOT have a fever.  You are fine!  Do you understand?”  “Yes Mom.”  She confirms the rules and hands me the gross tissue that she just wiped her nose with.  [Ewwww..Why?  Why do they do that? There is a trash can less than 2 feet away] “If I’m not bleeding or puking, I should just stay in class.”  “That’s right sweetie!”  I toss some extra tissues in her book bag, give her a kiss on the cheek and wave good-bye to her as she walks towards the bus.  [thinking] “Phew.  She understands.”  As a mother I felt proud.  My lecture worked.  I smiled that motherly smile like I had done something right.  My daughter is learning an important life lesson.  The lesson of “don’t cry wolf!”.   I continued the rest of my day as usual.  I  flushed the stagnant pee that was sitting in the toilet, wiped toothpaste blobs out of the sink, swept up crushed Cheerios in the kitchen and did several loads of laundry.

Then, around 1:30 my phone rings.  That proud motherly smile was rudely interrupted by the “alarm tone” ring.  It’s the ring I have set for the school nurse and it sends chills up my spine every time.   It’s the ring that basically means “your day is ruined”. I take a deep breath, prepare for the phone call and do what every mother does in this situation. I threaten my 4-year-old not to speak and beg her to keep the baby happy, so I appear to have my shit together and control of my children while on the phone.  Apparently, 4 seems to be the age when kids feel they can to negotiate good behavior?? In that 2 seconds before I actually say “Hello” and told her “Shhhh“…she somehow manages to ask me for things I would normally not allow her to have because there is no time to argue.  Sneaky little devil.  “Can I pwease have that weally big Hershey chowolate bar on top of the refrigewator?”  In retrospect, I am humiliated by my weakness under pressure.  “I guess so …just shhh”  [Ok, I need to focus. This can’t go to voicemail.] I think about answering the phone “She is fine.  Send her back to class.” But…I decide to show some compassion….”Hello?” [A compassionate greeting considering the alternative.]

“Mrs. Doherty?”  Says the perky nurse.  “Yes?” I answer in a monotone.  “I have Molly in my office.”  [thinking] ” Well…now..that’s a fucking shocker??”  but I fake concern,  “Yes…is everything ok?”  “Well…she has a little cough that seems to be bothering her.”  “Does she have a fever?” I inquire. “No fever..but I want to make sure it’s ok with you if I give her the cough drops you sent.”  “That would be fine and please tell her that I said to go back to class.”  “OK…Will do.  She actually wants to talk to you. Is that ok?”  “Absolutely”  Molly gets on the phone and in her most pitiful voice she says “Mom?  I don’t wanna go to class.  Can I come home and watch cartoons and play with Teagan?”  [Thinking:  Is this girl for real?   If I could have reached through the phone and strangled her… I would have. Cartoons?] “What?????  NO!  Molly?  Are you bleeding or puking?”  “Neither.”  she says sadly.  “Then go back to class!!!!  We just talked about this!”  “Yes mam”  She gives the phone to the nurse…”I am so sorry!”  I say to the nurse.  Embarrassed I feel the need to explain. “I knew she had a cough but I medicated her and she didn’t have a fever.”  “That’s ok.” she answered.  “Please call me if you need me to take her home.” I felt guilty. That poor school nurse doesn’t have time for this crap.  “Sounds good”  We hang up.  An hour later ….the alarm ring tone blares once again…I answer “Yes?”  “She’s back”  “I’m coming….tell her I’m NOT happy”  Some of you might be judging me right now.  You might be asking yourself “Why?  Why did she give in and pick her up from school?”  The answer is a simple one.  The nurse doesn’t get paid to deal with a faker.  I walk into the nurses office and I see my wide-eyed and bushy-tailed daughter waiting for me.  She runs up to me and hugs me [because that’s what really sick kids do].  “I got your bed all ready for you at home Molly.”  She looks confused.  “If you are sick the most important thing is rest, let’s go!”  She was not happy with my plan and sulked all the way home.  It was a long afternoon but I think this time..she learned her lesson.

[Fast forward two weeks.]

The horrific school nurse ring tone strikes again!!!!   Now we are buddies, “Hey Betty!  I’m sorry.  What happened to Molly?”  She giggles a little…”Well…Molly says she isn’t allowed to come to my office unless she is bleeding or puking.”  I’m so proud of my stern rule “That’s right!  So…go ahead and send her back to class!” I say with confidence.   “Well…she definitely puked.  It was significant.  The class evacuated so the janitor could clean it up.”   Silence….[Thinking: did she use the words “significant” and “evacuated”?  Oh my!  For a solid minute I can’t find any words.  What have I done?]  Then I finally speak….”Oh…god….really?  Not even in a trash can, huh?”  [I couldn’t think of anything else to say] “Well..I think she was heading that way.”  She responded. “Ok..I’m so sorry.  I’m on my way” 

Thoughts were racing through my head all the way to the school.  I am the worst mother.  Molly must be so embarrassed.  These kids will forever remember her as “Molly: the first grade turbo-puker.”   I slowly walk into the nurses office and see my sweet girl.  She is laying on the little cot resting.  “Ah..sweetie..are you ok?”  She wasn’t embarrassed in the slightest about hurling all over the classroom. She was only concerned with my response. “I told the nurse it was ok to call you since I puked”  My face had to be red with embarrassment. The teacher and the nurse were in the room listening and my stupid rule about “puking and bleeding” suddenly seemed ridiculous. The lesson of “don’t cry wolf” not only back fired on me…it also caused a rather large mess.  “You could have called me if you thought you might get sick?”  “No way mom..I already learned that lesson.  Only if I’m puking or bleeding.  That’s what you said.”  I had no argument.  I walked out of that nurse’s office with my tail tucked between my legs and Molly walked out with a puke bucket. Parenting is the most humbling job in the world.


12 thoughts on “Frequent Flyer

  1. First of all – I LOVE your articles, they make me feel normal and they make me laugh – two very important things as a mom. As a mom of three and a nurse I have had the same conversations with my children about the nurse. Is there a bone sticking out?? Are you bleeding?? I also have a frequent flyer – so frustrating!!! I once told my middle child (who is a bit tougher) she was fine for a week after hurting her arm until we found out she actually had a fracture – nice parenting moment in that doctor’s office when they asked when it happened and you are trying to fudge it a bit (or lie!!) and your daughter is correcting you!!

  2. I have a frequent flyer too. The clinic aid and I are on a first name basis (no actual nurse at our school). My daughter has mild food allergies which occasionally cause itchy rashes to appear which a dose of benadryl quickly remedies. However, my daughter (1st grader) has not learned the difference between a 1 mm spot that might itch if you look at it upside down and a back covered in welts. It’s a fine line we mom’s walk, no crying wolf but no puking in the classroom either. I think your doing a fine job :)

  3. It is funny how moms can even feel completely responsible for causing a pukey mess that occurred miles away from where she was standing, without her knowledge, under another adult’s supervision… the epitome of a ‘Mother’s Guilt’, I think?

  4. This pediatric nurse and mom of 3 is laughing her butt off!! My kids are instructed not to call home unless they are puking or a bone is literally sticking out! My son came home one day sicker then sick. Hubby accused him of faking until said son leaned over the bunkbed (top one) and literally puked right down the side–including on daddy. Hubby looked over at me and said “guess he really is sick.” I handed hubby a bucket and rag and walked away!
    Don’t worry–a good nurse will understand–and after some of the stuff I have seen I’m thrilled to hear about a caring mom that does take interest in her children. We all know how crazy family life can get.

  5. This sentence says it all: “Parenting is the most humbling job in the world.” Nothing else can really be said past that..

  6. Come to think of it when I was in grammar school & got bored I did that a few times myself ! Maybe its in her think?

  7. Molly likes any excuse to go explore. I think my she just likes to stroll down the hallway and peer in all the classrooms and wave to her friends. I bet half of the time she forgets the injury before she gets to the nurse’s office. She makes me so proud. Sigh.

  8. I am so glad you wrote this, I never even gave the whole “crying wolf” thing a thought, but with Ella going to kindergarten next year it’s definetely something I can have a talk with her about!!!!

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