This past week has been one looong alien encounter.
And no, I’m not the one who was sick. My son has that honor. Well, dubious honor. Poor kid. Nobody wants to come down with the flu.
When he was younger, I used to just pull him out of school for the entire duration of whatever illness had him in its clutches. After all, dealing with sensory information can be overwhelming on a normal day, much less on a cranky, ack-my-nose-never-lets-up, I-didn’t-get-enough-sleep school day.
And how about socialization? Hmm? Those other kids are stretching (it’s good for them to stretch a little) to accommodate and accept an interesting child… is it good for them to deal with a challenging, less patient, overwhelmed, tired, interesting kid (who really doesn’t care social niceties at the moment)? Will they forget and forgive? Or will they lose patience and write him off forever?
Our second grade teacher (“ours” because she taught us both so much) was very firm about attendance. He needs to learn how to handle some sickness while interacting with others, she stated. She even set us a goal for attendance.
Nervous and feeling like a bad mother, I started letting him go to school while still a little ill. Not feverish, not really sick, just not quite well.
It taught me a few things.
First, the other kids – in elementary school – are pretty forgiving. Even if they’re irritated one day, they can move on. Most of them don’t carry grudges, unless the parents – or other students – reinforce them (of course there are exceptions to this, and, yes, I’ve seen many of them, but today I’m referring to illness).
Secondly, it was enlightening to watch the other kids “take care” of my son. One of them proudly showed my child his particular kleenex technique. Others reminded him to get a drink every so often. It was a very caring atmosphere, one fostered by a tremendously talented and caring teacher.
And lastly, they seemed to understand. To be more forgiving and willing to accept lapses in temper. After all, they’ve all been sick, too, and remember how miserable it feels.
I couldn’t help but wish that more adults were like this. More willing to forgive, to overlook problems, and to grant someone a pass on a difficult day.
Even now, it’s still a struggle to send my son in when he’s not running at 100 percent. I worry about him, and I worry about meltdowns and grudges and consequences. But it’s good to know that most children are pretty supportive; they want to help, and they want to do the right thing.
Especially in elementary school.