I am a huge supporter of the public school system. I was a teacher prior to having kids, my mom and mother-in-law both worked in the public school system for decades, and both of my children attend an incredible public school. You will rarely (if ever) find me being anything but a champion for all the teachers, staff, and administration do. BUT . . . I have a bone to pick.
Can we please, for all that is good and holy, get rid of the dadgum perfect attendance award?! If you aren’t nodding your head enthusiastically in agreement, let me tell you a story.
My friend was in the school office when a mom came to check out her son for the day. It was 10:35 a.m. As her son walked (very slowly might I add) down the hallway, it became clear: He was sick. As he walked up to his mom, tears started to roll down his face. The mother grabbed him, as any mom would, and gave him a huge hug.
“You did it, bud. You made it. Now let’s go home and get some rest.”
The child replied, “I won’t get counted absent, will I?!”
As you can imagine, I had to pick my jaw up from the ground after hearing this. Did that kid really come to school for two hours SICK AS A DOG so he wouldn’t be counted absent?!
As I started to talk to some teacher friends, I quickly realized that this is a thing. Like, a thing that actually happens. At schools. Where our children go to learn. WHAT THE WHAT?!
Seemingly well-intentioned parents completely lose their ever-loving minds when it comes to this darn award. Sending your sick kid to school, only to infect who knows how many other children and adults, all in the name of the school’s version of a participation trophy is simply insane!
In the event that you or one of your friends have considered doing this, let me remind you of a few things:
- Sick people make other people sick. Shocking, I know. Don’t kill the messenger, but there is this thing called The Germ Theory. To put it simply: Microorganisms (germs) that we cannot see enter our body and make us sick. Your sweet little kiddo who is coughing his lungs up and running a 100-degree fever? Yep, every time he coughs, little microorganisms leave his mouth and then get breathed in by MY CHILD. It only takes one cough and the damage is done. Not cool, mom. Not cool.
- Perfect attendance will not get your child into Harvard. As parents, we are always thinking one, five, even 10 years down the road. It’s no secret that what our kids do now impact what happens in their later years. That being said, I feel pretty confident in saying that the perfect attendance award is not one of those. You want to help your child get into the university of his dreams? Read with him. Encourage him to think outside the box. Begin a habit of volunteering and helping the less fortunate. Invest in some piano lessons or extra batting practice. THOSE are the things that will ensure a plethora of college acceptance letters.
- You are encouraging your child to establish irresponsible behaviors. I can hear it now: “I am teaching my child that sometimes you have to do things you don’t want to do.” Awesome philosophy, wrong approach. Honestly, I can agree that teaching responsibility is an important lesson that is severely lacking in today’s society, but it straight up does not belong in this scenario. It’s one thing to encourage school attendance when your daughter is tired from a long weekend; being tired won’t negatively impact other people. Making her attend school when sick and potentially contagious? Irresponsible. Not only will it likely lengthen her illness (rest/sleep is THE most healing thing we can do for our bodies), it puts other people at risk. If you want to raise children into responsible adults, you must teach them that it is their job to think not only of themselves, but also about how their actions impact people around them. THAT is responsibility.
- If it takes a fever-reducer to become “fever-free,” your child still has a fever. I am not sure this one takes much explanation. Then again, I am a bit baffled this one even needs to be said. If you have to give any form of fever reducers (Tylenol, Motrin, essential oils, unicorn tears, or even fairy dust) to get your child to a fever-free state, he or she is still contagious and should not be sent to school. The point of the whole “24-hour fever free” rule is not really about the number on the thermometer. It’s about keeping illness isolated and other children/adults healthy. Simple as that, no exceptions.
I know your child-free time is precious — whether that time is spent working a job to put food on the table, doing laundry in peace and quiet, or taking a day trip to Africa to feed the hungry. We as mothers can all agree that having a child sick at home isn’t always easy or convenient. But I have news for you: Your time is no more precious or sacred than any other parent around you.
So, mom to mom, can we please all agree that the darn perfect attendance award NEEDS TO GO?!