There are mornings in our house when the children complain of feeling ill. A “headache”, “my tummy hurts” and “I feel like I might vomit” are the most common complaints that come out as we’re skipping through our morning routine.
And, al-ḥamdulillāh, I have healthy children because 99 times out of 100, those general complaints are either manufactured for personal gain (maths test) or nothing more than the product of having to wake up at 6am every single day. A simple shove-in-the-ear of the thermometer-that-never-lies put paid to any unwarranted days off.
So, yesterday we were at school, in the playground, and DS goes all listless. “I feel like I might vomit” he says, curling up on my lap. He refuses to go into the classroom and instead starts crying. This is a boy who usually runs into the classroom without looking back (he’s a little bit in love with his teacher).
I’ve no time for this whatsoever. I have a full morning of work ahead of me and have made his packed lunch: as far as I’m concerned, he’s going to school. I feel his forehead – he’s fine.
“Can we go and ask Nurse?” he asks, and I make a crucial mistake: “Okay.”
And so we schlep around to the nurse’s office. Nurse takes his temperature – it couldn’t be more normal.
“Great,” I say. “Thank you, Nurse. Come on, DS, you’re going to school.”
“Noooo,” he says, scuffing the floor with his shoe. “I feel like I’m going to vomit.”
Then Nurse looks at him. “He is looking a little peaky,” she says as DS pulls a pathetic posture. I look at her in shock: seriously Nurse, don’t turn on me now.
“Hmm,” she muses. “Better you let him stay home than have to come back to get him in an hour or two…” (after he’s vomited in the classroom, I can see her thinking… but she does not know DS like I do).
DS looks at me with puppy-dog eyes, head cocked at cute-o-clock. And, with the two of them ganging up on me, I have no choice: if I keep him at school, I am Uncaring Mother.
“Right, come on…” I say, taking DS’s hand. “You can come home with me but understand now that it’s going to be a very boring day. You can watch TV, you can play on your own and you can rest, but I’m not entertaining you. There will be no fun. Are you sure you don’t want to stay at school?”
“Yes mummy. I feel like I’m going to vomit.” It’s one last line, for the benefit of Nurse.
So, home we go. I put DS in front of the TV and get on with my work. But DS can’t play sick for long. After half an hour, he starts to slip into my office and annoy me. Every 10 minutes thereafter he comes in, wanting to play something different, wanting me to play with him, wanting snacks. After three hours of this, as I sit down to another game of Guess Who? with him, I lift his chin with a finger and look him in the eye:
“DS, you’re not sick at all, are you?” I ask.
“No,” he says sheepishly.
Well played, DS, well played.