I had a plan for the day: Editing a handful of drafts, discussing a complicated story over the phone, writing something I’ve been putting off for too long, and getting some administrative tasks wrapped up. It was lofty, but manageable for the workday ahead. As I climbed out of bed, I was incredibly motivated to cross everything off my to-do list and cruise into the weekend with work in the rearview mirror. Then this:
“Mommy, my tummy hurts.”
No! It was Avery, in the bathroom. I moaned and went to see what was up.
“Do you just have to poop?” I asked, because, you know, sometimes it’s as easy as that. She stared up at me from the toilet and shook her head.
“You’re probably just hungry,” I said with conviction. “Let’s go get some breakfast.”
She shook her head again, wiped, and then decided to lie down on the bathroom floor.
“Do you feel like you’re going to throw up?” I asked, praying the answer was no. She nodded her head.
Anna woke up and came in to find out what was going on. I tried to corral her out of the bathroom and down the stairs, and returned the bathroom. Avery got up and gave a few dry heaves into the bathroom sink. No!
My shoulders slumped. Of course it was terrible that she was sick, but I admit I just wanted to get my work done, and a day at home with a barfy kid was going to make that infinitely harder. I pulled her onto my lap, put my hand to her forehead and tried to comfort her. No fever, but she did feel a bit clammy. She cuddled into me.
“I guess you’re staying home,” I sighed, and carried her into our bed, which is Avery’s favourite place to be.
“Can’t I lie on the couch?” she said, suddenly spry. I told her I didn’t want her near Anna. “Can I go downstairs after Anna leaves?” I reminded her that she was sick, and she should try to go back to sleep. “But I’m hungry!” I paused, eyeing her suspiciously.
“Are you feeling better now?” I asked.
Her alert face fell into a sad pout, complete with puppy dog eyes. “My tummy still hurts,” she said.
I left her, but suspected something was up. I did see dry heaves… didn’t I? Were they fake? Can a four-year-old do that? Or was it an almost-bug that somehow escaped through a dry heave and left my daughter instantly, miraculously healed?
I didn’t know the answer then, and couldn’t (even though I really, really wanted to) send a recently dry-heaving girl to school, so the decision was made. But by morning’s end, I was pretty sure that Avery had pulled a Ferris Bueller on me. Maybe it was the huge breakfast she wolfed down, or the angelic singing as she played in the living room, or the full-on dance routine I could hear her practising while I tried to get through my to-do list in my office.
Of course, it all stopped the second I walked out of the room. I’d ask her how she was feeling, and she’d instantly assume “the face” and tell me her stomach still hurt… a little.
“Are you faking?” I finally asked her. She looked up at me, those angel eyes shooting me her best “Who, me?” look. But she did not answer. Faker!
The afternoon was a complete bust for both of us. Because, really, it’s no fun to be home with mommy if mommy won’t pay any attention to you, which is the lesson I was trying to drill into her head. Since Avery’s not a big TV watcher (and I needed her to be, just today!), she was constantly at my elbow, drawing pictures on my to-do list, spilling my paper clips everywhere, showing me things, wanting to talk, paint, do Play-Doh, break out the glitter glue and, of course, build a fort. Argh.
Someone told me that four is a classic age for kids faking sick. Who knew? Certainly not me. But I learned it’s only funny in the movies.
Do you ever suspect that your child is faking sick to stay home? What do you do? Tweet me @T_Chappell