I got a call from the school nurse yesterday. My 7-year-old wasn’t feeling well, which I knew when he left that morning. When I went to get him, he had that sad, sheepish head droop we have to wear as children when this situation arises, lest the grownups around us sense we are exaggerating our symptoms and make us stay at school. I say exaggerating because he really was sick—red throat, low-grade temp, “listless”. But he had the head droop too which plainly said I could stick it out if you make me. But I’m not that type of mom. My own mother kept me home part of the morning once in second grade simply because I couldn’t stop crying. I had no physical ailment at all. And I don’t remember now what was wrong. But she hung onto me until I had control of myself and then took me to school late. My children have her to thank for the fact that I’m more than willing to give them a break when they feel they need one.
So John came home yesterday. And he stayed home today. (Although if I’d realized the miracle Tylenol Cough and Cold could produce, he’d probably be doing math problems at his desk as we speak). His poor, sad desperation yesterday to prove to me that he was sick (all afternoon he kept reminding me how glad he was that I brought him home because his head really did hurt or he really couldn’t move very well, etc.) reminded me how glad I am to be a grownup. Our entire childhood and high school years, adults try and tell us we should enjoy the carefree years because it’s so much worse out here—presumably in the real world. I completely disagree. I like my freedom. I like having less to prove. And don’t tell me we’re not free because of our bosses or our children or our mortgage or our basic obligations to society as a whole. We are free. We can carry our own pack of gum, any flavor we want, all the time and take a piece without asking. We can choose dessert even if we didn’t clean our plate, and we rarely pass up any snack no matter what the time of day, how hungry we are, or how fattening it is – if we want it. We go to sleep when we want. We read what we want, watch what we want, get in the car and go places when we want. We make choices every single day to mess up, speak slang, sound hateful, be lazy, or play Solitaire – just for 5 minutes! – while at work, just this once, because we trust ourselves to repent, move on, and make the nobler choice the next time.
Getting that high school diploma really was one of the happiest bits of liberty ever handed to us, and it’s just plain rude to tell our children otherwise. I suppose it’s partly the kid in me that knows this, but: Being a grownup, rocks.