Albert Einstein is credited with defining insanity as, doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. By this definition, I believe parents can be classified as being insane. At the very least, I can claim insanity. However, on a rare occasion, the persistence may just pay off...
Many years ago, there were days that I just did not want to go to school. I would claim a tummy ache and throw in the headache for good measure, hoping my mother would take pity and allow me to stay home. After all, how could a good parent force a sick child upon the world? That would be unheard of, right? HA! Yeah, right. If my memory serves well, that little ploy worked less than half of the time...maybe even less than a quarter of the time.
Now, my son, who thinks I never tried the exact same things he is trying or went through the same struggles he is going through (silly little naive grasshopper), is trying the old stomach ache, headache, and overall sick act upon me, again. Poor kid...he doesn't stand a chance with that one! Of course, for the sake of learning, we do allow him to stay home on occasion, and sometimes simply because his act is so convincing we feel that not only does he earn the right to stay home, he should also earn an Emmy or an Oscar for his portrayal of a truly ill child. But, regardless of the situation, the consequence is always the same; he must stay in his room, get rest, and if he cannot sleep, he may read a book, write a letter, or draw. No TV, no play time, no fun stuff...if you are too sick to be at school, you are too sick to do anything other than rest. What's that? You are hungry? I'll get you some chicken soup and ultra-bland saltine crackers to eat.
Every time he feels "sick" we do the same thing, over and over again, expecting he will get a clue and realize that playing hooky is not fun (at least not until you become an adult and can usually get away with it!), and hope that he sees that the grass is not always greener on the other side. Yes, we are insane, by Einstein's definition, we do the same thing over and over again and expect different results. Only this time, we have proven Einstein wrong! Muahaha!
Yesterday, he tried to play the sick card and had the school give us a call. My response was, give him child's strength Motrin, and send him back to class. Children's Motrin must be magic because he miraculously recovered by the time he came home and was feeling well enough to say he had a good day. Today, the school called again, but this time, he was not given the opportunity to take the magic Motrin, he was sent home.
When I arrived, I was less than happy about the situation, but decided I had better give him the benefit of the doubt and see if the little boy who cried wolf actually saw a wolf this time. When his healthy looking cheeks, alert eyes, and the silent mischievous smirk yelling "ha!, I fooled the grown-ups this time!" came around the corner, I knew immediately there was no wolf. I sighed, because I knew I was about to do the same thing I had done many times before, and yes, I was hoping for a different result.
I took the guilt trip route. I explained to him that if he is really sick, there is no need to apologize, but if he is acting, there will be a problem because his mother and I have had to rearrange our schedules, cancel meetings, and push back work that needed to be done. If he was really sick, however, none of that would matter because we will always be there for him. He promised that his tummy hurt, and that he wasn't acting. "hmmm...ok" was all I said.
When we arrived home, I immediately sent him to his room for "much needed rest" and explained to him that he can read if he cannot sleep, but no running around, playing games, or anything of the sort. His "sick" body needed rest to recover. When he asked if he could have crackers, I told him, after you get some sleep, I'll fix some chicken soup and crackers for you...yep, same thing over and over again.
I headed downstairs to get dinner into the crock-pot before my six hour available cook time had expired (I love crock-pots, by the way). Along with the clattering of plates and silverware prepping the feast for the evening, I heard a random, "thump..thump" coming from upstairs. I let the first one go, but the second, third and fourth were all met with "You need to stop moving around and get some rest!" I also explained to him, again, that if he is well enough to be moving around like he is, then he is well enough to go back to school.
A few minutes later, my son trudged down the steps, his head hung low, with these words coming out of his mouth, "Dad, take me back to school. I lied, I am not sick." I had to work at suppressing the grin my mouth was trying to form, but somehow I managed.
The following conversation reiterated the reasons why he shouldn't cry wolf, why lying is wrong, and so on, but the final consequence was the same as if he really were sick...bed rest, reading, and drawing was all that was allowed. I was nice enough to tell him he could clean his room, in addition to the previously mentioned activities, though, so I am not that mean of a parent! In the end, he was not happy with his choices and seemed to be legitimately remorseful for his actions.
So, maybe I am not as insane as I thought I was. Perhaps doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result from your child is not a part of Einstein's definition. Somewhere out there, I am guessing there is a disclaimer to his theory that reads, "exclusions apply," which I seem to have found...for now. We'll see how his next "sick day" goes first before I claim absolute victory...Either way, I hope he learns from these experiences and does not prove Einstein's theory correct!