Saturday, November 10, 2012

A Masters In Daddery

Me: And then a llama squirts out the top of the volcano.
Daughter: No Daddy. That's wrong.

Yesterday my the nurse at my daughter's school called me to come get her right during lunch time. Apparently she'd complained to her teacher that she was tired and her head hurt. She hadn't actively done so. Instead she'd told her teacher that her tongue hurt and the teacher had asked her if she was okay. To which my daughter answered, "I'm just tired. And my head hurts. And my tongue still hurts." Down to the nurse she was sent. The nurse took her temperature - which wasn't feverish. A suggestion was made that maybe she was hungry and as it's lunchtime she should eat and then might feel better. With the added comment that if she didn't feel better then they'd have to call me again to come and get her.

Lots of different things all converged at this point. Firstly it's important to note two things before anything else. The first is that if you ask my daughter how she is she will always take stock of how she is and give you a progress report. If she has anything that isn't 100% firing on all cylinders she will then remark about it. She's not complaining about it at all. She's telling you the truth - because you asked. She thinks that's what that conversation is for. The second is that my daughter doesn't quite understand the concept of the phrase "it will get better soon." Because she knows that "soon" can mean in twenty minutes. The fact it can also mean a week confuses her even if you tell her that you really meant it could be a week. In her head that's an ever-changing concept of time that always means anything from twenty minutes to a week that changes depending on what time you are currently thinking about it. And as I last thought about some time ago - certainly at least twenty minutes ago (whatever that really is) then maybe it's already soon now? Three days ago she chewed on her tongue. I and her mother told her it would get better soon. Over the next few days when she noticed that it very much hadn't completely healed itself she would remark confused, "my tongue still hurts.....?" My daughter tells me that is what she told her teacher first at school.

Secondly my daughter had her report card meeting thing last week. At which it transpired that her mother and her teacher put together a few bits if info and determined that - like a lot of kids - my daughter was deliberately not eating her lunch. This is because the monitor who sits with the kindergarten kids keeps a rule that if you haven't finished what is in front of you then you can't go outside to the playground after you've eaten. This has led kids to a) insist their parents provide lunch because buying it takes longer to finish, and b) leaving their food hidden in their bags and only getting out a little bit of it. In my daughter's case she was bringing home more and more lunch uneaten. At first it was a case of finding a sandwich with two bites taken out of it and some other stuff gone. Then the whole sandwich came home two days straight. She wasn't even getting it out of her bag therefore to the teacher at the table it didn't even exist. Her mother brought this up along with the odd comment that our daughter had made that there isn't enough time to eat and voila - it all made sense. The kids adore going out to the playground so skip their lunches without learning that they are then grumpily hungry all afternoon.

Thirdly my daughter has been feverishly excited about going up to her grandparents Friday after school. She was going to spend Friday and Saturday night up there with her brother. Unless you know - she got sick or something like that. Then she'd have to stay home. No tractor rides. No boats. No ice cream sundaes. No seeing her Aunt. No special time away. None of that. But only if you're sick. Which she was pretty sure she wasn't. I mean she was a little tired. And her head hurt a little bit for some reason. And her tongue still hurt.

So there you have a convergence. Firstly the teacher sent her to the nurse. Which worried my daughter because she didn't even know she was sick. And sick people can't go to grandma's house. And then the nurse sent her to the lunch room. Where the teacher told her that because she'd been to the nurse she was sick - so now would definitely not be going outside to the playground with all her friends. At which point my daughter started crying. Because she's five and playgrounds and friends are amazing when you're five. And the Rules of School Life are that after lunch even when it's raining sometimes you then get to go outside and play. And Rules are unbreakable. So the teacher - who knows that she's sick - tells her that she's obviously crying because she's sick. So it's a good job she didn't go out to play. And in fact she should go back to the nurses office. For the second time. And as all the kids know if you go to the nurses office two times then the nurse calls your mother or father to come pick you up. And then you go home and stay there. You definitely don't go to Grandma's house.

When I got to the school my son flirted with the lady in the office (he made her a painting and she totally fell for it...) and I went to the nurse. My daughter was in the back playing with some toys and holding an ice pack to her head. The nurse had three other kids in there all cross-talking so I just went back and talked to my daughter. I asked about her ice pack and she said the nurse told her to keep it on her head for that headache she'd mentioned earlier. So my daughter did. Because nurses are like the principal. Or a policeman. Or someone who tells you to do something and you absolutely just do. I asked my daughter if it was cold and she said, "Yes. It's so cold it's hurting my head!" and gave a little confused smile. The nurse half-hearing then added, "yes she said she had a headache." I'm not one of those parents that is a know-it all. Whatever you do you're more of an expert in it so I'll defer to you. Which is why if I go to a hospital and a doctor tells me something needs to be done then go nuts. You're the expert. I'm good at spotting a liar though so don't piss me about. My wife on the other hand will need to see how you came up with that conclusion. And not just the end part or your working out - but explain what research and data supports what you just said. And it better be good or she'll casually show you why you're a charlatan pretending to be a doctor and not the jig is up. It's why we work well together as parents.

Anyway I and my daughter - who is five - both understood that we seemed to be on a different wavelength here. She gave me a glance, a shrug and the "I dunno" grunt that said, "I told them nothing's wrong. No idea where they're getting the idea I'm sick from." She didn't say her head was hurting so she was had been using an ice pack. She said the ice pack was hurting her head. When the nurse chipped in I looked back at my daughter who then gave me the "see - no matter what I say they think I'm sick!" So I smiled at her and asked her a few questions about what was up and it all fit together pretty quickly for me. Especially as she didn't have a temperature, didn't have a lack of sleep, was sharp and paying attention (eye contact and all that) and had made three main points. She had been sent to the nurse "for some reason" , the ice pack hurt her head and she was worried now that she wouldn't be able to go to Grandma's house. My thought was that she might be sick but it didn't seem like she was.

Then the office secretary came in with my son and gushed about how he had made her a painting. She asked my daughter how she was and got the teary nod. Then she showed my son a poster of a volcano and asked him if he knows what it was. So I decided to carry out a conclusive test. When healthy my daughter has her mother's instinct. If you do or say something factually incorrect then she will helpfully correct you. If she's sick she'll let it go. At which point I explained to my son and the rest of the room that I know all about volcanoes. They look like mountains and they shake when they get angry. And then a llama squirts out the top of the volcano." At which point my daughter pointed out my error. Huh - she's not sick at all. Took two glances, a minute asking her what was up and a joke about a volcano to figure that out.

So she's up with the in-laws and apparently having a cracking time. No sign of any illness or sensitivity at all. Which doesn't mean my faith in authority and experts is misplaced. You still better not lie about something. It's why doctor's, police, teachers and whatnot are held to a higher standard. Your word is what you're selling. So I didn't ignore that part of the equation. But it just means that when it comes to parenting my kid I'm the expert.


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