Rebecca Eckler is one of Canada's most talked about newspaper columnists, the author of Knocked Up: Confessions of a Hip Mother to Be, which has been translated into nine languages. Also the author of the bestsellers, Wiped!, Toddlers Gone Wild, and Rotten Apple, the first in a YA series. Random thoughts on life in the competitive world of modern mommyhood. Blog will be loved by trendy mothers who still feel, or often feel, that the most important word in "mommee" is ME!

Monday, December 04, 2006

Runny Noses and Nosey Mothers

Let me ask you, all mommies who send their kids to school or day care, how you decide when your child is too sick to go to school or daycare?

Here's what happened. About a week ago, The Dictator caught a cold. And she had a bit of a cough. She had no fever. And she was in great spirits, laughing, playing, you know, happy. Thus, she wasn't THAT sick.

All was fine. Then, a couple days later, Nanny Mimi picked The Dictator up from school. She told me that one of the mothers was quite concerned about The Dictator, telling Nanny Mimi that her husband had dropped of their child a couple days earlier and had mentioned to his wife that "Rowan was coughing. A LOT! A LOT!"

Nanny Mimi kept stressing that this mother kept stressing that her husband had told her how much Rowan was coughing (Rowan is The Dictator, my daughter)

I felt instantly annoyed. I mean, maybe this mother really was concerned about my daughter's cough. But, frankly, and I know I'm lucky, I have a nanny. Which means, even though I have to work, I don't have to send my child to school if I don't want to. She could just hang out with Nanny Mimi all day.

In fact, because I'm a writer, I can pretty much work my own hours. So even if I didn't have a nanny, I wouldn't have to send my child to school, especially if she was sick. I'm lucky that way.

I'm also not a mother who thinks that my child can not miss a day, or three weeks, of nursery school. Come January, we're yanking The Dictator out of school for a couple weeks, so she can learn about life in Maui and the beauty of the ocean and the Four Seasons smoothie.

The point is, I'm not one of those mothers who will send her child to school at any expense, and I certainly wouldn't send my child to school if she was sick.

I soon realized that the only thing more annoying than parents who send their truly sick children to school (come on, we all hate that, just like we hate when people come to the office when they're super sick) is the parent who thinks you're the type of parent to send your child to school when they're sick.

Two days later, just after The Dictator was dropped off at school, and I mean 20 minutes later, I got a call from her teacher, saying that "Rowan was just not herself. She's pale and fell asleep on the floor and was coughing A LOT."

Which I thought was very odd, considering I had just spent an hour laughing with her, playing in her bed (She likes to talk to my finger - Mr. Ticklely worm) and my child did not cough once.

So I was amazed, that in twenty minutes, my child not only fell asleep at school, but was coughing a lot. It takes me 2 hours to get her to go to sleep. And, yes, she's pale. That's what happens when the weather turns to minus 30. We're not exactly getting outside in the sun that much here in balmy Calgary.

In my gut, and sometimes your gut is right, I felt that one of the mother's mentioned something to the teacher about my kid coughing and then the teacher got all concerned because another mother spoke up and complained.

Here's what I think. I think that every time my child coughs, she has me and Nanny Mimi asking her a million times a day, "Are you sick? Poor baby." So The Dictator has learned that she gets attention when she coughs, even fake coughs. Smart kid. If I could get away with that, I would.

But, still, the morning the teacher called, I immediately called our doctor and got her on the phone. "My daughter has been sent home from school. The teacher says she has a bad cough, but I haven't heard it very much."

"Does she have a fever?" The doc, asked.

"Nope. But I need you to come over and check her out."

So, the doctor came over, and checked her lungs, throat, ears. Voila, she had no fever. She was fine (And, as always, adorable, which has nothing to do with this story, but is important to mention.)

I still kept her home from school the next day, not because she wasn't in good spirits, but for fear she'd just be sent home again, or that the teacher wouldn't believe me that she was just fine, or that a mother would be all like, "Your child is coughing all over mine!!! Gaa!!!"

The truth is toddlers get colds, especially in winter, and those colds last forever. And if I kept the Dictator home every time she had a cold, well, she wouldn't be in school for months. Colds last for, like, three weeks, when they are kids.

Why? Because kids carry germs. I swear, the other day The Dictator was playing catch with a little friend of hers, who took the ball and wiped his snotty nose on it, before tossing the ball back to her.

Gross? Yes. But normal? Yes. And I don't freak out about those kind of things, because kids catch colds. In fact, they need to catch colds so they can build up their immune systems. You can't have your kid living in a bubble.

Then again, maybe everyone really was THAT concerned about my child. Maybe I should just shut up and be grateful that so many people seem to care about the health of my child.

But no one knows their own child as much as their mother. If she's sick, I'll be more than happy to have her stay home. I would not send my sick child to school, ever.

I kind of envy the mother who may have complained about my daughter. I mean, I just would never have it in me to complain about another person's child - unless of course it was serious.

I mean, there's this one kid in her class that always is hitting The Dictator. I know, because I've witnessed it. Have I said anything? No. Why? Because, frankly, that's kind of how three year-olds act. I would NEVER say anything to the teacher or mother, mostly becuase I don't think it's that serious. I trust that the mother, who has also seen her kid hitting, knows it's wrong and will deal with it herself. I would never tell on her.

However, my friend whose son keeps coming home from day care with bite marks, that I would complain about. But another kid with a cold? Um, no.

So, when do you keep your kid home from school? And when do you speak up? And when the heck do you just keep your mouth shut, trust that a mother does want the best for her own child, and buy some Kleenex in case your kid catches a cold?

Which they will.


Anonymous Sarah said...

i know it wasn't the point of your story, have a doctor who makes house calls?!!!! Our family doctor is a 45 minute drive away, which she is totally worth, but we don't see her unless we're due for a shot or i'm pretty convinced we're sick. I send my daughter to school as long as she's happy and has no fever. Her nose basically drips and she coughs on and off from October to May, that's what germy children do. AND I try really hard not to judge other mommies, because we mommas have all got it hard enough as it is.

4:41 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your doctor makes house calls??!! I need your doc's name.

6:34 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm sorry to say this but I'm the Mom who gets annoyed when kids are sent to preschool or play groups when they are coughing and have runny noses (and often worse). I DO keep my kids home when they are at all sick because I don't want to 'infect' other kids and I feel bugged when I find others don't do the same. I know it's irrational especially when it's just a cold so PLEASE EVERYONE BE GENTLE ON ME I'M JUST BEING HONEST! On the other hand, I totally don't buy the whole idea that by getting sick you build up your immunity. I was a kid who was rarely ever sick and that has never changed, I have never had pink eye, didn't get the chicken pox until I was an adult, haven't had much besides a runny nose and cough and even that is rare.

7:30 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think it's ok to send a kid to school with a cough, if, they have no fever, feel well enough to participate and have been home at least a day or two to make sure they are no longer contagious, when they do come back.

8:25 PM

Anonymous BC Fan said...

In the outside world there are germs, and there are people who have to go to work or school even if they're sick, if we wash our hands, take our vitamins and cover our mouths when we spit jerms (cough and sneeze) we'll be ok.

On the other hand you could ask if that child has a weakened immune system due to an illness, that is the only time I think it would be concerned enough to ask a teacher to send another student home.

And to answer the question, I follow my son's lead, if he wants to go to school it usually isn't too bad of an illness.

PS. About that hitting thing? I would advise you right now to know that it is NEVER a good idea to simply assume that other parents know what they are doing, it's a myth.
But that's a whole seperate post I think, haha.

9:35 PM

Blogger Roxanne said...

I had a nosey mom interfere when my daughter was in 2nd grade. She would intentionally act sick to try to stay home from school. The volunteer mom of the day asked my daughter if she wanted to go home (because she was coughing). Of course we know what her answer was.

Having said that, it is sometimes hard for the teacher to make the right call. I think it's better to err on the side of sending them home rather than having an overprotective parent come down on you because you weren't attentive enough to pick up on the fact that their child was lethargic, feverish, etc.

I also agree that some parents are so germaphobic that their children end up practically living in a bubble.

9:49 PM

Blogger Put Kids First said...

Put Kids First: The importance of hand washing

11:07 PM

Anonymous Chichimama said...

Last year, I kept my daughter home a lot, because there were so many little babies in her room. Now that she is two, I send her unless she is vomiting or has a fever, or is REALLY not herself.

Her school tends to be more hyper about illness than my son's, I have been told at pick up that "She's just not herself, so we took her temperature, a lot." And I usually get annoyed, and come back with "She's getting a TOOTH," or "She was UP at 4am, like I told you at drop off. Because as you said, I didn't HAVE to send her.

My son's school is the opposite. Last year I kept him home once because he was coughing a lot, and they yelled at me and said that it was just a cough, and unless he was miserable or running a fever, they wanted him in school thank you very much. So even though he is coughing up a storm right now, I will send him off because there is no fever...

As for the mommies, I know a few like that. I sometimes note that a kid looks kind of sick, but generally shrug and figure that it will be one less illness that my kids will catch later on. The time a kid vomited all over my son and the mom said "Oh, I guess he IS sick, he threw up twice at home too" kind of annoyed me, but again, I didn't actually SAY anything to her besides "Oh, I hope he feels better, don't worry, it happens."

4:33 AM

Anonymous Girlygurl said...

I would have sent her to school. It sounds like she has lots of energy and that is the best barometer of how Rowan is feeling overall. Interesting about the nosey mother!! If your intuition is telling you she "ratted" on your daughter, go with it - your spider senses are usually correct. Imagine the drama that parents kick up in a pre-school!! So sad.

6:52 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

This happened to me 2 weeks ago and it pissed me off! My 3 year old recently changed classes at daycare so she is adjusting to the new class and teachers. I got a call saying she had a temp and could I please come and get her asap. I had to wake up her 9 month old sister and treck downtown to pick her up. I got there. She was happy, eating lunch. I took her and took her temp outside the room.. Normal, no coughing, no runny nose, nothing!! I was mad!! I was so mad I wrote a note to the teachers saying that I could't understand that she is sick enough to come home and 45 minutes later she is completely find. No response from my letter although we have a parent-teacher evening tonight. The winter is only getting started!!

7:10 AM

Blogger Laural Dawn said...

I struggle with this too. I wouldn't send my son to daycare sick, and I have kept him home several times - even though it is difficult to work around.
But, I also send him to school coughing and stuff if he's fine. Because honestly he gets it from other kids and they will get it from him. With all due respect if you want your child to live in a germ free bubble daycare or preschool isn't the place for them.
And, I'm with you totally, in that you don't tell other parents that their child is too sick to be there. Seriously. That's just rude.

2:20 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

All children under 6 years of age have sensitive immune systems, FYI.

3:24 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

It IS possible that the other mom did not say anything to your daugher's teacher and that the teacher just called you because she seemed sick. I really can't see a teacher (not one worth their salary anyway) calling you because another mom complained. That just seems odd. If she's that worried about upsetting parents why would she want to upset you? This whole thing may just be a misunderstanding, and you may just be jumping to wrong conclusions.

3:37 PM

Anonymous Ella said...

When to keep my child home? If he has fever. If he is vomiting. If I believe that he is in someway contageous (because no mother wants to be responsible for making other children sick. If I believe my child will get worse by being in school. One of my children has a perpetually snotty nose in the winter. It's so gross, but there is nothing I can do about it (other than discourage the consumption of it).

4:27 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

My kid's noses run almost constantly in the winter. If I kept them home until they stopped, we wouldn't leave the house until next June. That is not acceptable. We carry on with playgroup and such unless they are really lethargic, fevered, or exploding from one end or the other. I don't think runny noses or the odd cough are enough to be quarantined.
We had an embarassing moment after a road trip once--my boy gets carsick and we stopped at Burger King for lunch on the road and he started throwing up in the parking lot. People were giving me the hairy eyeball in the play area as I let him run, even after I explained he was carsick and not contaigous.

6:13 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a mother who's been through this already, just remember one thing: Your kids will remember what you didn't do for them instead of all that you did, especially the girls. I know one former day-care-going little girl, now 22 yrs.old, who always throws this back at her mother after an argument, "You sent me to day care and even made me go when I was sick! You were a bad mother." Just a word to the wise. Think long and hard:(

8:02 PM

Blogger Kiki said...

I remember when my niece was about 3 or so, we had all been over, had a great fun day, she was coughing but still running and playing like usual, at dinner time she didn't want to eat and I guess started acting a bit lethargic, I went with my cousin to children's hospital and she actually had pneumonia.
No real point to me saying that just that sometimes even kids that are quite sick (though she wasn't contagious anyways) can continue to play and push themselves way farther then some adults.

9:27 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I heard Dr. Lester (reputable long time pediatrician) say that there are no infectious organisms that can survive in the mouth - only the nose and eyes so technically, coughing is a non issue (I still teach my little one to cover her mouth though). But really, kids get sick - and the coughs can last for 10 days post (according to my doctor) so as long as they are full of energy, they are fine. trust your gut - you'll know when she's really sick.

10:14 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

By 'school' does everyone mean preschool or actual school?

5:50 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good question. Fever, lethargy and hacking, wet, bronchial coughs - all call for a child to stay at home. Not only to avoid infecting others, but to rest and be cared for. I am easygoing but would be annoyed if a classmate was hacking a wet cough or with fever. Runny noses and regular coughs - par for the course in our Canadian winters!

6:03 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

If my child had:
(1) fever or
(2) diarrhea or
(3) vomiting
I would NOT send them to school.

Anything else goes!

I've learned to relax about the runny noses & phlegmy coughs that my kids bring back from daycare. When my 2 y.o. son first started daycare, I was freaking out b/c he got sick three weeks into the school year, and also promptly infected my then 3-month-old daughter. Needless to say that that fall/winter/spring my son brought back a LOT of germs home & got his sister & me sick. Now that the kids are both in school, they hardly get majorly sick!

9:04 AM

Blogger hautemama said...

Mother always knows best...

And yes, some moms will assume you are neglectful just because you have a nanny.

I am soo not looking forward to doing the school thing all over again with Z!

8:29 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm also the mother who would get annoyed if you sent you sick child to school. When my child gets a cold, he often passes it on to my husband and to me. I can NOT miss work, ever. So that means I am: 1. miserable at work and 2. taking my cold in to work and spreading it to everyone else there.

9:03 AM

Blogger MommyWithAttitude said...

You know, if you keep a preschooler home every time they cough or have a runny nose, they will NEVER go anywhere. SEriously! That mother needs to get a grip.

10:17 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't get why 'anonymous' mother says, "I can NOT miss work" - why is she different than other people? Most people can "NOT" miss work...? You do what you have to do....

12:25 PM

Blogger Sara Bingham said...

I'm going to ditto the "doctor makes housecalls" comment! Cool!

Kids get runny noses and coughs and where do they get them? From school! Each preschool should have policies regarding keeping little ones home, e.g., vomiting, diarrhea (sp?). Also go with your gut, as always. Sometimes the best feeling is watching cartoons while snuggled up on the couch beside mommy - even if mommy is working on her laptop while snuggling! :) S.

7:16 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kids are ALWAYS getting sick. As a mother who has to work and can't afford a nanny, I am only allowed a couple of sick days a year. I wish I could keep my child home every time they get sick, but it just isn't possible to find someone to look after a sick child.

Be grateful for the fact you are able to set your own hours and have a nanny to look after your child when they are sick.

8:13 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just spent the afternoon in a music class waiting room, sitting next to a coughing, feverish mom who complained that she needed an Advil every 4 hours for her pounding headache. While, her daughter coughed every 3 minutes in the classroom with my son. For the love of god, pleeeeeeze keep your kids at home (and yourself) when you are sick. Health Canada has warned us, we all know it now, don't kid yourself.
PS Just call me ‘keeping my fingers crossed I don't catch your plague.’

3:20 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

While I am not in Canada, but in fact, sunny California, my son, whom I kept home on Wednesday for a runny nose and a cough (even took him to the doctor, as he had just gotten over pneumonia a week prior), went back to preschool today, on Friday. I told his teacher that I had kept him home on Wednesday bc of a runny nose/cough. She was praising me for keeping him home so that she did not get sick herself! When I went to pick him up three hours later, she yelled across the room at me, in front of everyone, that Dylan really had a bad cough. How embarrassing. He has not run a fever for 2 weeks, and recently finished a ten day dose of antibiotics. OF COURSE he has a cough! They linger up to three weeks sometimes. He has no other symptons, not even a runny nose. I hung my head in shame, but not before I helpfully told her that coughs do linger.....I am with you Dictator Mommy, mommies and teachers need to RELAX. and take things into consideration before judging. OBVIOUSLY, if your child has a fever, or is hacking and sneezing, and acts unwell, then home they stay~! we do have it tough as mommies, and a littel sisterhood and understanding goes a long, long way!

9:19 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said... it just me or do you all seem really upset by what other people think? My son has had a cough for a week, no other symptoms. On Tuesday the teacher asked that I keep him home because the cough was getting worse during the day and he wasn't himself. I just thanked her for watching after him took him to the doctor to rule out bronchitis and kept him home for 2 days. He did have a cough, and it was a little worse, but it really wasn't that bad. He has asthma and I believe it is mostly due to that, but if it was going to make his teacher feel better I will keep him home a couple of days. Do I think she over reacted...yes a little...would I send him to school if he were sick...absolutely not. But, I don't take her request personally nor do I think she believes im a bad mommy or anything. I am grateful she cares enough about our kids that she notices his health and the health of the other kids in class. I sent him back to school today and it is possible she will call this morning and send him home, because he is still coughing, but it will be ok if she does. I won't be offended or embarrassed. It's not a reflection of how good of a mommy I am. Because he has Asthma, I spend most of the Spring and winter wondering if he should got to school, and the truth is I am not there during the day, and the teacher is. So maybe she sees something I don't. Anyway, just some food for thought:)

8:40 AM


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