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The Family Room by Michelle Martin

February 1, 2009

Sick days

We all know the feeling: that tickle in the throat that becomes a burning ache, the fuzziness in the hearing and the thinking, the desire to do nothing more than lie down and go to sleep — but when you lie down, you can’t go to sleep because you can’t breathe.

Welcome to the misery of the common cold.

Caroline’s been suffering with one for a week or so, starting with the sore throat and fatigue, on through the headaches and the earaches and the sniffly, runny nose. She’s been so tired that one night, she was in bed by 6 p.m., getting up only to eat an abbreviated dinner at 9 p.m. (she fell asleep before the rest of us ate) before going back to bed.

Through it all, she has missed one day of school (so far). That was back at the beginning, when her throat hurt and she just didn’t look like she had the energy to make it through the day.

She may have missed more school, but some of the worst days fell on the weekend. And really, while she hasn’t been exactly happy about going to school, she wasn’t really happy about staying home, either. With no cable TV, and parents who have work to do, entertainment possibilities are limited.

She hasn’t had a fever, and her doctor said her ears are not infected (at least not yet), although the congestion is making them pop and making them uncomfortable whenever she turns her head too quickly.

If she was younger, she might have stayed home for several days. But for her to do that now, in fifth grade, would mean missing a lot of work, work she would only have to make up when she went back. It would also mean her dad or I would have to take off work, or take work home, not so much to care for her, but to make sure she wasn’t left alone.

If she were seriously ill, of course, throwing up or with a raging fever or pink eye or a cough so persistent it would distract her classmates, arrangements would be made and we would get our work done.

I understand the argument that she could be getting the other students sick, but I can’t believe sending her to school with a cold makes that much of a difference; school is full of kids who have colds.

She’s not really that sick … just not really feeling well, either. She can make it to school, although we might be doing her a disservice by sending her; the quality of her work probably suffers. But would it be better if she missed her lessons entirely?

So we’re left with the decision to send her to school, knowing she can come home if she really can’t bear it. But as long as she can, she can offer it up.

Martin is assistant editor of the Catholic New World. Contact her at [email protected].