Pulling a sickie

Kids at British Museum

The girls on an official day off school

I’ve never been much of a rebel. The most anti-establishment I ever got was blasting Nirvana in my car, buying Doc Martens and once dyeing my hair a deep shade of purple. It therefore follows that I tend to break out in a cold sweat at the thought of doing something I know I shouldn’t. This includes pulling sickies at work.

I’ve done it. Haven’t we all? I have faked the croaky voice and sniffles; I’ve probably called in with a mysterious stomach ailment – but this is something I’ve not actually done in a long while. I always fear getting caught. I spend the entire day I’ve called in sick gripped with guilt, which kind of defeats the purpose of enjoying a rare day off.

That’s the kind of person I am. I guess some people would call it responsible, others might say it’s boring. But turning 40 makes me wonder if I’m just too old to go through the whole painful charade of sickies.

The answer is no and it surprises me that it’s because of the kids. For about a month I knew that we were visiting a friend in Manchester over the weekend. The train fare is extortionate on a Friday evening – about double the price – so I thought very simply that I would pull the kids out of school a couple of hours early. No big deal, right?

But as the Friday approached, I started to panic. What if the school asks questions about why I need to take the kids out? I hear from someone that the school has the right to fine you.

I wonder what excuse sounds plausible, especially for a Friday afternoon. Should I say we are going to a funeral and risk their pitying looks? Might a well-meaning teacher ask the kids how they are coping with death? Do I tell them that I have a hospital appointment, an excuse on a par with ‘my dog ate my homework’? I fret about it.

On Thursday night I decide that I will just keep the kids home all day and avoid the lying in person, which I’ve never been able to pull off convincingly. I take the coward’s way out and get the English Husband – who had a misspent youth – to call the school on Friday morning. He leaves a vague message on an answering machine about discovering lice in both kids’ hair. It’s possible. Hell, it’s happened before.

This brings up all sorts of moral conundrums, of course. The kids are liars by association. I’ve made them unwitting accomplices in my web of deceit.    

I feel like a teenager all over again and part of me wonders if I might end up being dragged into the principal’s office for a chat. Ironically, I was a model student when I was a child and never did anything that would have landed me there. This good behavior hasn’t translated into adulthood.

On Monday morning when I drop off the Raging Bull at school, her teaching assistant gives her a hug and says, ‘Where were you on Friday? We missed you.’

I dash to the door. Shame is prickling my skin and I don’t hear the Raging Bull’s response. It’s a good thing that most of the words coming out of my four-year-old’s mouth are lies anyway. If she happens to tell the truth about ‘Mommy the liar’, not many people are likely to believe her.

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Filed under British life, motherhood

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