Can We Talk?

Am I Being a Bad Mother By Making My Kids Go to School Every Day?

Link to video. [Watch first]

First, let me just say that I would never presume to know what is best for YOU or YOUR children. Everyone is different – every family has different needs. What works for me might not work for you and vice versa. So there is honestly no judgment from my end. I mean, sure, I have opinions and I may disagree with you, but ultimately, it doesn’t matter what I think, it’s YOUR life and YOUR decision.

With that said, I don’t necessarily agree with parents who take their kids out of school for family vacations or some other “fluffy” excuse – and by fluffy I mean “fun” activities of some sort (educational or not). Deaths in the family and other such emergencies are completely different and often times unavoidable.

I think parents who take a laissez faire attitude toward school attendance are honestly sending the wrong message. To me, and this is what I teach my sons, school is of the utmost importance right now – it’s their job. I fully expect them to give 110% to their studies and to do the best they can possibly do (and I’ve learned, in just the past several years, that that doesn’t necessarily mean straight “A’s”).

When my children are feeling under the weather, they go to school. The only way I will allow them to skip out of school is if they have a fever or are throwing their guts up. And I know that makes me sound mean, and I often times FEEL mean for enforcing that rule, but let’s be realistic here, life simply doesn’t stop because you have the sniffles. Life can’t be put on hold because you have a headache and I think it’s crucial that I teach my boys that there will be days you feel less than 100% and guess what, you still have to go to work. You still have obligations and duties that must be met and taken care of. I hope, by being strict about this rule that they condition themselves to trudge through those days and develop a strong work ethic.

This is important to me because I used to be a manager and I had to deal with the people who consistently called in “sick” (and they may well might have been, but I’m betting that they weren’t all the time) and who were unreliable. It was incredibly annoying and inconvenient, not to mention unfair to the people who pulled the extra weight. People who routinely take days off because they have a minor illness (like a headache or cramps) or who think they are somehow entitled to an extra day off for whatever reason, rarely succeed in life because they think that the world revolves around them and their needs.

Um, no.

HOWEVER, however … I agonize over this issue. I tear myself up whenever I make them go to school when I know they’re feeling bad. I hate myself for being so militant when it comes to their attendance. For some reason, I just go nuts at the thought of them missing school and if you want the God’s honest truth, I’m not quite sure why I’m like that.

Perhaps I’m afraid they will fall behind and give up as opposed to working that much harder to get caught back up. Perhaps I’m afraid they will break their momentum and never really find their stride again. They’re both really good students – I think I’m loathe to rock the boat. Everything is going so well at this point …

But being too militant is not a good idea, either. Since they are such great students, don’t they deserve a break once in a while?

I hadn’t really thought about the benefits of allowing the kids to stay home say, on their birthdays, or to take some time off for a family vacation, but after watching this video and reading some of the comments, I can see the attraction. We have certainly had some GREAT family vacations and I know that the boys will remember playing “Settlers of Catan” with me and Kevin because we have truly had some great laughs from that game.

So why wouldn’t I want to do something like that more often? Why am I so hard-nosed when it comes to them going to school?

Now granted, I’ve allowed them to take the rest of the day off after they got their braces put on – I’m not cruel.

But I am hard. And I’m strict. And though I think that’s a good thing, that it teaches them some valuable lessons, I also think I could relax my choke hold a bit and allow them to have fun once in a while.

I really like the idea of allowing the kids to take off on their birthdays. Jazz’s birthday always falls on spring break (except for last year for some reason), so he’s always off on his birthday.

But Dude nearly always has to go to school on his birthday and you know what? Why not allow the kid to take his birthday off this year? He’ll be 18, that’s definitely a reason to celebrate, right? I mean, what’s the big deal? It’s only one day.

BUT – if he misses his birthday, he’ll ruin his perfect attendance record. Yes, as of now, Dude has not missed one day of high school (any absences have always been excused). If he can continue this streak, he’ll be recognized at graduation and given an award.

And I’m insanely proud of that accomplishment – though I often wonder if I’m more proud of it for him or for me. I skipped a lot of school when I was a senior (no reason, other than I was being a brat), and I think that part of me wants to make up for that through Dude.

Yes. I realize that’s not fair to Dude.

But another big part of me is proud of that because I think it sends a message, overall. That I thought it was important enough to make sure my kid made it to school every day and by doing that, I’m teaching him so many important life lessons. Or am I more concerned at being seen as “superior” in front of other parents?

And I realize his perfect attendance is no guarantee that he’ll be this super employee – he might be really lousy as a rebellious way to get back at me; I hope not, but I know it could happen.

I don’t know. I guess I always looked at the weekends as the boys’ days off and why would they need a day off during the week? They had two days off to goof around and be lazy. I guess I’ve never seen the need to take a day off during the week. They’re at school for six hours, not ten. And let’s not forget all of these piddly government holidays and breaks. To me, it just didn’t make sense for them to take off additional days.

Am I missing something?

I honestly struggle with this issue. And it’s not JUST this issue, it’s the whole “am I being too strict” issue. I’m pretty hard on my boys, especially when it comes to education and I suppose that’s because I desperately want them to succeed in life. Even though I realize that having a good education is no guarantee that that will happen, I think it’s an important leg up, so to speak.

But when I read the comments on this video, I realized that making those memories, that learning outside the classroom, is equally, if not MORE, important.

I don’t know. Just when I’m feeling like I have this whole motherhood gig “balanced” and I’m doing an okay job, I see videos (and read comments) about issues like this, and I wonder just how “well” I’m doing, you know?

What do you think – is it okay to allow kids to miss school occasionally for vacations, field trips or mental health days?

3 thoughts on “Am I Being a Bad Mother By Making My Kids Go to School Every Day?”

  1. I agree with everything you said, Rachel, 100%.

    Funny you should say that, OregonSunshine, I was thinking that as soon as I typed it. It’s starting to feel funny making Dude’s decisions for him – he’s not a little kid anymore and as you pointed out, is about to become a “legal” adult.

    And though I agree with you, and I’ll let him make that decision for himself, I don’t want him to think that as soon as he’s “legal” he no longer has to go to school and/or listen to us. We’ve made it quite clear, crystal in fact, that as long as he lives under our roof, he’s obligated to abide by our rules. If he doesn’t like it, he can move his little butt out.

    Still though, it’s HARD for me to make that shift to that arena, you know? Letting go has been really hard for me, but I’m learning, little by little.

    But that’s another post. 🙂

    And here’s something else – what exactly is a mental health day, anyway? I mean, we all have tough days. Does it mean particularly tired one day? Stressed? What? And what exactly does that teach our children? To hide from the world when life starts to feel overwhelming? I really don’t know.

  2. Why not talk to Dude about how you are feeling about attendance, the pros and cons and let HIM decide? After all, he will technically be an adult, let him make that ONE adult decision. Perhaps the recognition is important to him. Perhaps not.

    I think it depends on the activity. I don’t allow “mental health days”. My mom didn’t either. But when my sister was showing horses on a National level, she got to miss school, take her work with her and still go show. HOWEVER, those activities led to her winning scholarships for college (and jackpot money for college as well). Did that mean my sister slacked off? No, in fact, she graduated several months early. Was my sister any worse for it? She’s a Mathematician now for the government, in a high paying position. So, you tell me!

    My mom made it very clear to us when we were little that school WAS our JOB. No ifs, ands or buts about it. We didnt’ take vacations that interfered with school. We didn’t miss random days “just because”. If we didn’t go to school on any particular day, it was for a good gosh darn reason, not because we were going to a day spa or shopping or to get our hair done or other nonsense.

  3. I say no. There are few, and I mean very few, instances when I would take my kids out of school to have a day off. The problem with doing that is it sets a precedent. You take them out once for a “fun” thing and they expect that you’ll do it again and again.

    It reminds me of a couple of years ago when I was trying to get opening day tickets for the Texas Rangers (baseball). I was online and all I had to do was click “send order” when I realized that the game was an afternoon game on a Friday. I wasn’t going to take my kids out of school for a baseball game, even if it was opening day. So I canceled the order. Later, I realized that the game was on Good Friday and the boys had school off anyway. Of course, the tickets were sold out by then.

    The thing is, if I had gotten the tickets and taken them out of school for it, they would have expected me to do it again. And if something else came up, they might expect me to take them out for that.

    Now, a vacation is another story. I would do what that one mom who went to England did – bring homework and work with the teacher so the child does not get behind. However, I would try to schedule a vacation during a time when there is no school. Some things are unavoidable, of course, but if it would be an unexcused absence, then there is no need to take the kids out of school for it.

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