Last weekend I scheduled a playdate for Sophia. Background: Sophia doesn’t get many playdates due to the sheer number and amount of things we have going on. She’s not an only child. We’re juggling work, kids activities, church functions, and very little free time, so generally a playdate is not on the priority list.

But she asked, and I made her a playdate, and the morning of, the other mom texted to say it was off. Her daughter wasn’t feeling well.

I expressed concern, and then the mom confessed: She’s not actually sick; she’s in that overtired/potentially getting sick zone, and this was the only thing they could throw overboard this weekend. I’m pretty sure she expected me to be annoyed by this, but I texted back, “You’re a good mom to make her rest.”

Of course, the mom is a pediatrician. So of all people, she knows.

Even so, this zone between “definitely has a fever/white spots on the throat/throwing up” and “definitely wants a gratuitous day off from school” is where it’s hard to make a decision to hunker down. You feel guilty letting your kid rest on the couch if there’s no official fever or strep throat diagnosis. Other people don’t understand what you’re doing. Your kid says she’s feeling terrible, but the moment plans are off, she springs up and plays with her siblings. You question yourself but consider the alternative. Someone makes a comment about how your kid wasn’t sick and you should have showed up for the Important Thing.

Sometimes I suspect that the people who judge you for keeping a not-quite-sick kid home are the same people who rush their kids back to school before they’re fully healed and send them when they’re borderline getting sick, exposing the rest of the class to germs. I get it. It’s the gray area, and if you work it’s a constant juggle and sometimes the decision is not clear.

(You only find out in retrospect, when the kid makes it through the day with no problems, in fact with absolute joy and happiness, or when the school nurse calls and informs you the fever has, in fact, set in. Or, worse, the puke.)

But sometimes these preventative hunkering-down sessions are the best kind, before it’s too late. And I’m glad when we have the freedom and flexibility to do it. Sometimes it’s not possible, but I’m always glad when it is.

Our friend Susie said something years ago that stuck with me. “When you see a kid acting out in the store, chances are good that the parents are depriving him of food, sleep, or both.”

It’s true. Kids have pretty basic needs at their core. They need lots and lots of sleep, good (and timely) food, and lots and lots of love and stability.

We’ve had a bunch of our own gray areas this month. It’s February. As Sophia expressed it a year or two ago:


The kids come in from school and two out of three flop down and practically cry and say “I have a sore throat!” and “I’m so tired!” and “My head hurts.” I shine a flashlight in and see redness, no telltale strep signs, but definitely something viral on the loose. I look at the calendar and the day, evening, and week is full of non-negotiable stuff. What to do?

Fortunately for us, Kate’s a fabulously responsible babysitter and we now have an additional person to help us juggle. When Jonathan came home from school feeling awful last Tuesday on the day of the funeral of one of our beloved church members, I would have been in a bind—and probably would have had to take him and keep him up late four days out of five that week—if it weren’t for Kate to step in and help. As it was, he struggled through Wednesday evening services and then Kate’s Pop’s Concert on Thursday.

Friday morning I got an email from his teacher. “Jonathan’s asleep,” she said. “Is everything ok?”

Well, hmm. My kid has been up late 2 nights in a row, and he’s already not feeling well, and even though I am vigilant about making sure they get tons of sleep, it didn’t happen this week, and now he’s asleep on the kindergarten table in the middle of math class. #embarrassing

I explained, and he told her the same thing when she woke him up for lunch. “A little power nap just did the trick,” she reassured me.

Today is more of the same. “I have a sore throat!” and “My tummy hurts!” Then I mention the Greenway (hello 60 degrees and sunny) and the skillet cookie sunday in the oven, a break from our Lenten fast, and the child is miraculously healed.