I see the number for the school displayed on my cell, and it immediately triggers a small spike of anxiety. Quickly I detach my feet from my spin bike and hurry from the class. Once outside the dark, loud room, I answer, and a familiar voice greets me.
“Hi. It’s Nurse Judy.” Of course. I knew it.
“Everything’s all right.” She continues. It’s part of school nurse etiquette to say everything is alright within the first five seconds.
I am both relieved and annoyed. It’s the third time this week that my middle son’s visits to the nurse have elicited a call home.
“I have your son here. He’s complaining of a headache.” The resignation in her voice is second only to my own.
Last week, it was a stomach ache. The week before that his elbow hurt, an old cut on his finger bothered him and his loose tooth was “so annoying”.
He’s always been somewhat sensory, and in kindergarten and first grades often spent lunches at the nurse. He didn’t like all the noise. The smells would make him nauseous. There were random daily visits as well, and I knew that his brain just needed a little break. So it was Nurse Judy or the bathroom. And although I don’t know how often he makes trips to the bathroom, I won’t be surprised the day Nurse Judy calls recommending a pediatric urologist.
By second grade, Nurse Judy and I were speaking far less often, and I had dreams of a well-adjusted child who might someday eat foods that were a color other than white. As it turns out, my enthusiasm was a bit premature. Now halfway through third grade, it seems we’ve taken some steps backwards and they’ve led right back to Nurse Judy’s office.
What to do, what to do with the boy who cries boo boo?
Sometimes, I worry that I’m quick to push aside his complaints, but then he comes home begging for a play date and asking for macaroni and cheese, and I think, “Aha!” I was right. Still, I’ve all too often watched a kid zoom around like a happy monkey all day only to spend the night with a high fever and vomit. With kids, it can be hard to tell.
Just last week, his frequent nurse visits and random nighttime complaints, often a subtle warning for the next day’s nurse’s call, finally wore away at my mommy worry and guilt, resulting in a day off from school and a visit to the pediatrician.
“What’s wrong?” The doctor asked.
Both my son and I looked at each other, my boy barely repressing his amused smile.
“Well, he has a headache.” I said, secretly trying to inflict some pain by shooting daggers at him.
“But not all the time.” My son interjected happily.
“And a stomachache.” I said.
“But much less now.” He chimed in again.
“He complained of a sore throat this morning.” I added, feeling stupid.
“Yeah, and sometimes my legs hurt, and my cut on my finger really kills!” He waved his finger dramatically.
Oh no. The doctor looked at us like Mrs. Munchausen and baby Hypochondriac. “I see.” He said, and I could see that he did.
After a strep test that I made my son get because he hates it but also because someone in his class had strep and I’ve seen it present as a stomachache, headache and sore throat came back negative, we skipped out of there and headed straight to Dunkin Donuts.
His smiling eyes twinkled as he chomped down on his rainbow tie-dyed donut, and I watched him with a mixture of adoration and pride. Yes, I had been conned. He wasn’t physically sick, but mental health is equally important.
Apparently, this was just the medicine my kid needed.