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The boy who cried boo boo

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.

I'm sick.

I’m sick. Really.

About Ice Scream Mama

Mama to 3 boys, wife to Mr. Baseball and daughter of a sad man. I have a double scoop every day.

36 responses »

  1. I suffered from anxiety from a very young age that manifested in projectile vomiting all over my mother’s car, chronic stomach aches and headaches. Sometimes kids find it hard to verbalise a fear they don’t even know they have. Play therapy has really helped my son who has the same thing.

  2. I wish every day were a mental health day.

  3. Oh my gosh, my twin sister and I were EXACTLY this way. It got so bad that the nurse once told my mom after one too many “my stomach hurts” complaints, that maybe she wasn’t feeding us enough in the mornings and should pack a few saltines for us to munch on each day. I remember so clearly ho furious my mom was with us and eventually she told the nurse how it was, “Yeah, they aren’t hungry. They’re fakers”. Haha. I think we were just anxious kind of kids who needed a lot of extra attention. We also loved being with our mom and knowing that our complaints was bound to warrant a call home made us happy. I don’t know if I ever have truly outgrown it. To this day while I don’t like being sick, I do love that attention and babying that can sometimes come with it.

    • yup. that’s him. attention seeking – a bit dramatic – but really sweet and homey. A mental health day every now and then is okay with me. I do love babying my babies. 😉 hopefully the nurse stays tolerant, he’s only got two more years in that school. haha

  4. My daughter visited the nurse almost every day in Grade 2. She had stomach aches. I brought her to the doc who said that she was probably having real stomach upsets due to the acids that are stirred up when she is nervous. So, it was caused by emotional stuff, which triggered a physical upset. Yes, the nurse and I had our daily chats and she gave her a tums chewable tablet and the next year at school she never felt sick at all. I think that we all feel sick at times when we are nervous or stressed but kids can’t tell the difference between physical illness and stress related illness. Come to think of it, I can’t tell the difference most of the time either.

    • i know. it’s so hard to tell. but i know my kid’s brain does need a break every so often. it all gets too much for him. so i don’t mind the nurse excursions… as long as she doesn’t. and a mental health day every so often…? well, we all need one of those, right?

  5. Oh this sounds hard. I mean how do you know with kids? It feels bad to dismiss them and bad to indulge them. You’re doing your best and that’s the best we can all do.

    • I know! It really is tough. You don’t want to overlook something and kids have a way of ignoring things themselves sometimes that are bothering them.. but we do the best we can. i know my boy sometimes needs a break but that he’s quite dramatic and attention seeking. tough.

  6. Everyone could use a good mental health day every now and then…But I always wonder about that with kids. How do you know if they are really sick, or just in need of a few hours off?

  7. I used to pretend sick in Elementary school during lunch and recess. For me, it was more emotional. I had no friends and was often picked on, so the nurse’s office was a safe place. Is there any chance there is someone who is making the day hard for your sweet son and he is seeking refuge? Kids can be so, so cruel…

    • so true. i’ve gone down that train of thought as well but it really seems that he just needs a little break. i hate that thought. kids can be really cruel and if you’re sensitive… it’s just so much harder. i’m always on the lookout. thanks.

  8. I could have written this post. my son actually was diagnosed with sensory-processing disorder at the age of 4 (I didn’t even know such a thing existed) He had a very hard time with loud noises, textures, etc. It affected his behavior a lot in school,but he has grown out of it almost completely (he’s 11 now) I do think everyone deserves a mental break AND a donut once in awhile. it’s good for the soul. 🙂

  9. These will be the moments you’ll laugh at later.

  10. It is always so hard to figure out what is going on. I have assumed one thing only to have a kid spike a crazy fever, or have strep throat, or a bladder infection, and then gone the other way and gone to the doctor and it’s not been anything. I think at the age it can be so hard to really put it into words, heck it can be hard to put it into words in our forties!! Lol!

    Can I say, he is gorgeous. I would have a very hard time saying no to that face!!

  11. You’re a good mom ice scream mama! He’ll always know and remember that:)

  12. I had a few of those “everything’s ok” calls last year with my oldest. Same thing . . . around lunch time, it seemed he would come down with a mystery ailment, but be just fine later for PE. It only happened a few times, but I was starting to get used to hearing from our very own Nurse Judy. Sometimes, I guess they just need a rainbow donut.

  13. You’re right. Balance is key. It’s hard to know these things. If you think it’s worry/anxiety, have you ever tried a book to help him deal with it? We’ve had to use one in our family and it’s helped some. Also the guidance counselor was a help. But it sounds like doughnuts do the trick too. 😉

  14. He sounds so much like my 3rd grade boy! Frankie’s a very sensitive kid and has had stomach aches and/or headaches on average of 2 days a week this year. I can’t tell you how many bandages I’ve gone through for mysterious/invisible boo-boos. Luckily, he’s got a great teacher so I was able to talk to her about it so she “triages” for me before sending him to the office. He also refuses to eat most foods (has about 10 items on his “approved foods” list, literally). Oh, and he loves donuts 😉

  15. That was me a looong time ago! I’d feign headache, toothache, and all the aches in the world. You wanna know why? I just wanted to be with my mom. She traveled a lot and I wanted to be home when she was. 😉

  16. It is a Third Grade conspiracy! Must Nurse Judy call every time though?

    PS – Last week she called me one day before school even started and told me my son threw up on the sidewalk on the way in to the school. I actually asked her, “Are you sure?” Duh.

  17. This was a lovelly blog post


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