As I dashed down the stairs, shoving an earring into my ear and mentally going through the list I needed to go over with the babysitter, I saw my then 3-year-old son sitting quietly on the couch. Usually excited and hyper when his favorite babysitter was on the way, his subdued nature and flushed cheeks said something was wrong. As I looked more closely, I noticed his glassy eyes, his slumped little body, and his downturned lips. The babysitter knocked on the door, and as my husband went to answer it, I knew we weren’t going anywhere that night.
Kids ruin everything, dammit.
My husband paid the sitter anyway, and as I carried my feverish, sweaty boy up the stairs, my hopes for a grown-up night out went down the drain. I could still smell my perfume as I bathed him and put him to bed, and I didn’t bother to take my makeup off as I flopped on the couch, annoyed at being sidelined, in my sweatpants.
Kids have a sixth sense when it comes to ruining plans and an uncanny ability to know precisely when to start vomiting. You can no sooner be out the door, and your babysitter will call and announce that your kid started spewing pea-soup-colored vomit by the bucket load all over your couch.
And we’ve all been there. We’ve all seen the phone light up with our babysitter’s name or the number of the school nurse and debated for a split second whether or not to answer. Raise your hand if you’ve ever considered saying, “Whoops! I totally didn’t see your message until right now!” If you aren’t raising your hand, you are lying. And we all know it.
Here’s a list of actual statements I’ve said to our babysitters and school nurses. And because I’ve also worked as a school nurse, I know other parents are just as guilty of wanting to grocery shop in peace and quiet. Time and again, I’ve heard the same sentiments from other parents desperate for a few hours of alone time.
1. “But, is there actual vomit?” I’m sorry, but in the absence of measurable vomit, I’m not coming home.
2. “Shit. I should have given him more Tylenol before I sent him to school.” Note to self: Set Tylenol reminder in phone.
3. “Can’t you just give him an ice pack and send him back to class?” Ice packs fix everything. Everyone knows that.
4. “Just give him some water. He’ll be fine.” Seriously.
5. “Don’t you have any of that surgical glue? I mean, stitches are such a hassle.” No one has time to sit around an ER for four hours for a paper cut.
6. “Put her on the phone.” Shit is gonna get real.
7. “Are you bleeding out of your eyeballs?” If the answer is no, you are going back to class.
8. “Are you on fire? With actual flames?” Ditto, No. 7.
9. “Lunch is in an hour. She’s probably just hungry.” Crap. Her lunchbox is sitting on the counter.
10. “How deep is the cut, reeealllly?” Cut to the chase, school nurse lady.
11. “If I take him to the doctor real quick, can I bring him back to school?” I mean, that yoga class gets filled fast.
12. “Can he lie down for a little bit?” Everyone loves a nap, right?
13. “Hi, I just got him home and his fever is gone. Can he come back to school now?” I’ll have just enough time to make it through the grocery store.
14. “Oh, it’s not lice. It’s dandruff.” Otherwise, I’ll need to burn my house down.
15. “Okay, thanks. The tooth fairy will take care of that tonight. Send her back to class.” That’s what those cute tooth chests are for, duh.
16. “Well, how much pee actually got on his pants? I mean, are his socks wet?” If his socks are wet, I’ll bring new clothes. I’m not a total monster.
17. “Honey, do you mind if I still go out? He hasn’t vomited in like an hour. You’ve got this, right?” Translation: I feel like a caged animal, and I need to escape these four walls.
18. “He hasn’t thrown up since he got home. Can I bring him back?” Dammit, I just want to buy some toilet paper in peace and quiet.
19. “Just tell him to blow his nose really hard. His ears will unclog.” Just call me Mom MacGyver.
20. “No, his eyes were perfectly clear when he left for school this morning.” After I wiped out the gunk in the corners, duh.
21. “I’ll be over in 10 minutes with cough medicine.” He’s going to have that cough for days. No need to miss math class, people.
22. “Really, I think an ice pack will do the trick.” Just get the kid an ice pack, ALREADY.
23. “He’s fine. He just doesn’t like the substitute.” True story.
24. “Just slap a Band-Aid on her, and I’ll deal with it when she gets home, kthanksbye!” Band-Aids are a mom’s best friend.
25. “Do you mind calling his father?” Tag, you’re it, honey.
Yes, it may seem that I am callous and unfeeling when it comes to my kids getting sick, but that’s not entirely true. When my kids are legitimately sick, I am the first one to come to their rescue and will sit by their side when they have a fever and body aches.
But if one of my kids is calling me from the nurse’s office because his sock is hurty or because her throat is a little scratchy, this mom is going to keep it real, which means those kids are going to stay at school or that sitter isn’t going home quite yet.