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I’ve read several articles lately from parents and others that ask people to not send kids to school when they have colds.

Sorry, even though I see your point, I can’t do that.

Even though I’m a stay-home mom and wouldn’t lose time off at work, or in my former job, interrupt clients who are coming to see me, I’m afraid I was raised under the philosophy “If you aren’t puking or running a temperature, you’re going to school.” (On a side note, that’s probably why girls dealing with menstrual cramps annoyed me so much; I still had to go to school.)

Back to illnesses. I’m not saying someone with a fever or who is puking should go to school. Influenza, bronchitis, strep, pink eye, chicken pox, etc.—yes, please, keep them home. I know it sucks. I’ve been there, covered in puke and snot and being coughed all over. It’s gross, and it’s a part of parenting I could do without.

However, there’s the “common cold”. I know this will sound defensive, and I probably am defending my actions. My kiddo will be attending school, snotty nose and all. Yes, it takes reminders, but I have taught him about Kleenexes and sanitizer. We wash hands. We cover our coughs.

Please, let me explain. I understand there are people out there with compromised immune systems. I also believe (note: my opinion) SOME (note: NOT all) have brought this on themselves, as they are germaphobic and never exposed themselves or their kids to germs. They obsessively clean house and disinfect and spray anti-bacterial stuff all over. They carry it on them. They haven’t built up any sort of defense against germs.

I also know there are people, especially kids, who end up in the emergency room because they are exposed to illnesses at school. I know they have to disinfect their homes and are physically unable to build up an immunity. I know there are parents who have to deal with lost time and lost income. I know there are some parents who fear for their child’s life.

I also know I cannot compare my hardships to yours, nor yours to mine. It’s easier said than done. Perspective has a funny way of showing up and slamming us with its realities.

I believe my children need to attend school and activities, even if they have colds. I don’t want to teach them it’s OK to stay home if they feel a little stuffy because that’s not how our society works. My bosses would not have been impressed if I stayed home every time I thought a cold was coming, or even when I could prove I was sneezing and coughing. Then there are those with allergies. How do you tell the difference? Winter, yes, unless it’s animal dander, there shouldn’t be a lot of allergies in the air and the excuse isn’t a good one. But the rest of the year?

I want my kids to use their manners, like covering a cough and washing hands afterwards. I want them to understand that they can overcome difficult, yucky things in order to accomplish tasks. I want them to know that a cold is miserable but they are capable of handling it (we’ve all heard of the infamous “man-cold”).

Another problem is the “common cold” can last anywhere from days to months. How can I justify keeping my child out of school for long amounts of time? Honestly, I can’t. For parents who work outside the home, there’s no justification for missing that much work. They’d be fired.

On a more extreme scale, I’ve seen some circumstances where the state wanted to step in and remove a child from his parents because the kid had missed too much school. Sometimes it was true—the parent couldn’t control the kid (usually a teen) and truancy was a problem. But I saw a few rare cases where the state wanted to intervene, even though there were doctor notes, testimonials, and the school was backing the parent. That’s a systemic problem but one with which parents are forced to consider.

Every time we walk out the door of our homes, we are taking a risk of being exposed to illnesses. We risk being in a car accident. Heck, even staying home has its risks. However, if we choose to live in fear, we choose not to LIVE.

Also, many illnesses are contagious the day BEFORE symptoms really arise. Then they stay contagious for a period of time after symptoms start (how long depends on the illness). I’m not a mind-reader, nor can I predict when my children will get ill. Children, and even many adults, don’t know how to read their bodies’ signs. I can’t even describe how many times my kids didn’t want to eat supper because they “just don’t want it” and how I made them eat most of it, then ended up wearing it a few hours later. Unfortunately, the odds are in favor of them just not wanting to eat, rather than being sick.

I do not want to make you feel like your child or an illness do not matter. We all have our perspectives. I’m lucky, and I know it, because my children are relatively healthy. While I’ve done a hospital stay for a week, I haven’t endured many ER trips, years of cancer treatments, or a close call with death. I know I only get to experience illnesses in a small dose, especially compared to some families. But this is my perspective; it’s what I know. Based on this, my child will attend school when he has a cold. I will promise this: if I sense it is more than a cold, I will keep him home. I won’t drug him up and send him to school, hoping no one notices. I promise.

For another view read:  Do You Send Your Child To School When He’s Sick? This Is For You.

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Jessica McCaslin

Jessica is a mom who is working outside the home part-time and who is learning to cope with the ever-changing daily challenges of full-time parenthood. She graduated with her Master's degree in community counseling from the University of Nebraska at Kearney in 2005, and works with a diverse mental health population. Jessica resides in Central Nebraska with her husband and four children on the family ranch.

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