The question of “hooky days” came up in a Facebook group I belong to and I am here to say that I totally eat crow when I share that I now allow my kid mental health days. When I was a high school junior I played hooky and racked up several unexcused absences. I wasn’t a party type but sometimes I just had days when I couldn’t face going to school. At the time, I felt like I couldn’t talk to my mom about what was going on and hanging out somewhere where I was NOT doing geometry in Mr. Fish’s class seemed like a sweet deal.
When my sister and I were younger, my mom would surprise us with mental health days aka hooky days from school. Sometimes she would get us up as usual and we would prepare for the school day, grabbing all the gear that was needed. Or, she would let us sleep in and when we woke, she would rush us through our morning routine as we prepped for the school day. In both cases she would herd us into the car to get us to school, which should have clued us in as the school was literally around the corner from our house. But instead of stopping at the school, she would roll past the entrance telling us that the car wouldn’t stop. After my sister and I would stop screaming that we needed to go to school, we’d realize would have an adventure somewhere in the city.
As a mom, I wanted to have the same experience with my daughter, Madison. When Maddy was younger, it was tricky getting this right for her. The same “hooky days” I had as a kid were being provided, in a way, through the elementary school she attended. They were phenomenal about ensuring that she has such a rich day that I actually feel guilty about letting her stay home. The times I did let her stay home, she would miss out on some awesome thing and mommy guilt was envelop me like a physical presence.
But then she left her awesome elementary school and begin to attend a new middle school and, it was awful. A new school, a new environment. Simultaneously, I had a new situation at work which caused me all kinds of stress so there were days when we both needed to be off the grid and home. Some were legit sick days; her asthma or my migraines, but most were days when we just needed a break and we would head out for an adventure in the city or just slept in and lazed about the house. We made it through middle school and I made it through my days at work and we thought we were in the clear but then high school.
Sigh…High school, high school, high school. It sure ain’t the way it was implied in every Sweet Valley High type YA rom com book from my day or those teen movies where everybody is perfect and just looking for dates to the prom. Nope. High school is stressful as hell and I swear I worry more now about my kid now than I did when she was a toddler! Lord, the things they don’t tell you about being the mom of a teen* but I digress. The Bee is a junior now and the pressure is on. Some self inflicted; she’s made a conscious effort to work differently as a student this school year and while it’s paying off, she is stressed beyond belief. The household is stressed beyond belief and hooky days are looking good.
Earlier this year The Bee suffered a mild concussion and there were days when she just could not make it to school. She missed a good chunk of school and while I know junior year is THE YEAR, I truly feel there is no honor in going to work sick or ill. . I admit there was some initial doubt about the severity of her symptoms. When talking with The Dad, we would question whether the pressures of school influenced her symptoms. After talking with The Bee and her doctors, rest was the best solution and we are allowing for her recovery and slooowly our normal is being.
I feel good about the relationship that I have with my daughter. There were times in high that my mom felt so unapproachable. That same, “let’s play hooky” mom turned into a “suck it up” mom and she was not having or hearing any thing about days off from school. My daughter DOES talk to me about what’s going on and, while she’s a self-proclaimed drama queen, when she joins me on the couch to share what’s on her mind, I listen and know that I would rather allow a sanctioned day off instead of being notified that she has 17 unexcused absences. I have rules…of some sort. She can’t stay home if she were hanging out all night (she doesn’t) and no skipping school because of not being prepared for an assignment or exam, especially if she procrastinated and caused herself to be behind. In fact, not only would I insist that Maddy go to school, I would also drive her to the school and walk her into the building. But a day for head clearing and catching up…I’m all for it.
*Where is the “What to expect: The Teenage Years?” I wish I could get all of my money back from ALL of the baby books I used to buy and invest on a guide for teens!
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