The Cost of School Attendance

Riley is missing school today. This is particularly notable because this is only his 2nd absence in 3 years of school. The first absence occurred on his first full-day of kindergarten. Kim and I were enjoying a relaxing anniversary cruise and my mom was watching the boys. She drove from Roosevelt to SLC after the weekend and arrived in SLC late so decided to keep him home rather than send him to school tardy. It was an issue for Kim at the time. I just laughed. Beggars (moms who want to go on cruises) can’t be choosers (“make sure he goes to school.”) Kim couldn’t comprehend how a person could allow a child to stay home from school unless there was a family emergency, a sickness, or another major event. Kim views education differently from my me. Growing up, I just had to tell Mom that I was falling behind on school and needing a day to catch up on homework and she’d call the school with an all-purpose, “she’s needed at home” excuse. The good part of that philosophy is that I never had to learn to lie, pretend illness, or fabricate family emergencies. The bad part of that philosophy is that I never received the coveted attendance award.

Riley was awarded “outstanding” attendance in kindergarten – the absence the first week of school marred his record from the get-go. He won “perfect” attendance in first grade since there was no anniversary cruise to contend with. So far this year he was on track for the “perfect” award again. Which was why at 2 PM yesterday when I was stuck in Roosevelt with an unexpected snowstorm continuing to dump on us, I struggled with the decision about whether to drive home or not. I called the statewide number for road conditions. The two major mountain passes I would have to get over were described as “Currently precipitating. Snow packed. Slippery. Icy. Chains or 4 wheel drive recommended.”

In preparation for the drive, my sister and I went into town to buy snacks and water. The grocery story shelves were sparse. The meat aisle was empty. The supply truck couldn’t make to Roosevelt. I should have taken that as a sign from the Universe that I was meant to spend an extra day in Roosevelt.

But Riley was worried about missing school. Casey missed Mamma Kim. And I figured my sister needed a break from me and the boys. In a single weekend, Casey drew on her wood floor with a marker (not permanent), the boys managed to overheat the motor to the jets in her bath tub, Casey took a tumble down her entire flight of stairs, Casey played an annoying singing penguin carousel game constantly until Uncle Q. took a screwdriver and wire cutters, tore into the thing, and cut the wire to the speaker. Riley lost a board game and had a come apart because Linda wouldn’t keep on playing to see who would get second place. Linda’s lecture to him: “Riley there is only 1 winner and the rest of us are losers. You are one of the losers” wasn’t helpful. I, of course, was the winner.

Linda isn’t used to children my boys’ age. And to be honest, my boys are higher maintenance than most. I’ve outworn my welcome there so many times. But she has a wood-burning stove and keeps the house at 80 degrees. She drinks coffee with me in our pajamas and we put real Irish Crème in it. Sitting with Linda by the fire giving each other pedicures is like intravenous Prozac that gets me through the winter.
So when the snow let up about 2:30 PM, I loaded the boys up in the car with our water, snacks, extra blankets and cell phone. We were going to give it a try.

We were fine until the mountain pass we call Strawberry. The wind was howling and blowing the new snow in drifts across the road. At first Riley was mesmerized by the “dry ice” effect and he pretended we were driving through a witch’s potion. “The wicked witch is trying to cook us to eat us, but we have to keep driving out of the cauldron.” But then he noticed a couple of cars that had slid off the road. He noticed that every car that passed us coming the other way was a giant pick-up truck and he got scared when the gusts of wind engulfed us in white out conditions. He started counting the seconds that we couldn’t see the road and his anxiety was only worsened by the “f” word the driver kept muttering. (Me? Would I do that?) We took our position in a line of almost a dozen cars and we followed in each others tracks. The snowplows were out but they couldn’t keep up.

It was the worst driving conditions I had ever driven in. But we went slow and took our time. Casey slept. Riley stressed. I cursed. And we arrived home safely about 7:30 PM. The typical two hour and fifteen minute drive took us over four hours.
Riley and I were both too stressed out to eat dinner.  I took a bath and Riley watched Pippi Longstocking to settle down.

Riley woke up this morning and puked.  Then he started crying because if he goes to school he might make his friends sick.  And if he stays home then he won’t get “perfect” attendance.  I really despise that award.  Despise it!  I said, “Look dude.  You’re puking.  Maybe you’ll have to settle for “outstanding” attendance this year. You’re not going to school.”  How many parents have to beg their sick child to stay home?

So Riley is home sick today.  Maybe he actually has a bug, but I can’t help but wonder if he’s home because of the stress of the drive.  Next time we’re staying in Roosevelt.


4 Responses to “The Cost of School Attendance”

  1. Carrie Says:

    Hate to say I told you so but….
    Also, my youngest cries when she has to stay home from school so I understand the drama.

  2. Doug Says:

    i still have nightmares wake up crying befour i remember im not in school any more thank god

  3. Carrie Says:

    p.s. REALLY glad you made it home safe.

  4. The other sister Says:

    I love you and the boys. I love the chaos. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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