Oh, Gracie. Gracie, Gracie, Gracie. As Grandma frequently told us when we were little: some days I just don’t know what to do with you. Thank god for loving undertones, because we heard that a lot.
So what has my parenting sensibilities all in a dither? My eldest girlchild has been playing us to get out of school. School that she loves. A classroom she loves. With a teacher she loves. It’s quite maddening.
Last week Gracie visited the nurse a few times in the middle of the day, complaining that her stomach really, really hurt. One of those days she even conned the nurse into calling. I was out at lunch and never heard my phone ringing in my purse. But no worries – her dad picked her up. Except that when I picked Gracie up from her father’s house later that afternoon, he commented that she was absolutely fine after an hour and hadn’t complained all afternoon.
That night Gracie complained after dinner and during the night and all the next morning that her stomach hurt. “Can I stay home with you?” she begged. Um, no. “Can you come get me if my stomach hurts?” Sure, I told her, but I was on my own at work, so she’d have to come with me and read her chapterbook all. day. long. I guess that didn’t sound like much fun because the stinker stayed at school all day.
A few days went by without any calls from the nurse. I figured out – or thought I had – what was causing the tummy aches: Gracie is a sniffler. Her allergies have been acting up big time and when a tissue isn’t handy, Gracie will just sniffles the drippies away. Except it’s never a graceful delicate little sniffle; we’re talking great big man-snorts. No wonder the crackhead’s stomach hurts – it’s full of all the congestion that used to be in her head. I started medicating the heck out her and withholding dairy products. I thought I had it beat. And then this week struck.
Gracie again ended up at the nurse’s office and again the nurse called when I was away from my cell phone for an hour. (Seriously?! I never get calls on my cell phone and the two times I do get calls this week I’m away from my phone. That does not look good to the Ex, I’m sure.) Again Gracie was picked up by her dad…only this time he made her stay in bed all afternoon and asked for extra homework from her teacher. I called the nurse and had a nice, long talk with her (including why she wasn’t calling my work number). I also emailed Gracie’s teacher and had a lovely conversation – and between the two of us, we discovered part of what’s going on.
Gracie has been getting into a tiny bit of trouble at school. Part of the reason, I’m sure, is because the poor kid really doesn’t feel good because of the head full of allergies. That would make anyone cranky. The cranky leads to poor choices and the Gracie-girl ends up in a wee spot of trouble. Nothing bad, nothing big, usually just a 5-minute time-out at recess. So, in order to circumvent her teacher’s rules for Frequent Complaints About Tummyaches (first get a drink of water, wait a few minutes; try the bathroom, wait a few minutes; have a cracker, wait a few minutes; then the nurse), and/or the time-out at recess, Gracie has figured out that she needs to complain about her tummy at lunch. Not the beginning of lunch – she waits until after she finishes her snacks and her sandwich. Then the lunch monitor, upon hearing how dreadfully much Gracieswears her stomach hurts, sends my little subverter straight to the nurse. It’s brilliant, really, when you consider it took an 8-year-old all of two weeks to find the weakest link.
Meanwhile, between the piles of extra homework, coming up with a plan of action (Gracie has such a weakness for coming up with A Plan), and taking away any and all privileges on days she comes home sick, I think the grown-ups have cracked our own code. Gracie hasn’t gone to the nurse even once since that latest escapade.
I’m sure the battle isn’t over – allergy season certainly isn’t – but with such a worthy opponent, it’s rather difficult not to anticipate the next move with equal parts Please-god-no and Go-ahead-make-my-day.