It may not be a particularly popular idea, but we allow Little G one non-health-related “Personal Day” per quarter. Obviously, if her grades are hurting or if she has been ill a lot that quarter or that semester, this gets revisited, but we allow her to call “time out” one day per quarter and just – stay home.
She can’t do this if she has a concert that night, or if she is supposed to babysit that evening. If she is well enough, in any regard, to do those evening obligations, then she’s well enough to go to school.
But, otherwise, yes, she can stay home.
Why? Aren’t we trying to teach her responsibility? Don’t we think school is IMPORTANT? Aren’t we trying to help her mature and become familiar with the REAL WORLD? Doesn’t she get enough time off in the summer/winter/etc?
Well, yes. And we also know that sometimes as adults we can call time-out and request a personal day. We take vacations. We get weekends, usually. And we are responsible enough to know when we need to bring work home and when we need to work longer hours and when it is ok to let the office go on without us for a minute.
We want her to learn that same kind of mutual responsibility. Responsibility towards obligations like learning and school attendance and singing her heart out at concerts and caring for others (while making more money than I did doing the same). And responsibility towards herself.
Self-care is an important idea in our family, and with good reason. She is the only person who will know her limits, and she can and will stretch those. She is the only person who will ultimately know her needs, and will be able to seek out help when she has some. As her mother, it is my responsibility to help her identify those needs, and to address them as appropriate.
“These kids are already so lazy and entitled…and this is why!”
I have a friend who teaches at a high school, and she has said her administration lets the kids get away with so much disrespect it is sickening. Students have literally stolen from her and gotten in her face, with little to no consequence, and her hands are tied. These are not the kids I am talking about. These are schools and systems that have utterly lost their way and I don’t have answers for those situations.
The kids I am talking about are the ones who are expected, regardless of personal affinity, to join clubs and extra-curriculars, to do exceptionally well at (honors, preferably) classes, to have an idea what they should do in college and beyond, to pass exceedingly & increasingly difficult and vague exams, to work part-time, to learn how to drive, to keep their rooms clean, to be nice to people, to volunteer, and to still fit in with their peers. This does not include the outside pressure they feel to look or act a certain way. If they’d rather work with their hands or muck in the dirt, they are told they won’t succeed and better go to college. (Thankfully, this last part is changing, thanks in part to people like Mike Rowe and his efforts.)
This is at the same time that they are going through the biggest brain and body changes that they have ever gone through, with the possible exception of birth to age two. Think of your baby when they were first born. Then think about them a year or two later. Think of the vast changes that occur. Your teenager is going through the same kinds of brain changes now; they just are able to walk and talk and wipe their own rears. Some even do laundry.
I’m not saying that we expect too much of these amazing people. They are capable of so much. I just think we need to be realistic and supportive. And, for us, that looks like a Personal Day.