How To Tell If Your Kid Is Actually Sick

You know the scene, parents: you’re topping off your kid with pop-tarts and pancakes before pushing them out the door to school with (on a good day) combed hair. On the way to the bus he suddenly halts and says “I have to go to the bathroom real bad”, which will make him late… and possibly you, too.

Or maybe it starts even sooner in the morning. Wake up, wake up! Time for school, y’all! They let out an adolescent sound, a long “meh…”, followed by a descriptive symptom and furrowed brow. Sometimes it’s an entire list of symptoms — I have a sore throat AND my stomach hurts AND my left big toe is swollen. Just one symptom is barely enough to stay home. The know that a whole constellation of symptoms has the power to conquer even the strongest willed parent and guarantee a day off school.

That’s you — the strong willed parent — and you now face the impossible question:

Are they really sick?

In that moment, we make rather important decisions. Will we call their bluff? Are they bluffing? Will we send them to school sick? Are we being played? Are we the fools they treat us like? Perhaps.

Perhaps we are.

I’ve come up with a parenting guide to help you make the decision on whether or not your kid can stay home from school. Are they sick or “sick”?

  1. Take away their electronics (I learned this crafty move from Brittany). A sick kid is too sick to be on Insta all day. This can often be the dealbreaker and will save you lots of trouble. Watch out for the divine healing once they get their phone back.
  2. Offer to take them to the doctor. If they say no, CAUTION: it might be fear of shots and they might actually be sick. If they say “sure”, they might be calling your bluff. That’s when you say “if the doctor looks at me and asks why I’m wasting their time, I’ll ask you the same.”
  3. If they’re sitting in front of the toilet and moaning, and you have yet to make the decision, tell them they can go back to bed. If they assume you’re green-light their deception and spring right up like they’re at a Benny Hinn service, off to school they go.
ET always makes me slightly uncomfortable

I’ve been doing this long enough to know that kids can be very convincing. I remember putting the ol’ thermometer on the ol’ lightbulb as a kid, a move I got from the movie E.T. At least I think that’s where I saw it. Either way, it worked. I was a young fool but smart enough to shake it down from 108 degrees, lest we end up at the hospital. Today’s kids can’t do that because we’ve replaced our hot incandescent bulbs with cool LED’s, and we’ve finally realized we shouldn’t have breakable glass tubes of mercury in our cupboards. These days, we’re afraid of getting cancelled for sending our kid to school with a sniffle. The world sure has changed.

There’s one last test I like to try before giving in to their triage. It’s called the laugh test.

The laugh test is where you look your “sick” kid in the eyes and say “don’t laugh.” If they laugh, OFF TO SCHOOL. Of course, it could be because their delusional from fever. In that case, you will certainly be cancelled.

About radamdavidson

When I'm not blogging, I'm hanging out with my family, pastoring a church, or listening to vinyl. I think and write about Jesus, music, communication, organizational leadership, family whatnot, and cultural artifacts from the 1980's -- mostly vintage boomboxes. You can read my blog at, watch [RadCast], a daily 3 minute video devotional, or find me on socials (@radamdavidson). I also help Pastors in their preaching and public speaking (
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