How’s Your Mental Health?



My seven year old took a mental health day today. It didn’t quite start that way. He has been sniffling all week, coughing a little, dark circles under his eyes, and then yesterday complaining of a pain in his mouth that turned out to be a canker sore and “voices in his head.” That last one gave me pause when he first mentioned it, but was able to help him better identify that his ears felt stuffed up and he was hearing an echo when he talked. Phew.

This morning something clicked for me as he complained again about his ears—not in any way vying for a day off—that he needed one. In addition to a minor and typical start-of-school illness, he has been emotional lately, out of sorts, having trouble adjusting to the routine of school and schedule. I have been alternating between frustration and to my credit, mostly compassion for my little boy who is now a bigger boy and frankly overwhelmed by what life is throwing at him.

As we discussed what would happen if he stayed home, not going to the evening movie event at the school, resting, drinking lots of liquids, it became clear to me just how much he needed a break. The change in his demeanor was jarring. His body relaxed, he smiled.

I called the doctor and got an appointment to have his ears checked and we walked over enjoying the sunshine and time together. As I’d expected, he’s fine and just has a cold. But, he got his flu mist for Fall while we were there, I got my flu shot, and we had a nice walk. By the time we were done, it was lunchtime so we walked to the nearby bagel shop. The weather was perfect, sun, a breeze, not too hot, Fall smells in the air. And, my son skipped along the sidewalk.

I don’t buy in to the notion that you have to be technically “sick” to need caring for. Think of the many ingrained phrases in our casual speech that imply a mental health day equals weakness. “Tough it out.” “Buck up.” “Suck it up.” “Be a man.” “Soldier on.” Soldier on?! He’s not a soldier, he’s seven! Yes, a soldier in the desert of Afghanistan, sadly, must soldier on. My son will miss a spelling test that he can take Monday. What he gained —and I for spending quality time with him and actually mothering (some) things better—was far more valuable.


  1. heartwriter says:

    Jenny, Beautiful. He needed the break from what you have shared has been going on at school and how wise of you to permit him to have it. Lovely tale!!!


  2. Hey, I read a lot of blogs on a daily basis and for the most part, people lack substance but, I just wanted to make a quick comment to say GREAT blog!…..I”ll be checking in on a regularly now….Keep up the good work! 🙂

    – Marc Shaw


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