Mommy Laugh Track: How to Spot a Fake

Estimated Reading Time 3 Minutes

Kathy Buckworth“Mom? My stomach hurts…”

Yep. Must be a school day. I believe there is a bylaw in the Children’s Charter that states they may in fact not utter these words on a weekend. I know this because (and don’t tell my kids), when I was a child I was sure that I could convince my Mom that I was sick by claiming tummy troubles and earn myself a day home from school. I would have visions of lying in bed all day, the 27-pound black and white “portable” TV propped up on a stool beside my bed, sipping soup and smirking at my siblings marching out into the cold Winnipeg air. But my mother could see right through my dramatic overacting and I think I only pulled off that trick once. Ah, the stomach ache. So hard to prove, yet such disastrous results if the wrong steps are taken.
Perhaps it was the Fake Sick Karma that came back to haunt me the day I hurried to drop off my then three-year-old daughter at her nursery school, hopped up with the anticipation of a much-needed hair appointment. As she whispered to me on the way in, “I don’t feel so good,” I pretended not to hear and happily sent her on her way…to projectile vomit all down the front of her favourite teacher’s brand new dress five minutes later. “I had no idea,” I said, avoiding eye contact with the splattered victim and surreptitiously putting my hand over my daughter’s mouth to stop her from revealing any prior knowledge. Whoops.

The thing is, how do you know if they’re faking? There are obvious clues:

  • As soon as the school bus can be heard leaving the stop, they sneak downstairs to play Wii tennis for an hour.
  • They only ever claim to be sick on the days they have French – go on, create a spreadsheet if you have to and do the math. The numbers will line up.
  • They’re seen sticking their tongue out at their siblings as they leave the house, while simultaneously doing what only can be described as a “Happy Dance”. (*Note: do not misinterpret what you think is a healthy kid doing a Happy Dance for a sick one trying to avoid bodily fluid expulsion.)
  • They tell you that only your care and compassion will see them through this difficult time.
  • The thermometer is reading 43°C, while you note that their bed is conveniently located next to a heating duct or still-smouldering Easy Bake Oven.

Making the call on whether to let them stay home can be a complex, guilt-inducing, second-guessing exercise, so I’ve put together a simple checklist to help you come to the right conclusion. The only way you know they’re really sick is if one of these other circumstances aligns, because, let’s face it, being a mom requires a course in Murphy’s Law:

  1. You have the biggest presentation/meeting/appearance of your career this morning. Your mother and mother-in-law are either out of town or in a very important bridge tournament, and your husband is at a “no electronics allowed” off-site meeting.
  2. You have a facial booked. First one since 1993.
  3. Your grey roots are now longer than the rest of your hair, and you are going to be photographed professionally, tomorrow. You got the last hair appointment. Today.
  4. Your three other children all have long overdue appointments at the dentist, doctor and allergist. They’re across town and you need to decide now whether to get into traffic or pay the cancellation fee.

Above all, don’t make the amateur mistake of thinking there’s something wrong when they say the word “Siiiiick”. They likely just want to hear the story about the barf-splattered teacher one more time.

Published in March 2011.

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