A phone call from the school at 11 AM always raises alarms for a mother, and I am no exception. I am one of those scraping-you-off-the-sidewalk kind of moms, no thanks in part to a very vivid imagination.
So when the phone rang this morning, my first fear was that my twelve-year-old was in the throes of a terrible asthma attack and had left his inhaler at home. I pictured him blue and gasping for breath, and I mentally started berating myself for not making sure his inhaler was in his back pack before he left for school. What kind of mother was I, anyway, that haranguing him about talking to his math teacher was more important than making sure he was prepared for every medical emergency?
All of this happened in the few seconds before I answered the call. It’s amazing how fast tragedies unfold in our mind within the vacuum of any actual facts or details. Instead of a panicked nurse on the other end of the line, I heard my son’s voice.
“Are you ok?” I asked, relieved that at least he could still speak.
“Uh, yeah. I’m in the nurses’ office, though.”
“Yes, I could tell that by my caller ID,” I tell him. “What’s wrong?”
“I have a stomach ache,” he says. And then he continues, “although I’m not sure what’s causing it. That’s why I called you. I’m thinking it could be a virus, and that would mean I was exposing other kids to it where they would get sick. On the other hand, it could be from anxiety or stress. And it might be from boredom since all we’re doing in science is grading papers.”
I didn’t say anything for a moment, still recovering from panicked-tragedy mode. Finally I managed an “OK?” followed by a pause.
“I was hoping you could help me sort out what might be causing it, because if it is just boredom or stress, I need to deal with it and stay in class,” he explained.
And so I helped him sort it out with a few questions:
Was he running a fever? No.
Was he feeling like he might throw up? No.
Was his chest tight? No.
Did it feel hard to breathe? No.
And after the series of questions, he came to his own conclusion. “You know, I think it is likely boredom. I didn’t know for sure, but I think that’s it. I’ll go back to class now.”
The line went dead, and I stood there holding the phone. I wondered what the nurse thought about it all.
Then again, I’m not even sure yet what I think about it all.