The Boss has taken to exploiting our sick leave policy. At first I didn't think anything of it; throat cultures at the doctor's office confirmed strep throat in two separate instances earlier this winter, so there was no question about the validity of her claims. Then I began getting phone calls from school with reports that The Boss was not acting like herself and was sporting a 99 degree temperature. I'd pick her up early only to see a radical transformation as soon as we got home.
It took me an entire season of cases, both confirmed and questionable, to start looking a little more deeply at the situation. It was just this week, after the assistant teacher at The Boss's school told me that my daughter had been complaining about an earache and an upset stomach, that I sat down for a talk with The Boss.
"So how exactly do you feel?" I asked.
"My stomach hurts," she said.
"What does it feel like?"
"Like hot, bubbly goo," she said. "Like my insides are burning my bones."
I sighed. Then I launched into the line of questioning that would either confirm or invalidate my hypothesis. "Did anything bad happen at school today?"
"Well, something might have happened."
"J. kept pushing me and he wouldn't stop when I asked him to."
More questioning of the "yes?" and "like?" kind drew out a clearer explanation of the event. After her schoolmate J. had repeatedly ignored The Boss's requests, she went to the teacher for help. In the Montessori manner of conflict resolution, the teacher facilitated another conversation between the two children. The Boss stated her case. Then, she told me, J. gave a perfunctory "sorry." What led to the stomachache, it seems, was J's lack of remorse. The Boss felt sad and maybe a bit afraid because she knew J didn't really care about her feelings.
The Boss is hysterically funny. She's smart. She knows her audience. But underneath it all, the sensitivity she's been hiding so well is beginning to seep out. Tears of a clown, they say. A clown with irritable bowels, anyway.
I'm sure it's all terribly predictable from a developmental standpoint, but watching The Boss--the unflappable Boss--operating from a place of sadness and fear is disconcerting to a parent experiencing this all for the first time.
It's also a reminder that I have to step up my game. As solid and as capable as my daughter is--and despite the fact that she sometimes seems more 25 than 5--the truth is that The Boss isn't going to raise herself. Left to her own devices, I fear for a future in which she becomes a stand-up comedian climbing the ladder to either SNL cast member status or that of a professional Friars' Club roaster. And we all know what happens after that.
At least now I have an inkling about what's going on. I don't claim any more insight than that, but it's something to work with. I can start trying to make sure that the Boss doesn't feel the need to waste sick days on growing pains.