Max asks this frequently at bedtime, after I've tucked him in and started for the door. My kids have always become pensive, philosophical, and talkative in the minutes before going to sleep. It's mostly sincere, but also a delay tactic. I'm no dummy.
Last night we talked about the four presidents on Mount Rushmore, the Civil War, racism, and the system of checks and balances in our government. You know, regular nine-year-old stuff. Speaking of, try explaining racism to a kid sometime. It's embarrassing to explain such a concept to an innocent child. It makes no sense to kids because it makes no sense, period.
Mornings are the opposite of bedtime with Max. He is sluggish and slow. Nearly every morning for weeks, he has asked if there's a possibility of a snow delay. Or a chance he might be able to stay home. Please, oh please? I'm nice, but not sympathetic. When he says he doesn't want to go to school, I tell him that part of life is doing things we don't necessarily want to do but should. Welcome to growing up.
Monday, however, I had a change of heart. I spent a couple minutes prodding him out of bed, and then stopped. I told him that he gets one day a school year to stay home and he could choose today if he wanted. But (and it's a big but) that meant no more complaining on future mornings. He thought about it for a few minutes, considering the pros and cons, and finally decided that, yes, today he would cash in. I met him in the kitchen later when he began explaining that it was good that he stayed home because he had a bit of a stuffy nose and sore throat and maybe a cough too.
"No, no, no," I said, "we're not going to pretend that you're sick and need to stay home. Sometimes you just need a day off. We all do. It's called a Mental Health Day."
He was a little skeptical, but seemed to understand.
He spent his Mental Health Day eating crepes for breakfast, lounging around with the iPad, reading a little, lunching at McDonald's and learning how to play solitaire. Not too different from an adult day off, actually. Tuesday morning he got out of bed without question. Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday too. My plan worked.
Although, this week Max has referenced his Mental Health Day a few times, as in, "I wrote those valentines for you guys on my Mental Health Day." Or, "I think I watched that show on my Mental Health Day." Is he talking about Mental Health Day a lot? At school? With his friends?
Hey, did you hear about Max? He had a "Mental Health Day." I heard he was on the verge of a breakdown.
I hope this doesn't come back to bite me in the butt. Perhaps one of our bedtime chats will be about how people misunderstand mental health.