Helping my son play truant

What Mel Did - Hart Fargo in goggles and muddy pool
Image credit: Melinda Fargo

In the beginning it was my husband who did most of the caregiving of the children — school runs, sports days, nativity plays — as I took my turn climbing the corporate ladder. An epiphany made me see that when the children are grown, no amount of wishing I had spent more time with them when they were little would make it so. That time was running out to give them extraordinary memories.

My 18-year old reminded me this week of the time I called his tutor one afternoon to say I was taking him out of school for, well, no reason. We were going to (looks around furtively) bunk off. For those not familiar with the term, it means when school children leave the school gates, typically without permission, to find mischief away from their educational establishment. I think Americans call it ‘playing hooky.’

Maybe my honesty helped jailbreak my son that day, but I think his tutor was also a closet-mischief maker as he colluded in the intrigue and gave permission for him to vamoose and miss that afternoon’s rugby. My son’s excitement at the illicitness of what we were doing was tangible and giggle-making, and I have the fondest memories of our time together that summer’s day.

This may seem surprising behaviour from an old-school parent, whose children had to actually be in the pine box before I would let them stay home from school sick. It, however, also speaks to my parenting style of keeping the little critters guessing. Like when they’d expect a rollocking for some infringement, and I would be easy going and not even raise my voice. It also speaks to the surprising kindnesses or unexpected behaviour of adults when I was younger, which I now have as cherished memories some 40 years later. Breaking the rules, if you will, to shape special or teaching moments in childhood.

In any case, I liberated my son that day to give him a memory for when he is grown and mum can’t come and bust him out of his place of work. A memory he might even tell his own children if he has them.

I know it is a tired and tiresome sentiment to hear when you are the parents of young children that they grow up fast, but it is no less true for being a hackneyed phrase.

In the beginning it was my husband who did most of the caregiving of the children — school runs, sports days, nativity plays — as I took my turn climbing the corporate ladder. An epiphany made me see that when the children are grown, no amount of wishing I had spent more time with them when they were little would make it so. No amount of telling them how much I had wanted to be with them would turn back time and make it so. I therefore dialled back on the corporate climbing for a while and started to take the children to school and learn their teachers’ names.

And, no, I did not make a habit of taking the children out of school for no reason. But I was reminded this week by my strapping 18-year old son of the day we played hooky, and the joy in his young adult voice made me glad.

4 Comments

  • I love love love this. This is the memories your children will remember as they get older. I too work & it’s about finding a balance between work & making memories. This is perfect x

  • My parents were old-school in the way you describe about not missing school. As a result I spent many days pretending to be ill when what I really needed was a mental health day. I’m much more lenient and I will let my daughter miss a day if she really doesn’t want to go and I feel she needs a day at home. So now you’ve got me wondering what I could do that she’ll remember forever as missing school isn’t it for us.

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