As a parent of two children, I’ve written my share of school excuses for illnesses, doctor and orthodontist appointments and tardiness.
With my son, I stuck to a simple script: Dylan was absent on (insert date here) because he was sick.
I remained vague on purpose because my mother was not when I was growing up. She was specific. Too specific. Cringe-worthy specific.
The morning I tossed my absence excuse — written in my mom’s elegant handwriting that chronicled my unfortunate bout with diarrhea the day before — on my 11th-grade homeroom teacher’s desk, I secretly vowed I would never do that if I had kids. Horrified at my mother’s overshare, I begged her to rewrite it.
“Well, I have to explain why you weren’t at school,” she would say.
It was doubly embarrassing because my homeroom teacher also served as my cheerleading coach, and, quite frankly, I didn’t think my digestive distress deemed worthy to be on her Need-To-Know List. (If I threw away the excuse or conveniently had “forgotten” it, I would have been ineligible to cheer at the next game. If I missed a game, I’d get three demerits, which probably would have triggered additional digestive distress, leading to more notes from Mom. It was a vicious cycle.)
Excuses from my friends’ parents were succinct: She was ill.
“Ill with what?” my mom would counter when challenged. “That doesn’t tell the school anything. They need to know why you were absent.”
Unless I had the bubonic plague and it was imperative to know from a public health and safety standpoint, I didn’t want my business out there. Ever since the Diarrhea Debacle of 1983, I just knew I was the topic of discussion in the teachers’ lounge for years to come.
However, the I’m-not-going-to-do-that-to-my-child promises you made as a teen have a way of coming back to haunt you as an adult. Fast forward 30-plus years and I found myself in a bit of a pickle.
My 16-year-old daughter definitely is not a morning person. Short of using blasting powder to get her out of bed and off to school, my husband and I are tasked with this relentless chore Monday through Friday. To her credit, she does not like to miss school, but she also thinks time stands still until she’s ready to roll out of the rack.
This past week was particularly challenging: Predawn obligations resulted in early departures for the men of the house, leaving me with a sleepy and crabby daughter. But I had my own early morning commitment to tend to, so after making sure she was indeed up and moving, albeit slowly, I returned to my bedroom to finish getting ready.
It’s a rookie mistake, one I shouldn’t have made as a veteran mom. It was too quiet. You know the adage: Silence is golden — unless you have kids — then it’s just suspicious.
Sure enough, she was nestled back in her bed and asleep. Startling her to attention, I yelled at her until she scrambled to get ready for school. During the car ride there, she pressed me to “hurry up, go faster; I’m going to be late.”
That night I asked her if she was tardy. “Yeah, I guess so,” she said, dismissing the question as she scrolled through Instagram, sending virtual social approvals with little red hearts by tap-tap tapping her thumb through the photos. “I need an excuse for tomorrow. You’ll have to make something up.”
I quietly seethed. I will do no such thing.
Instead, I woke at 3 a.m., thanks to an internal alarm clock powered by Restless Legs Syndrome, a complete rotator cuff tear and stress. Then I remembered the excuse needed to be written. Still a bit groggy, I grabbed a pen and paper and wrote:
To Whom It May Concern,
Hayley Micco was tardy Wednesday, May 9, 2018, because she ignored her mother’s repeated attempts to wake her and her alarm clock. Then she was shocked that her mother’s car did not come equipped with “warp speed” like the Starship Enterprise.
Not my best work grammatically, but I wasn’t going to lie. I left it on the kitchen table next to her book bag. I thought of my mom, took a picture of the excuse and posted it to Facebook. If anything, my teacher friends would appreciate it.
Later, I was told my school note went viral. Unbeknownst to me, my son saw it, also took a picture of it and posted it to another social media site, where it got more than 11,400 upvotes (whatever that means).
The comments ran the gamut from amusement to astonishment; some shared their own school stories while others marveled on my bizarre half-print/half-cursive writing. (Yes, I do that.)
Then, I panicked. Did I just pull a Mom and post an overshare for thousands to see and judge? Luckily, my daughter thought it was great that my note gave her near-celebrity status.
But still. I grabbed a pen and my mother came out.
So, on this special observance, I’m giving my mom a mulligan for all of those overly detailed, yet medically accurate, notes for my absences. I know I’m going to need them someday from my kids.
Happy Mother’s Day to all.
Lisa Micco is the executive editor at The Times. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org.