Young children have no warning system in place when it comes to getting sick. Adults can feel a cold coming on; the throat gets a tad bit sore, the body may ache slightly, or the sinuses may start to rev up a little. Adults have the knowledge and experience to know it may not be a good idea to get on a seesaw when their stomachs are gurgling in a most unnatural way. We can prepare ourselves, take the appropriate medication, or just crawl back in bed.
Little kids don't have that luxury. They are either sick or they're not. There is no middle ground. One minute they're running joyfully across the playground, and the next they're heaving pop tarts all over it. That's why it's understandable when parents drop their children off at school thinking it's going to be a perfectly lovely day of learning, and then less than three hours later find themselves sitting at a pediatrician's office with children who look like they've been to an all night frat party.
My mom was a teacher when I was growing up, which meant she was caught in a bit of a conundrum. She dodged germs of all sorts all day and cussed the parents that sent their kids to school with green, goopy noses, but she had to send me off to school some days when I probably would have been better off at home in bed. If I wasn't bleeding, crazy with fever, or hugging a toilet, I was going to school.
Because back when my mom was teaching it took an act of congress for a teacher to call in sick. Teachers had to find their own substitutes, which isn't the easiest thing to do before 7 o'clock in the morning. So my mom was one of the parents she cursed for sending in kids with runny noses and aching bellies.
While I may have contributed to the ills of much of my elementary school population, I did grow up a little tougher. I can work through most any head cold, and it takes a really nasty virus to keep me out of the office. My toughness should be an admirable quality, but when one of my sneezes wipes out an entire work force like it did my second grade class years ago, I probably should just stay home.
Lots of kids should just stay home. There are a few parents out there (myself included) who can see or sense the warning signs. We occasionally choose to ignore them in hopes of sneaking off to work or maybe getting a little free time. While the children are oblivious to the impending date with a box of tissues and big bottle of antibiotics, many parents can see the warning signs and simply choose to ignore them. They try not to notice the little sneeze here or the cough there. They dismiss the free flow of green stuff from little Timmy's nose to his upper lip...the stuff that's turning his shirtsleeve from soft cotton to crusty flypaper.
Overly optimistic parents will say stuff like this as they scrape the blubbering, snot-nosed little kids off their legs at the front doors of their classrooms. "Hey, it's pre-school! He'll only be here a couple of hours. He'll be fine! Besides, he really wanted to come this morning. He just loves it here."
Optimism is a fine quality, but in this case it will only get you the evil-eye from the teacher, even if that teacher's sick kid is in the classroom next door.