Friday, October 19, 2012

The Absence

A few weeks ago we kept Kaede off school because she had been up all night coughing and looked generally unwell.  We still had to take Nate to school, so as she walked past Kaede’s classroom The Mrs spoke to her teacher, told her the situation and that was that.  Or so we thought.

A week later we received a letter from her school, Our Lady of Perpetual Motion, which said the following:

“We do not appear to have received a letter concerning Kaede’s absence on the Wed 3/10/12.  WE would be grateful if you could complete the tear-off slip below, stating the reason for absence, and return it to school as soon as possible.  If no absence slip is received by the school then, unfortunately, the absence will be registered as unauthorised.”

Well they wanted a letter and a letter they got:
Further to your letter dated 10 October 2012 querying Kaede’s absence from school on 3 October 2012 and further absence of a letter explaining said absence.
On the day in question my Wife made the heinous error of actually informing Miss ****** in a verbal face to face type fashion that Kaede would indeed be absent on that day and the reasons for that absence.  Unfortunately I was not at the morning drop-off as I had stayed behind to look after Kaede.  If I had of been present I would have patiently explained to my wife that she should have stood outside the school office and rung the school phone number to report Kaede’s absence.  Of course, it now seems that that also would have been erroneous as a letter is now required for a single days absence.
Firstly I apologise for the lack of a hand written letter but unfortunately my calligraphy skills leave a lot to be desired.  In fact they have oft been likened to the trail a diarrheatic spider leaves as he crawls towards a toilet.
The reasons for Kaede’s absence from school on 3 October 2012 can be simply explained but I feel that, due to my previously mentioned administrative error, you deserve a full explanation for said absence.  I hope the following will be indeed that.
Kaede was born on 23 February 2005, it was rather a cold and wet day, and in fact at one point we actually had snow.  This prompted, a rather rash one as it turned out, a suggestion by myself that we should give her the middle name of Yukionna – which means ‘snow fairy’ in Japanese.  Despite the copious amounts of gas and air, pethidine and adrenaline running through my Wife’s system, she still had the good sense to verbally slap me down for the idiot I was obviously being.  To this day Kaede remains middle name free.
Five days later we brought Kaede home for the first time, it was a joyous day for all of us.  Well I say all of us, Kaede cried a lot and when she did smile I actually think it was wind, although I didn’t tell her mother that, sometimes it’s best not to shatter illusions too early.
The first six months were hectic, of course they were, but we struggled on through with the dangled promise of a night of uninterrupted sleep on the horizon – that day never came.  From aged six months Kaede would cough throughout the night, waking first herself and then us up.  As is the want of anxious parents, we took Kaede to our local GP and we were prescribed the first of many liquid paracetamol prescriptions.  After a further six months I was actually convinced that she drank more paracetamol than milk, although I’m sure that’s an exaggeration on my part.
From aged 12 to 24 months we saw a plethora of Doctors (I once read that the collective for a bunch of Doctors was a Quack of Doctors but I remain unconvinced as to the veracity of that), all of whom had a different explanation as to her ill-health.  Six different explanations with only one thing in common – the problem was not of their speciality.  Kaede became the equivalent of a human pass-the-parcel with your reward being a hacking two year old.
It was at aged two that fate and the NHS finally shone on us.  Upon witnessing my Wife’s near-on physical breakdown in the surgery reception, a kindly old Doctor finally recommended a specialist in chest and lungs and arranged an appointment.  We attended this appointment with not much hope in our hearts, after all we had had the health carrot dangled in front of us before.  Like doubting-Thomas’s we trudged into the room only to find the light at the end of the tunnel.  Kaede had a form of acid reflux that began with G and had too many vowels in it.  The acid had been creeping up from her stomach as she slept and like an unwelcome traveller in a disused car park, started to camp out in Kaede’s lungs.  With the help of one pill, taken thrice daily for two weeks, she was all but cured.  She had to remain on antibiotics for a solid two years, but eventually all was good and she started to sleep through the night.
All this leads to the night of 2 October 2012, an evening that started as normal but soon went to hell in a hand-cart.  At approximately 20.17 I heard a slight cough emanating from Kaede’s bedroom.  It was only a slight cough and your average parent probably would not have heard it.  We are not average parents however and despite the slightly high volume of the TV (we were watching Boardwalk Empire and it can be a little loud in places) we sat up like a pair of hyperactive meerkats.  I placed my hand on my Wife’s arm to calm her, reduced the volume on the TV and cocked an ear towards the front room door.
There it was again, definitely a cough and definitely Kaede.
I trudged up the stairs with some reluctance it must be said, fearing the worst but trying to remain optimistic, it may have been a dust-bunny or something.  I sat outside Kaede’s door playing Angry Birds on my iPhone to pass the time (with the volume off of course) and waited to see how bad it would get.  The cough persisted and started to get louder and chestier.  I started to fear that her old illness was back, although the chances were that  it was because she had been running around the garden without a coat on despite being told to put one on four times.
We administered the standard duo of cough mixture and paracetamol suspension and crossed our fingers.  By 22.00 the coughing still hadn’t stopped, it wasn’t at an alarming level but just enough to keep her awake.  She slept with my wife in the family bed that night, with myself decamping to the sofa bed we have downstairs (a sofa bed that was bought with exactly these situations in mind).
Both my Wife and Kaede had a sleepless night that night (which may explain my Wife’s mistake in actually telling the teacher face to face what the problem was with Kaede) and we decided that Kaede should stay at home that day and try to catch up on some sleep.  Her cough seemed to have improved and we felt that a day of rest and maybe some educational television, such as the Discovery or History Channel, would do her the world of good.  This was indeed the case and she steadily improved throughout the day.
My Wife and I had a rather frank discussion that night and we decided that unless we had a repeat of the previous night, Kaede could return to school the following day.  A quick perusal of your attendance records will show you that Kaede did, in fact, attend school the next day as we did not have a repeat performance of the previous nights coughing.
I hope this letter is sufficient for your records, in fact it may be a good idea to carefully glue it to the front of her file, thereby saving me the trouble of explaining what we call ‘The Sleepless Coughing Years’ again.  If you have any further questions or if there is anything else you need explained regarding this unfortunate situation, please, please, do not hesitate to write to me and ask.  I have also decided to carry a pad of Post-it notes with me at all times, this way I can write the reasons for any future absences on them and hand the note straight to you.
Jamie Harding,
Parent of Kaede Harding.
Well one of them, she has two.
The other being my wife Patricia Harding.


Alex Walsh said...

A college of doctors is the best I can come up with. I think the collective noun for receptionists (doctors, schools etc) is definitely an irritation though.

I can't believe you left footers have discovered perpetual motion, and obviously long enough ago you've got schools named after the fact. Jammy sods.

Hairy Caveman said...

Hello! I've just discovered your blog and I have to say I'm going to use your letter as a template if ever my 8-year-old son misses a day from school. Superb!

Cormac McCann said...

It wasn't your school that want the letter but the Department of Education. They periodically inspect schools and check attendance records and investigate any unaccounted for absenses. The teachers word for it isn't enough for them, they want to see a letter from the parents in the students records.