Perfect Attendance, But God, At What Cost?

, , , , , | Learning | June 11, 2019

I grew up with a girl who was a bit shy but extremely smart and talented. Unfortunately, her parents were super strict about her always being the “best” in school, participating in a million extracurricular activities, etc. It really wore her down, and by the time we reached middle school in the late 1990s, she was exhausted. They were especially proud of all of the awards she won at the end of year assembly. You know, perfect attendance, the President’s physical fitness test, etc.

One weekend, towards the end of our eighth-grade year, she called to tell me she wasn’t feeling well and asked if I could gather any homework assignments for her on Monday if she didn’t make it to school. Not a problem, I said, and personally, I thought she could use the break.

Monday morning rolled around and here came [Girl] trudging into class and looking the sickest I’d ever seen her. I asked why she’d come to school, and it turned out her parents didn’t want her to “ruin” her perfect attendance record. They wanted her to have a certificate for every year of school, like that was something colleges were going to be looking for. Even the teachers were concerned. But [Girl] insisted on staying until they made her go home at lunchtime and promised her “record” would still show she was at school that day.

I didn’t think anything else about it until a couple of days later when I woke up feeling pretty horrible myself. I had a high fever, and my mom immediately called me out of school and took me to the doctor’s office. Turns out, I had mononucleosis. Yep, [Girl] had come to school with a raging case of mono. When we got home, my mom put me to bed and started calling other parents, and the list of sick kids kept getting longer.

And that’s how nearly half the eighth grade class at my school all caught mono at the same time. And it was all because this poor girl’s parents didn’t want her to lose her perfect attendance record.

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