Just Jennifer: (Not So) Perfect Attendance

A few weeks ago, I received a letter from my children’s schools. I saw the return mailing address and got a queasy feeling. I opened it up, fearing the worst, which I really shouldn’t have, because my kids are really, really good kids.

It was an attendance letter stating/reprimanding me for my kids’ having been out of school nine days this school year. It warned of the perils of frequent absenteeism and how it could affect the kids’ education.

So I did what any responsible mom would do. I chucked the letters in the garbage.

I never had perfect attendance when I was younger. Bad colds would keep me out of school for days. For the most part, when my kids are absent it’s because they’re sick, too.

But sometimes, they’re, um, not.

I do give them a “hooky day,” but it’s usually sometime in June, right before school ends for the summer. Generally, it’s sweltering in the morning and their clothes are already stuck to them, and frankly, it’s a day just not meant for learning.

Other times, I might have an awesome cover shoot lined up during a school day, and I want to take them with me. Like last year, when we had our cover story with Ernie Brown Jr. (Turtleman) and Neal Shannon James, from Animal Planet’s hit TV show, Call of the Wildman. It’s one of the kids’ favorite shows. The cover shoot was right smack dab in the middle of a school day, but who cares about the Roman Empire when you can be right in the middle of Live Action?!

On that fun-filled day, Gabriel and Elizabeth learned how to do-si-do with their idol Turtleman while Neal played his banjo in the middle of Central Park.

These are experiences that don’t equal learning about perimeter in math class.

Sure, I want my children to excel in school and they do. After all, I’m not advocating for truancy. But I do want my children to see the bigger picture as well. The job market is so competitive now that I can only imagine the hoops they will have to jump through when it’s their time to be
gainfully employed. So I want them to see that yes, education is important, but so is following their heart.

I want them to learn now that the old cliché is true; you can do anything if you put your mind and your heart to it. I’m living proof. Celebrity Parents Magazine started as a teeny tiny glimmer of an idea, one of those, “Wouldn’t it be nice if….” and turned it into something grand–all because of belief and passion. I want my children to see that you can truly do anything you want in this world, if you are only willing to try and work hard for it. I want them to think outside the box and realize that they do not have to take a crappy job that they hate, and work a 9-5 schedule cramped in a cubicle.

They can do whatever they want, make a good living doing it, and be truly happy. In fact, they must.

And as for the absenteeism letter? Well, they got the number wrong—the kids will be absent 10 times this year. It’s my son’s 13th birthday this week, and we are playing hooky again to do something fun —and memorable— with the kids. Because it doesn’t really matter if the kids are present in school that day.

It matters if they are present in LIFE.

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