"Mom, can you bring me some Motrin?" Betsy asks. "I have a superbad headache."
I probe with a few diagnostic questions: Where does it hurt? Is this really a headache, or did you forget you have a test this afternoon?
Betsy reassures me she's not faking a headache for academic purposes and describes the classic symptoms of throbbing sinuses.
"No problem," I say, hiding that this actually does constitute a problem. "I'll be over in a few minutes."
Another day, another extra trip to school. Usually I'm carting forgotten running shoes or a team uniform late from the laundry. (For the record, I never take forgotten homework except in extreme circumstances.)
I'm not annoyed that Betsy has a headache — it's not as if she can help it. But realistically, the round trip to deliver a headache remedy will steal nearly an hour from my day, not to mention a king's ransom in gasoline (12 miles, city driving).
Still, there's no option. Our school's policy doesn't permit the staff to dispense medication unless it has been prescribed and sent to school in its original packaging — not even a cough drop.
Rules are rules, and this rule is meant to protect the school, the students and the parents. If you were cynical, you might conclude it's a reflection of our litigious culture, but I like to think it's a rule that respects the role of parents as safeguards and stewards of our children's good (or not so good) health.
I'm thinking about this issue as I drive to the high school with a couple of Motrin tablets zipped closed in a baggie in my pocket.
Earlier in the morning, I read a news story about King Middle School in Portland, Maine, where an independently operated on-site health clinic for students will dispense birth control pills and patches, about which the parents of girls as young as 11 may or may not be aware.
Am I the only one struck by the irony here?
I'm driving to school to watch my high school junior swallow two pills meant to give her relief from a sinus headache, while a middle school in Maine wants to provide birth control to seventh-graders without their parents' knowledge or consent.
Thanks to a policy put in place by the Portland School Committee, parents of young post-pubescent teens who grant permission for their children to use the school clinic for treatment of a headache or a stomach cramp are also granting permission for the staff of that clinic to offer reproductive counseling.
Because the law protects the confidentiality of patients in this regard no matter what their ages, that clinic will leave parents out of the loop.
I wonder if the school committee members who voted to undermine the proper role of parents in the health care of their minor children ever checked to confirm the lawful age of consent for sexual activity in their state? Apparently not, because I read it's 16.
Clearly, there are parents who aren't doing an adequate job of supervising their young teens, whose sexual behavior puts them in harm's way on all levels — physically, emotionally and spiritually. But the answer isn't to create a barrier of secrecy between parents and children.
The only solution is to call parents to greater accountability for the welfare of their children and to respect the fact that they — not the school's health clinic — are the only ones who may choose what's best for those children.
Don't you feel bad for the children of Portland, Maine? I sure do.