Contributing to the Truancy of Children

by Janelle Hanchett


I do things on a somewhat regular basis that cause me to question my qualifications for parenthood.

For example, I sometimes contribute to the truancy of my children. I’ll take them out of school early or bring them late or have them miss a day or two for last-minute beach trips or jaunts to San Francisco or pretty much no compelling reason at all.

It’s not that I think school is unimportant. Obviously not. I mean shit, I’m a grad student, clearly I don’t think it’s a complete waste of time.

It’s just that I have a hard time convincing myself that sitting in a classroom with 20 other 4th-graders is more important than a trip to the ocean with your family.

This week I pulled Ava out of school for 3 days because it was my Spring break and I felt like cruising down South to visit my best friend Claire, who I’ve known since 2nd grade. She lives in Central California, near San Luis Obispo, and we went. The husband had to work, so I took all three kids by myself, knowing that I’d be hanging with another mother, who would help me.

I felt a little guilty for taking Ava out. But I’ll be honest, it was worth it. At least I think it was. Maybe she’ll end up in therapy because her mother was a flake, but alas, nobody’s perfect.

There is something remarkable about a best friend since childhood. There is something sacred and wonderful about a person who isn’t “family” but has known you longer than most people on the planet. Family HAS to love you (well, at least in my family), but a best friend? Ah, they’re there because they want to be with you. They chose you. They don’t have to be there. But they are.

When we were 7, Claire and I played dolls and “restaurant” and Barbies in my bedroom. We had a pet bug named “Shiloh” who lived under a Monopoly hotel.

When we were 10, we busted into the neighbor’s house one boring summer afternoon, until we realized we had just done something illegal and we freaked out and bolted. When we got home we sprayed hairspray on the stucco wall of her house and lit it on fire. Both of those activities were my idea.

When we were 12, we went roller skating every Saturday and contemplated boys from afar.

When we were 13, we got dressed up and Waltzed with her younger twin cousins in her grandma’s living room, while she drank bourbon and smoked cigarettes and instructed our dance moves.

When we were 15, we stole her grandma’s Cadillac in Santa Clara and drove around.

When we were 17, we did the same but added beer.

When we were 18, we gazed into the eyes of Claire’s newborn baby and wondered what the hell had happened.

When we were 21, we drank Bloody Mary’s at 7am in Vegas.

When we were 25, we didn’t talk much, because I was drunk and lost and too full of self-hatred to reach out to the people who knew me before I was a failure.

When we were 29, I got sober and drove to her house 5 hours away and asked her to forgive me and love me again. And it became clear she had never stopped.

And now, at 32, we get together and take care of kids and talk until 2 in the morning and laugh like we did when we were 10 years old, giggling in the back of our parents’ cars, sisters who chose one another.

I guess this week I just needed my friend. Maybe Ava should have gone to school.

Then again, maybe not.

We went to Morro Bay

and Georgia contemplated god, err, I mean the ocean.


we missed daddy

We went to Avila and it was 73 degrees and glory.


Georgie wore her new bathing suit and we all died from the cuteness.

Rocket dug "the biggest hole pretty much in the world"

And made this face, which kills me.


doing what big sister does...


Still a little girl...


Yep, it was definitely worth it.


Claire and Georgia.

  • Regina @ The Tampa Bay Saver

    10 cool mom points for you! Learning the importance of how valuable a life long friendship can be is way more important than what she probably would have learned in school that week.

  • Stephanie

    Good choice. I plan to do the same. And treasure that friendship. Seriously.

  • Shel

    You rock, you are my sister from another mother! Glad I am not the only one who does this with my kiddos!!

  • eringirl

    as long as we weren’t dying, my mom made us go to school so that she could pull us out to do fun things. we went to San Francisco and skiing. We went to Mexico during my junior year of high school. I told her that there was no way I could miss school. She said there was no way I could miss vacation. She was right. I would never remember what we did in school, but I remember that trip and always well.

    I guess that means I support truancy too. Or maybe we should call it a home schooling field trip?

  • Christina

    This made me cry. Not because I am sad but because I can relate. I have had my Besty since we were 8 mo. old. So almost 40 years! I would rip my kids out of school at any moment to go spend time with her. (which BTW I will be doing during MY spring break. Not theirs) =}

  • Erika

    Oh, yes. Taking your children out of school to actually spend time with them, expand their horizons, and increase their awareness of… well… everything. (begin sarcasm) That is totally irresponsible. How dare you spend time with your children and take them anywhere other than to school where they will learn second and third hand from books and videos, and will spend hours sitting in an enclosed space. (end sarcasm)
    Yes, I know not all schools are like this…

    I have a favorite quote that I try to live by:
    “I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.” -Mark Twain

    I was home schooled from the 4th grade to half way through the 8th grade. I was fortunate enough to have parents who were pretty much willing take me to do and see things that I could have learned from a book. Since I actually toured the missions of California, saw places of historical interest, toured a nuclear power plant, was able to visit giant telescopes, and experience things that I would otherwise not have been able to, I was able to understand information more clearly, and retained information a lot longer. I also got the bonus of enjoying myself and strengthening the bonds within my family.

    Your children will look back on their childhoods with much more fondness and get much more from the experiences they have while *occasionally* skipping school than they would being punctual and devoted to the institution of structured schooling.

  • Maureen

    What a beautiful post….

  • Carrera

    Your writing is so beautiful. What a wonderful post!

    And, my mom used to take me out of school all the time for special day trips. They were awesome because we learned a lot about each other, and I always told her that was more important because I’d only remember math for tests, I wanted to remember special days with her forever.

  • Stacey

    My mom was the biggest stickler about things like school attendance and even she used to pull us out for fun days or let us take “mental health” days. It’s part of a normal childhood. Pretty sure it’s in the handbook.

  • Abigale Fraser

    Aww, what a beautiful friendship! It’s nice to know that you have someone to turn to when you’re down. And I love that picture of Georgia in her swimsuit! Thanks for the share!

  • Jennifer

    I am a firm believer in taking kids out of school to do fun, family things together. Especially in elementary school! Sounds like an awesome road trip.

    I, too, have a best friends since grade school. She knows ALL my secrets and still loves me. Those friendships are totally rare.

  • Jennifer

    I am a firm believer in taking kids out of school to do fun, family things together. Especially in elementary school! Sounds like an awesome road trip.

    I, too, have a best friend since grade school. She knows ALL my secrets and still loves me. Those friendships are totally rare.

  • xylem galadhon

    My first comment to a post on this site which i came across a couple of days ago, already dig very much — not a Mom, just a very involved Uncle of a 2 1/2 yr old whirlwind of a kid. And i gotta say, this post brought tears. Very Cool.

  • Heather (Galloway) Miranda

    Okay, so this probably sounds kinda crazy, but did you live in Atascadero during Jr. High? I have recently found your blog, and have been really loving reading the archives, when I came upon this post. I went to school with a Janelle & her best friend Claire in jr high and we hung out a bit. The Janelle I remember was kinda a little trouble maker, but only in the best, most fun way possible. You also bear a resemblance to her. I could be wrong, so tell me if I am completely nuts. Anyways, love reading about you and the fam, I so relate with 3 little hell raisers of my own I’m trying not to screw up too much.

  • wrinkleyold

    I used to take my kids out of school all the time. Just because and they are my kids, not the school’s. It made them feel so special

  • Erin

    Having kids scares me a lot ’cause I’m selfish and I like being selfish…but I do want a kid, I think, and your blog is the only thing I’ve ever read that makes me less scared because you are so honest and (this is cheesy but it applies) RADICAL.

    And the post about “communicating” with your husband also made me feel a lot better, less afraid I’ll be replaced by some better, Nice Girl who’s always in the mood to bang.

    • Kara


  • Amy

    I’m a step-mom and my kid’s biodad has pretty much convinced her that she can only miss school for illness, a family obligation or the end of the world. So guess what – she fakes sick when she needs a day off. Actually, she fakes sick to get out of anything she doesn’t want to do (sports practice, church, etc.) OK, well, way to raise a liar. My mom let me miss school now and again. Sometimes it was her idea and sometimes I told her I needed a day off. It teaches balance. It teaches the judicious abdication of responsibility necessary to mental health. And honestly? It’s not like they missed the day when they would have learned how to perform their own open bypass surgery. It’s elementary school. It’s about learning how to learn, getting interested in learning and how to get along/function with other people. It’s a lifelong skill that isn’t going to be greatly impacted by missing a couple days of school per year.

  • De

    Love knowing that there are moms like you out there. Been doing this with my kids from day one and they are both honor roll students who understand that you must create the balance if you’re ever going to get it. Thank you for raising children who truly love life! xxoo

  • Kara

    I just want you to know, you rock. Keep on raising real humans, and someday they’ll fix the things we have broken.

  • Cali the expat

    My mom used to do this with us kids. Never hurt us. She would write us late notes when we went out to our favorite breakfast restaurant to eat delicious food and have great conversions, we were all out of school for 9 months while we did a family tour of the U.S, and we all went on to university. My stupid ex thinks this is totally wrong. He’s the kind of dick who won attendance prizes for no tardy’s and no absences. He flunked junior college and derides people with higher education. He’s a nasty fucker. I am working on getting to the point that I don’t give a rats ass about what he thinks and does, and can ignore his rants, judgement and threats, but I still feel guilty every time I have a mother daughter skip day. I don’t do it that often, but it’s something I feel is my right as a mother. I will fucking make the decisions in MY house regarding my child. I’m working on that guilt because I know it comes from bat shit crazy. Good on you for doing what you do. I’m glad you have your husband’s support. I’m stoked that I found your blog, you speak to me and my heart. Thank you.