thermometerThere's a funny thing about being a parent. You know when your kids are just a little sick and when they're OMG, get them to the pediatrician sick. If you know your kid, you learn to read their cues.

But the parents of an 8-year-old little boy named William Robinson Jr.  want the world to believe they didn't know their son was dying from cancer. Willie, as he was known, died from a treatable form of Hodgkin's lymphoma because his parents didn't take him to the doctor. And to add to the horrors, Monica Hussing and William Robinson Sr. could end up spending just two years in prison for failing their son.

If that's justice for a child's needless pain and suffering, I'm not sure I can continue to have much faith in our system. The Ohio couple pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter, claiming they didn't know it was cancer racking their son's body, so they were treating him -- for months -- with cold medicine. I only wish I could believe them.

But I don't know a parent out there who doesn't know when their child is sick. My mom always said my eyes would lighten from their blueberry blue to a cornflower when I was feeling under the weather. My friend's son becomes more clingy. And like a bad poker player, my daughter has a host of tells.

Just before Christmas, my kid came down with a bug. She was insisting that she didn't want to go to school. So I decided to test her to make sure she wasn't faking. "If you stay home, you cannot watch cartoons," I warned. "You have to stay in bed all day." When she agreed, readily, without so much as a fight, I knew it was for real. Twenty minutes later, she was throwing up. I'd called it right.

Of course cancer isn't comparable to a stomach bug. I don't expect a mom to diagnose Hodgkin's from the color of her kid's eyes or his refusal to eat. But a few days of swollen glands and no response to cough medicine, and you know your child is more than a little sick. That's when good parents march them to the doctor and get them treatment (which is what child services did with little Willie, but it was too late). But it doesn't seem like Hussing and Robinson did much in the name of good parenting.

How can you tell your kids are really sick, not just faking it?

 

Image via Andres Rueda/Flickr