A young girl is sick in bed


I only recently learned of ‘Operation BORF’ — and I’m a combination of disappointed and awestruck

May 19, 2021

Picture it: Easter Monday, 2021. I’m sitting in the living room, reading a book, when I hear a piteous moan from the general direction of the powder room, followed by the sound that puts a parent on high alert: “Moooooooooom!”

I went in and found Nikki curled around the toilet, looking up at me wretchedly, with the evidence of what she refers to as a "borfing session" in the bowl. Oh no! No, no, no, no! 

My mind started to race: could she have eaten something that upset her stomach or was this COVID? I was feeling fine, as was my mother, so it probably wasn’t something we all ate. It could have been a snack but surely Oreos and apple slices wouldn’t do this! Ultimately, it didn’t really matter: unexplained nausea or vomiting were on the Ontario government list of symptoms that necessitated a trip to the COVID testing centre before she returned to school.

I got her up off the floor and onto the sofa so I could give her a “just in case” bowl and take her temperature. It was fine. OK, maybe her illness was a one-off, and in normal times, I might have done a wait-and-see before making a decision about school. But these weren’t normal times. I went online to mark her absent from school for the next day and book her in for a COVID test.

An hour later, she said she was hungry so I thought I’d play it safe and make her some buttery noodles; something easy on the stomach. I’ve seen this pattern before: she vomits and an hour later, she claims that she is starving. Nikki ate her pasta happily and settled in under her blanket to watch some television. I was surprised how quickly and easily she had eaten that huge bowl of noodles  — and I said that to her while we took in yet another episode of Big Bang Theory, her latest obsession.

A few minutes later, she said she wasn’t feeling great and went back to the bathroom. I waited to see if she was going to be OK and was just getting up to check on her when I heard the same call for me to come. I went in and the scene from earlier was repeated: kid wrapped around toilet bowl, evidence of sickness in the bowl and piteous eyes.

There was one problem: no noodles.

Just some peach-coloured, vomit-looking matter and some toilet paper. But no evidence of the huge bowl of rotini that had gone down her gullet, not 20 minutes earlier! I knew I had caught her in an outright deception but what I hadn’t figured out was how she had managed to be sick and not be sick at the same time. I played along, sympathizing with her "distress," and sent her to bed early.

Then I went to my computer and logged in to her Google classroom. Even though they were still going to school in person at that point, her teacher posted most of what was coming up. The schedule for the day after Easter Monday? A math test.

I sat back in my chair and sighed. Then I leaned forward again to Google where to buy fake movie award statues because what we had, ladies and gentlemen, was an Oscar-worthy performance that almost got the better of me. All to avoid a test!

To be fair, math is the subject that gives Nikki real anxiety. The combined effect of ADHD, with short-term memory and executive functioning impacts, as well as a diagnosed math learning disability, means that as each year goes by, the whole process of learning math gets harder for her.

For those who don’t live with these issues, let me give you an example: what’s 15 - 3? Easy, right? Not for Nikki. She cannot just summon the answer, even all these years into learning math. She still has to work it out manually, usually involving finger counting, in addition to whatever other steps she needs to take to solve whatever equation they’re working on. So integers, fractions, decimals … It’s all that much harder for her.

I completely understood her desire to miss the test, despite the fact that she wouldn’t escape it in the long run. What I couldn’t figure out was how she had pulled off this fake illness. So I did a little sleuthing in the bathroom garbage can and found what I was looking for. An empty mango-applesauce squeeze package. I squished a tiny bit of what remained out and the goo was a perfect match: the exact shade of peachy orange coloured matter that I had seen in the toilet.

The next morning, I went to get her out of bed: “But Mom! I borfed! I can’t go to school!” I pulled the now-empty squeeze package from my pocket. It only took a second for her to realize the jig was up and it was time to come clean.

As it turns out, she and her friend had spent the better part of the previous afternoon planning this epic performance. The whole idea was to make sure that it looked realistic. They hadn’t banked on the noodles, but otherwise it was a masterful plan. They even took the trouble to write down notes, which she guiltily handed to me from under her pillow. Entitled “Operation BORF”, it listed the steps she needed to take to realistically look sick so she could skip school:

  • Act sick.
  • Fake barf with squeeze package applesauce. Mango is the best colour.
  • Take lots of naps.
  • Drink water with straw.
  • Stay under blanket.
  • Go to the toilet a lot.
  • Cuddle stuffies.
  • Ask to sleep with mom.
  • Fart a lot.
  • Act tired.

They hadn’t factored in the noodles or the brain tickle test, but overall, I'd be lying if I said it wasn't a pretty comprehensive plan.

The whole caper left me disappointed in her for going to such lengths to deceive me and a little in awe, for the same reason. There were some consequences, despite my awe: the testing appointment was cancelled; and I sent her to school as usual.

And from there, I could only hope that eventually she would learn to use her aptitude for planning, and her knack for the dramatic, for good. I guess only time will tell. 

Article Author Chantal Saville
Chantal Saville

Read more from Chantal here.

Chantal Saville is, among other things, the chief wordsmith at Content Ghost. When not writing in her phantasmagorical voice, she is also a mother and a daughter. Usually in that order. Sometimes not.

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