Being an Advocate for Your Kids {Parenting}

by Cate on May 24, 2012

A few years ago, the phone rang at 5:30 in the morning.  I answered it, barely coherent, forming words as best as I could at that hour.  It was a snow chain call, and as I shared Class Mom duty with another mom, the day started early.  I hadn’t seen her in a few weeks, and even though we were barely awake, we were awake enough to have a conversation.  I mentioned some issues I was having with Nick’s (then) teacher, and she agreed wholeheartedly, having already gone to the teacher several times about her own concerns.  I said I had already made an appointment with the teacher, not being able to contain myself, or shrug off the issues, much longer.

And then she said something that changed everything for me.

“I am very comfortable being THAT parent.”

When it comes to advocating for my children, sometimes you have to be THAT parent.

The one that’s always raising their hand.

The one that’s questioning things that don’t seem right.

The one that sends in notes.

The one that’s always present, both literally and figuratively.

I have never had a problem being THAT parent.

But after my friend made that comment, I never looked back.

No longer felt guilt about it.  I don’t apologize for it.

If my kids need me to step up, step in, or intervene on their behalf, I will.

Each and every time.

{And this is a completely different situation than the “let the kids handle things on their own” topic.  I am, in this moment, talking about things that only adults can handle and are beyond the scope for kids to navigate on their own.}

And as I heavily advocated on behalf of Nick over the past week, I am reminded of how important the task of being an advocate for my children actually is.

Last Wednesday night, I was out to dinner with a girlfriend, and Mystic called.  His daughter was watching the kids, and Nick was having chest pains.  Couldn’t catch his breath.  I called home right away, and left the restaurant within minutes.

Listening to your child on the phone in tears will do it every time.

Mystic and I pulled up to the house at the same time.  He beat me upstairs. I told him he didn’t have to come over, that I would be there in a few minutes. He, of course, paid no heed, and as I type this, I’m reminded again of what a wonderful guy he is.

We assessed the situation.  Tried to calm Nick down.  Decided to see how the night progressed and reevaluate in the morning.

He ended up feeling okay enough to go to school, but by the time I picked him up after school, he wasn’t feeling any better.

We went straight to the pediatrician’s office.  I was leaning towards a pulled muscle, and for the time being, she agreed, advising us to go to the ER if it got worse.

Hours later, as he was clutching his chest, and getting winded after climbing a short flight of stairs, I called The Ex and headed to the ER.  He met us there.

With The Ex having had a heart attack two years ago, and other heart issues on his side of the family, this was scaring the bejebus out of me to say the least, and I wanted to make sure I was doing my due diligence, advocating, and that his heart was ok.

EKG.  Chest x-ray.  Consults with the on-call doctor, who happened to be a pediatrician specializing in heart issues as well.  Did we luck out or what?

always by his side

Best Bedside Manner Ever

(Luckily Madeline was there to keep things light for us.)

stickers from xray tech
(Checking out their sticker stash from the x-ray technicians, and blowing up gloves to pass the time.

show and tell

Someone was tired. And someone doesn’t like getting in trouble. The Ex asked her to settle down more than once, and the last time, she crumpled after the delivery.

From a photographer’s standpoint, I love this picture. From a that’s-my-kid standpoint, it was a nerve-rattling few hours while we waited.

The diagnosis at the time was for costochondritis.  Advised to follow-up with our pediatrician the next day.  A day home from school for Nick and Madeline, we went back to the pediatrician’s office, catching her up on what had transpired the night before.  She agreed with the costochondritis diagnosis, but still wanted Nick to see a pediatric cardiologist, and get an echo.  The afternoon was spent trying to get those appointments.

“I was referred to you by my pediatrician and the ER doctor who saw my son last night.  He is having chest pains and difficulty breathing.  They recommended a consult, and EKG and echo.”

I can put you in on June 22nd.

“Ma’am, I don’t mean to be disrespectful, but I don’t think it would be good parenting to wait three weeks for my son, who is having chest pains, to be seen.”

They could do the EKG and echo within a few days, but an appointment with the doctor was weeks away.

You’ll have to call your pediatrician.  They can call our nurses back and ask for the schedule to be opened up.

The next few hours were on the phone, calling all the cardiologists I was referred to, asking friends in the medical field for other doctor recommendations, circling back with the pediatrician’s office, stop, start, stop, start.  Advocating.

I was frustrated to the nth degree.  Worried about Nick.  Tell me I’m worrying for nothing.  I’m ok with that.  Being that mom.  Because, for the most part, I’m pretty laid back and rarely worry.  But tell me that although my son is telling me he’s hurt, he is going to be ok.  That I shouldn’t be concerned about chest pains.  Nick rarely complains about pain.  He was slammed at soccer a few weeks ago, and went on to finish the game.  When he complains about pain, I take it seriously.

Late Friday afternoon, we ended up getting a call from one of the cardiologists.

“We have a cancellation for 9 am Monday.  Can you be here?’

Yes.  Very definitely yes. 

Nick was nervous.  I was a basket case inside.  He had a million questions about the tests and appointments, and I answered them as best as I could.  He still had chest pains and breathing issues over the weekend.  Let it be ok.

After dropping Madeline off at school, we headed straight to the hospital for the appointment with the cardiologist, and the echo and another EKG.  Finally we sat down with the doctor.

He asked a battery of questions.  Went over the tests.

I agree with the ER doctor’s assessment of costochondritis.  His heart looks fine.  He has a murmur, but other than that, there is no reason to think that there is an issue with his heart.

Cue the giant exhale.  As I texted a few friends who had been checking in on us since it all began, “I feel like I can finally breathe.”

He is still feeling chest pain, and occasional shortness of breath, and it’s near impossible to keep a 9-year-old boy “low key,” but hopefully with the round-the-clock-while-awake medicine, the swelling will go down enough that he gets a little more relief over the next few days.  Notes for the nurse at school.  E-mails to soccer coaches.  No gym.  No running around at recess.  Being chill.  Hot compresses to relieve the ache.

But thankfully, his heart is ok.

Advocate for your children.  Don’t ever apologize for it.  Ride that line between protecting them and being overbearing.  Between looking out for them and coddling them.  But advocate for them.  Each and every time.

Because if you don’t, who will?

*a very public thank you, again, for the few family and friends that knew what was going on, and kept checking in on us.  We appreciate it more than you’ll ever know.

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Joanne May 25, 2012 at 6:26 am

My mom was always VERY good at this. She’s always on everyone’s a** when it comes to us, even though my brother and I are now in our 20’s. She came with me to the ER when I was trying to get my second stress fracture diagnosed and fought with them to give me what I wanted (an MRI). Definitely makes all the difference,

I can’t even imagine how scary this was but I’m so glad to hear Nick is doing better!


Mandi May 25, 2012 at 10:00 pm

What a terribly frightening situation for all of you. And well done to you for not accepting the answers/appointments you were being given and keeping at it to get what you needed for Nick.
I am THAT parent. I make no apologies for it. Yes, if it’s something the kids can and should deal with we talk through it with them offering suggestions, etc. But, as you say, when it’s beyond what they can deal with I’m all over it. And getting better at it every time.


Maureen @ Orgasmic Chef May 26, 2012 at 2:02 am

It can be tough to be insistent but just one look at that face in pain and everything becomes really easy. I’m glad he’s not in any danger.


patsy May 30, 2012 at 3:03 pm

I’m a little behind in reading right now, and I feel for you having to go through this. I totally agree that you have to stand up for your kids when it comes to things that they can’t take care of themselves. Glad to hear that you got a diagnosis and I hope he’s feeling better!


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