Child Advocacy: How Far Will You Go?

The other day I took The Girl to the Orthodontist and they had to change out her wire for a ridiculously thick, misshapen thing that I trust can move mountains. This is never an easy process and she always asks me to come back and hold her hand during it.

Admittedly, I’ve had moments where I’m internally eye-rolling because I think she’s being dramatic. I remember braces. I remember some discomfort and I distinctly remember my mother NEVER coming back with me. So I assume it’s mild pain most of the time and she is just being her normal theatrical self. But I always oblige her, hold her hand and rub her arms and do my best to keep her still in her seat. (Which means remind her not to talk.)

Last week though, it took forever to get the wire in and she was in serious pain. At one point she started crying, loud. The next moment I saw blood. We were clearly in new territory here. The nurse/dental assistant (I’m embarrassed to say I don’t know what she is) was clearly distressed as she could not get the wire to work and was mortified that she was hurting The Girl.

The nurse in the next chair to us, who is a rockstar, obviously wanted to step in but she was with another patient, and I’m assuming it’s also not good form to take over  another’s case.

The doctor came over for a bit and tried to verbally direct the procedure. At this time it became clear to me that he wanted to use my kid as a teaching situation. The nurse was not having it. When he asked if she wanted him to do it, she clearly told him yes. He said he would as soon as he dealt with another patient quickly first. So we waited and I went through about six billion emotions.

I was sympathetic for the poor nurse. I was so sad for my sweet baby girl who was holding up like a trooper. Shame on me for thinking she is overly dramatic. I was annoyed at the doctor for walking away and using my kid as a pin cushion to train his staff.

Mostly though, I was frozen. I just stood there, holding her hand waiting for someone who “knew something” to come and rescue us.

What the hell? I’m a patient advocate by trade. While I have a long history of shying away from “important people” when it’s my welfare involved, I have had no trouble standing up to our doctors in the past when I think my kids’ welfare is in question. I have never suffered from doctor as hero complex. So why, couldn’t I speak up and say more to protect my kid? More importantly, why didn’t it even occur to me until after we were out of the room?

It all ended fine. The other nurse (not the doctor after all) came over and slipped the wire in with little pain. The Girl recovered very nicely for her free ice cream treat afterwards and all was well. Except for me. I was mortified. Because, it wasn’t until after we left the office that I thought of all the things I should have said to protect her. What happened to me? Am I a terrible advocate for my own kids? Do I let my fear of inconveniencing, or embarrassing or offending “important people” trump my kids’ well-being? Did my own crazy get in the way?

God, I hope not.


This post was inspired by the book,January First: A Child’s Descent into Madness and Her Father’s Struggle to Save Her,by Michael Shofield. It’s an incredible first-person memoir about a dad whose daughter is diagnosed with child-onset schizophrenia. It is a harrowing book but his passion and advocacy for his daughter makes it one you can’t put down. You’ll read it and hug your children a little tighter. Hopefully, I can stand up for  mine a bit more. I received a copy of this book from the publisher as a member of the From Right to Left bookclub. To read our other members inspiration stories, visit the site for FLtoR.

Blog Updates

Receive FREE updates, tips and “subscriber-only” giveaways and special offers.


  1. says

    There is such a fine line between when it’s right to say something and when we need to let it go. Sometimes I open my big mouth and regret it. Other times I don’t and regret it. We can’t always get it right!

    If it’s still bugging you at your next appointment, you can always ask to speak to the dr and tell him how it made you feel and that he might want to work on staff training one-on-one, not while patients are waiting. Sometimes circling back once you’re away from the situation is the best time to address issues.

  2. says

    Poor girl! When my son was very young I took him to a flu shot clinic at through kai*ser. They stuck him and couldn’t get the liquid to come out. She sat there will a needle in his leg trying to make it give. The shot was FROZEN. I was so mad at them!! Don’t mess with my kids.

    • Cristie says

      Right? Like it’s perfect to make mistakes, just don’t do it with my kid in the chair. That’s so unfair but but so true!

  3. says

    Great food for thought. I don’t think you did anything differently than most of us would’ve done. I pictured my own reaction in this situation and I can honestly say I would’ve waited (im)patiently too. It’s human nature to have hindsight and mom nature to have guilt. I will be thinking about this in the future, though, and willing myself to step up when I need to…and to know it might just unfluff a few professional feathers.

    • says

      Neena, this is how I look at things.

      Cristie, I wouldn’t have done anything different. Although, what the heck was going on with the dentist? Good grief.

      • Cristie says

        I don’t know! We love him so I think honestly he didn’t think it was so bad and was hoping to teach his staff how to do it better. I can respect that. Just wish it didn’t hurt my kid. I will say, he came up to her at the end and made her feel like a million bucks about what a trooper she was. I hope that’s the part she remembers.

  4. says

    I look back to my daughter’s birth the same way. I keep thinking of all the times I should have spoken up. But I didn’t. I’m glad it all worked out in the end. And my kids will need braces so I might be coming to you for advice!

    • Cristie says

      See? I am in other people’s births advocating but for some reason with my own self I have a harder time stepping up. Usually not with my kids but I think that I admire this doctor so much I chickened out! Ugh.

  5. says

    Oh my, I’m in tears reading this. This is exactly how I’ve been feeling looking back on Pink’s torturous physical therapy. What was I thinking? Or why WASN’T I thinking? We’re all doing our best and it’s good to have that wake up call now and again. No doubt The Girl will be in even more tender, supportive hands next time around.