Being “that” parent, or “that” patient – why reputation shouldn’t trump resolve

The start of a new academic year is always a bit weird. Every parent I speak to has concerns for their child – will they cope OK and be happy with their new school/class/teacher? Tiny started nursery last week and it did feel scary releasing my baby to the care of someone else!

I’ve had several conversations with friends this week along these lines, and I’ve noticed that along with concerns about our kids adapting, we all share worries about being ‘that parent’. Any situation involving Small or Tiny at school whips me into an internal conflict – should I speak to the teacher, or just let it go? I want to be the defensive bulldog that will obliterate any obstacle to my child’s happiness. But I also don’t want to be seen as the parent who is fussy, overprotective and always has an opinion; the one the teachers roll their eyes about in the staff room. 

This week, hearing that other friends share the same hangup made me realise it’s a normal reaction, but also that it is an irrational one. Of course, there can be tension between school staff and parents, but in my experience, when I get over my shyness and say something, it has always been helpful and led to positive resolve. And if it hasn’t, I’ve escalated concerns until the school and I are on the same page.

I’ve also noticed this hangup about how ‘the professionals’ will see me applies when it comes to anything medical. I don’t want to be seen as a hypochondriac or a time waster. I worry the reception staff at the GP will disapprove of me making so many appointments. I hold back at consultant appointments in case my niggling concern is ridiculous. But I’m coming to realise that like my children, my health is also more important than anyone’s judgement and disapproval. Often you’ll be raising concerns shared by others who are reluctant to say anything, and the comments you make might result in changes that benefit everyone.

I guess you could apply this principle to any other situation in which you feel like your views will be seen as an annoyance. It’s worth overcoming anxieties about your reputation or social awkwardness and just say it. You never know who it might benefit.

Showing concern for your children or your health doesn’t mean you are undermining a professional’s opinion; it just shows you want the very best – and any teacher or doctor should relish that. I don’t have to worry about a negative reaction if I have a firm grasp on what my priority is in the conversation.

It’s time to embrace being “that” parent and “that” patient! Ultimately, my kids and my health are so much more important that how a semi-stranger perceives me. I need to find a way to remember that next time I’m faced with a reluctant GP or a teacher who doesn’t understand my child…

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