The word advocacy can be a daunting and scary one. It can conjure up images of great world leaders or tireless community leaders. People who spend a lot of their free time educating, promoting and advocating for important social issues.
Advocacy does not have to be something large, time consuming or public. It can be simple small acts of kindness. It can simply be sharing your beliefs with another.
Today when I got home from work I packed up my daughter and took her to the public health unit to get her vaccinations. When we arrived we were greeted by a table with instructions to sign in, weigh our babies, measure our babies and fill out the age appropriate checklist. I signed in and grabbed a check list for an 18 month old.
Helaina sat down with her water beside me as I filled out the form. The first page seemed absolutely appropriate, just questions about Helaina’s health and well being. Do I breast feed still? Is she brushing her teeth regularly? Is she eating a diet with foods from all four food groups? Then I turned to the second part of the check list. There it was a developmental checklist for my child, asking questions like Can your child say twenty words? Can your child point to body parts if asked? Does your child help get dressed by extending arms for sleeves or feet for shoes? The check list had about twenty questions. My heart sank as I read through it. I hate check lists. I have spent a lot of my career trying to remove them from the programs I practiced in. I tried to fill it out, I tried to put my beliefs aside but I just couldn’t do it. Finally I handed the checklist and pen to Helaina and told her to tell them what she could do. She proceeded to draw all over the checklist.
The nurse came and got us. She asked for her weight and height as we walked to her office. Once in her office she asked for the checklist. I smiled and said “I did the first part but I just couldn’t do the second part.”
She smiled back at me. I decided to continue “See I couldn’t do it for ethical reasons. I’m an Early Childhood Educator. I have found if a child is unable to perform just one of these milestones it can cause undue anxiety and stress for parents. It can cause parents to worry that their child is not okay. It causes them to worry about their future and question their parenting.Its does this because it does not get the whole picture.”
The nurse then said “Well I have never thought of it like that.”
Now I don’t believe because of this small stance that public health will get rid of the checklists but I shared a different perspective. Hopefully that perspective will be taken into consideration from time to time when reviewing their practice.
Everyday we perform small acts of advocacy. When you get down to a child’s level, when you choose to treat families and children with respect and when we share our stories we advocate for children and families.
“My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.”