• Tue, Jun 3 - 4:30 pm ET

Yes, My Son Is Small For His Age. Please STFU About It.

boy

My daughter is very tall for her age. I could not tell you exact percentiles but I can see that she is the tallest kid in her first grade class and second tallest on her baseball team (the tallest has a father who is 6’6”…). She has always been this way- bigger for her age. She is perfect and I am thrilled no matter her size.

My son, however, is quite little. He just turned five and is around the size of the average three year old. My kids are 20 months apart but due to their height difference people usually think it’s more like three or four years apart- our daughter is literally almost a full foot taller than her brother.  Again, we could not give any shits at all- our son is amazing no matter his size- but it would seem society has plenty to say about it.

I cannot tell you how many times we have been out in public and had a stranger make a comment about our son’s size. It usually starts when they hear him speak- he sounds like a child his age or maybe even older (likely from listening to his very talkative older sister and picking up new vocab all the time). We get the curious stare and then “Wow, how old is he?” We answer and it’s always the same “Oh, he’s so little for his age!” Yes, we know. We have always known. My son is small. Get over it. I spent a lot of time panicking when he was a baby because he wasn’t growing much and the doctor was never any too happy with his weight gain (or lack thereof). They tried to get me to stop nursing but he had plenty of dirty diapers, I could hear his suck/swallow sounds and I saw how happy he was after feeds. He was getting enough. He was just small- which makes sense, as I come from a family of petite people.

Now, I don’t worry about his health, but I do worry about what others have to say about him. The comments toward our daughter and her height are always positive and almost in awe- “Wow, she’s so tall!” But with our son the comments are always said with a hint of pity, like “Oh, he really is small for his age!” I roll my eyes and move on but now that he is getting older I really wish people would shut the fuck up. I hate to think about how he will feel about himself over the next few years when people make comments about his size and he starts to understand that they aren’t necessarily compliments. I also know this is something reserved for small boys, not girls. There is the underlying notion that there is something wrong with being a small boy but it is ok to be a tiny girl. My cousin’s daughter is about our son’s age and she is very small but the comments are, of course, positive. All centering around how petite and precious she is.

I want to start talking to him about it now but I don’t know how best to start. I want him to be equipped to deal with what people say but I also don’t want to give him something to worry about if he’s not worried at the moment. We are a very body-positive household. I don’t let my kids hear me talk disparagingly about my looks or my size. My husband and I are always very complimentary to both kids and to each other and we try hard to focus on what our bodies can do rather than how they look. But I cannot force the whole world to be that way and soon, he will find out exactly how the world sees boys who are small for their age. Right now, he is boisterous and full of confidence and I hope the day never comes where he thinks he is less than because he is little. I knew plenty of boys growing up who were on the shorter side and they did not seem at all affected by it but I also knew a few who definitely were. I guess all we can do is keep pumping him up and answer any questions he might have about what the world thinks of his size. I love him the way he is and I pray he will feel that way about himself too.

(Image: Ilya Andriyanov/Shutterstock)

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  • Andrea

    I feel ya. My youngest son is also pretty small for his age, and will probably always be small (his father is NO giant!). For the most part, he owns it and uses it to his advantage (girls love him, specially older girls!).

    I haven’t had people make rude comments about it; thank goodness!

  • jo

    My 2 youngest kids are pretty tiny, I don’t need to go through their closets because they can wear the same clothes they did last year. I have noticed that with my daughter, she gets a lot of positive attention for her size and it’s kind of her trademark now “I’m so little and cute.” With my son, it’s either negative or not mentioned.

  • Megan Zander

    If it helps all my celeb crushes are small in stature: Kit Harington, Scott Caan, Seth McFarland, JTT…

    • Bethany Ramos

      My husband is short, and Elliott is small. I’ve always told my husband that is the “type” I prefer – and many shorter dudes just happen to have big personalities. Also, my husband is tall in Mexico lol. :)

    • Valerie

      Lol. I have no problem with shorter dudes!!

    • Megan Zander

      Me too, I trended towards shorter guys back when I dated and my hubs is on the shorter side. In high school I went to prom with an upperclassman who was almost 7 ft tall. My mom was thrilled, but I knew it sooo wasn’t going to happen.

    • Valerie

      Mmmmm tiny John Snow.

    • Harriet Meadow

      Wait, isn’t he 5’10″?

    • Valerie

      I don’t think so. Next to Sophie Turner he’s pint sized!!

    • Harriet Meadow

      Ah. So some internet sources say 5’10″, some say almost 5’8″. Since Sophie Turner’s supposed to be 5’9″, even the latter is probably not true.

    • Harriet Meadow

      Either way he’s cuuuuuuute.

    • Armchair Observer

      Seth Green ;-)

  • Lindsay

    When my brother was a kid, he would go to the doctor and say, “I just want to be Shaq.” The doctor always said, “5’9″ if he’s lucky.”
    He’s 6’2″ now.
    It doesn’t matter either way, but it means fuck all.

  • kay

    My brother was always the shortest kid in school. He grew up to be pretty average height. Not that it really matters, but being the super short kid doesn’t mean he’s “doomed” to be short forever

    • FormerlyKnownAsWendy

      I was coming to talk about my short brother too! My brother was super short too, and got picked on. Because of that, he developed a pretty damn awesome sense of humor and attitude. He is still sort of short average. He became a body builder in college for a while, and now has a great job and is pretty well off, and always is an athlete. Also has a wife and daughters that are all taller than him and couldn’t give less of a shit. He’s pretty happy with who he is. Height means very little in terms of quality of life.

    • gothicgaelicgirl

      My little bro was tiny until he hit 16.
      Then he literally grew like two feet in a night.
      He’s 21 now and 6 foot 4!

    • Jessifer

      My dad was like this too. There’s a picture of him with his 4th grade class and all the kids are at least one head taller than him. He eventually grew to be 5’10, which is average for a male.

      I, on the other hand, was always the smallest in my class (I was already small for my age PLUS I skipped ahead a year and was with kids 1 year older than me, so it was really evident!) My whole life, I was called pipsqueak, flea, shrimp, etc… I’m still small, though, but it doesn’t bother me. But I do agree that there is more of a stigma attached for short men vs. women.

  • K.

    Sigh…

    If you feel like whatever you’re going to say is going to come with a pitiful tone or look…Don’t. Especially concerning a child’s appearance.

    • shorty_RN

      Yes. Just say “What a beautiful child you have!” It’s that easy.

  • Harriet Meadow

    My husband was always really small as a kid – like, he was born at 4 and a half lbs even though he was on time. He was bullied relentlessly when he was young. Now he’s only 5’4″, and he’s still pretty self-conscious about it (even though he doesn’t let it show to most people, and he gives off that ex-Marine “don’t fuck with me” vibe). Our son is also on the small side – he’s been in the 5th-10th percentile since birth, and people are always asking me “How old is he? 8 or 9 months?” when he’s almost 13 months (and still wearing 6-9 month clothing). Like you, I’m worried about what he will have to deal with as far as his body image. I think he’s the best thing ever (and I think his dad is pretty swell too haha!), but unfortunately there are some really mean kids out there.

  • Lisa Walker

    Both my kids were three weeks early and over 8 pounds and always big healthy babies…and I actually had a stranger in a store tell me that my son was too chubby at 6 months. She also said I shouldn’t formula feed because he was gaining too much. The look on her face when I said I exclusively breast fed and she should STFU was very satisfying, however who are these people who think they can comment on kids’ size?

    • Sara610

      UGGGHHH. My daughter is big for her age, and she’s also a good eater. When she was a little over a year old, we were at a party and she was sitting in her high chair, eating a (very healthy and well balanced) meal and the husband of this elderly couple sitting nearby said, “Does she EVER stop eating?!” Rude.

    • gothicgaelicgirl

      That is horrible.
      We get people looking from me to the tall older girl and saying “Well she didn’t get her height from YOU!”
      And I reply- “I hope not, I’m her stepmom….”

    • Lisa Walker

      And then people wonder why girls in elementary school are already developing eating disorders.

    • SunnyD847

      “Do you ever stop talking? Like maybe to think?”

  • Mariah Crownover

    I HATE this. I have 5 year old triplets and one is much larger than the other two- One boy is bigger, the other boy and girl are the same (smaller) height. People constantly comment in front of them about this discrepancy. I try to make light of it and change the subject, but I can’t stand it. I don’t want him to have a complex about it.

  • Sara610

    I have the opposite problem–my daughter is big for her age (tall and very solidly built) and people comment on it ALL THE EFFING TIME.

    • gothicgaelicgirl

      SAME!!
      10 Yr old is the exact same height as me 5 foot 2 already and busty.
      Her sister is 1 year younger and a totally different body shape.
      Elder girl is tall slender and willowy.
      Younger is short and full bodied (but judging from her mom, that’ll change as she grows older)

      People look at the younger in pity and make stupid comments about how she “shouldn’t worry, you’ll catch up someday!”

      Or for the taller girl- “Aw that means you can’t wear any of the cute kids clothes!”

      If I have to buy a Frozen T Shirt in a ladies size 12 for her, I freakin will.

      It’s not the comments that hurt, it’s the way the two girls are made to feel like freaks for being so differently sized for their age.

    • Natasha B

      That’s terrible that people comment, so hard to deal with. And we work so hard to give our kids a positive body image.

    • gothicgaelicgirl

      Exactly!
      The little one even gets people asking when she’s going to lose the “puppy fat”
      SHE’S 9!!!
      I cannot understand why people do this. These would be the same people who look at an anorexic girl and blame their parents!

    • Guest

      As if she has a calendar telling her when her puppy fat will magically disappear. I carried my face full of “baby fat” into my early 20′s and I still have chubby cheeks.

    • gothicgaelicgirl

      I think it’s terrible the way people feel the need to judge other kids then god forbid if you point out that their precious snowflake is actually terribly obese, it’s a whole other story if you retaliate!

    • Natasha B

      This, so much. Our 10yo is 5’5″. All the fucking time. ‘Omg she’s sooooo tallll!!!! Why is she sooooo talllll???!!! Haha you must be tallllllerrrr than all the boys!’
      Drives. Me. Bonkers. Doesn’t help that all her female cousins are petite. All our kids are tall, but I guess because she’s a girl it’s a biiiiiig deal.

    • JulesInNC

      Yeah, I have that issue with my 2.5 year-old girl, who’s at the top of the charts for both height and weight. For the most part it’s not an issue, but I do worry (just a tiny bit) about people’s judgment when we’re in public and she displays 2-year-old behavior.

  • Sharon Ramage

    I have the same problem with my son (2yrs old) but instead of the short thing its “oh, hes so skinny! Don’t you feed him?” He eats like a cow and is the 50th percentile for weight which is perfect, but is very tall for his age so hes a healthy weight, hes just got a larger frame to stretch it over. Its always been like that too, everyone loves a chunky baby with cherub cheeks but a skinny baby? He MUST be malnourished! I don’t think people mean to be judgmental, it just comes out that way and I do my best not to take it to heart.

  • B

    So. Much. This! My eldest son is very thing & on the smaller end of average for his height. His younger brother (they’re nearly 3 years apart) is pretty big for his age. People are always asking me if they’re twins, then when I say that they’re 3 yrs apart they make comments on how big my youngest is or how small my eldest is. And it makes my eldest feel bad/insecure. We’re a body positive household, & we’re constantly giving them praise. But it breaks my heart to see me eldest’s face fall when someone says “well i’m sure he’ll have a growth spurt here soon” or go on and on about how they were small or knew someone small & he/she shot up blah blah blah.
    Keep your comments to yourself people!

  • Tk

    People are dumb. My 5 month old is 50th percentile, so
    Average. We always get comments about how big she is. She has always been very bright eyed and nosey, so I thought maybe she just have off a vibe of an older child, but even now we always get told she is big. No, sorry guys, just average! I don’t really care, but I hope it stops before she understands what they are saying.

  • Obladi Oblada

    I have a small son too. He’s 7, weighs 45 pounds and is not yet 4 feet tall. Doesn’t seem to bother him much. He’s always been the smallest but you’d never know it when he wrestles with his older brother who is 11, weighs 105 pounds and is 5’6″ or his oldest sister who is 14 and 6’0″. (My husband is 6’5″ and I’m 5’10″ so they come by it honestly.) He wears them out. His favorite phrase is, “I’m gonna come at you like a spider monkey!”

  • LiLi

    You are winning my heart with posts today. My 2 mo old is a hair under 10 lbs and I keep having people ask me if he was a preemie. He was 6lbs 9oz going home from the hospital and after one bad week of weight gain (due to my 1st time breastfeeder nipples feeling like he’s on fire) his gain has averaged 5.8oz a week. My mother and MIL keep asking me if he’s eating enough. Though I am lucky that Nugget’s doctor says he’s super healthy, he’s just small. Its starting to piss me off.

  • BW2

    I was always a tall girl and hated these comments. My mom would say it also and that she wished she was talker, but I hated it. I am ok with it now as I think it is easier to stay thin and my husband is taller than me.

  • shorty_RN

    I have a similar issue, just opposite end of the spectrum. My son is big. Like, enormous, off the charts big. The doctor said “well, he’s in about the 110th percentile.” He’s only 7 months old, but he looks like a toddler. EVERYONE comments on it. Yes, world, I’m aware my son is monstrous, can we move on now?

  • mediocrity511

    I’m short, as a kid I was tiny. As in medically tested to see if I needed growth hormone tiny. I’m cool with it now, but as a kid I didn’t like it. I can remember hanging off the banisters trying to stretch myself!
    But there are advantages, I used to get half price bus fare for about 4 years longer than I should have. Also, in the UK kids clothes are VAT exempt, so I could get new dresses and things way cheaper than my taller friends.

  • PaulaCarswell

    I think that Milk is so very useful for the Growth of child .
    http://alleureaustralia.com

  • biggerthanthesound

    My kids are small, too. I don’t mind because I can usually get a few more months/years out of their clothes. Also, I could pick them up… usually with one arm which is important when you have three… until they were quite old without breaking my back. The only comments I got that I didn’t like were judgy ones at the playground when people assumed my very agile 2 year old was much younger and that I was obviously sending her to her death.

    • CBillard

      The percentile braggers make my head explode. I was talking about how I was struggling with my kid being so small and being concerned that he had disease/condition x, y or z. Her response was to tell me her two kids were always above 95% and too big for clothes, yadda, yadda, yadda. Gee, thanks for the support.

    • Guest

      I had a couple friends bragging over their percentiles and also the scores on whatever the hell that test is they give at birth or shortly after? I was like really? You’re bragging about a test an infant took…who gives a fuck?

    • biggerthanthesound

      Ha ha! Right. Those were usually the ones who paid all kinds of attention to the heart rate and asked how far along they were measuring when pregnant, etc. I didn’t care about any of that stuff. I felt fine, dr. didn’t have any concerns… all was well. I’ll save my worrying about something I have control over, thanks!

    • Guest

      Yes, well apparently these things mean their kids are tiny geniuses! So obvi super important :-P

  • Life-Sized Mommy

    I have this same thing. My older son is a giant (like, off-the-charts percentile-wise). He is lean but solid, and has honestly been built like a teenager since he was two. He also has a much older-looking face (strong jaw, cleft chin, etc.). He seriously looks like a blonde version of Gaston as a kid.

    My younger son is TINY. Like, below 5th percentile. He’s happy and healthy, but he’s such a little shrimp! He’s coming up on a year and I’ll be carting him around thinking, “Wow, your brother was this size at four months.”

    My husband and I both have a wide mix of very short and very tall people in our families, but it just looks so funny how my older boy got all the “tall” genes and my little got all the “short” genes.

  • CBillard

    This! My son has hovered between the 5-10% since birth. We have struggled to put weight on him for the entirety of his 2 years. When people make offhand comments they have no idea how much I’ve cried because I feel like I’m fucking up as a parent. They have no idea how draining it is to keep a food/calorie count diary, to plot his growth on your own and weigh him weekly to make sure he’s not dropping. Or how expensive it is to be buying toddler formula because you need to supplement his calories. Or how many specialists we’ve gone to to make sure my kid doesn’t have a life threatening disease. Honestly people, just STFU.

    • biggerthanthesound

      My kids are all low on the charts, but because the growth was still consistent there was never usually a concern. The only time there was, was when my middle daughter had a flat line of growth and that was around the time she had started running and being a picky eater. They ran some tests and no big thing. As long as the growth is consistent I would say everything is fine…. he’s just on the smaller side. I hate those dumb charts.

  • Alicia Kiner

    My son is short for his age…like 20th percentile. He’s also the youngest kid in his class since his birthday is at the end of August. He doesn’t give a lick, and neither do his classmates, though that may change at his new school in the fall. I keep telling him that both my husband and I were short until we were teenagers. I’m 5’7″, my husband is 6′ even. All of the males in my family are over 6′ and my husband’s brother is 6’4″. He won’t be short forever, and if he is, so what. He’s perfect just the way he is and we all love him.

    • Guest

      Your family sounds exactly like mine. I told my husband that our children will probably be giants because he is very beefy and my family has some major height going on. I think that works fine for boys but is much harder for girls to deal with unless they play volleyball or basketball where they learn to embrace the height.

  • mee513

    My 3 yr old is on the opposite end of the spectrum. He is 3 foot 10 inches tall and over 60 lbs. People assume he’s older and when he acts like a 3 year old I get stares and comments from strangers. Got one yesterday – a random lady asked me – “How is he so big?” after she tried to make small talk and asked me how old my son is. Totally. STFU.

  • Guest

    I don’t know why people comment on these things at all in general. No kid wants to hear that he is too small or that she is too big. Why comment on their size? Is there really nothing else of that child’s that you can comment on?

  • Snarktopus

    Nope. Small girls get shit, too. I’m constantly told to ‘feed her more’ or that I must be starving her for her to be so small, but, no, she eats until she’s full, and then adamantly refuses anything else. I’ve even had someone tell me to start mixing lard in with her food. LARD.

  • Sesnz

    When my son was six, he looked about 4. In the post office one day the teller looked at him and said ‘you must be getting ready to start school soon’ and my boy replied (with his hands on his hips no less), ‘lady, I’ve been at school over a year now’! Now at 9 he is still in the lower percentiles for height, and most 7 year olds we meet are taller than him. Luckily it hasn’t slowed him down, he plays basketball and hockey, and is quite good at both. I do worry a little about high school and bullying etc, but I have to remind myself that I have no control over his height, what will be will be. What I can do is encourage his strengths (and dream about throat-punching the next twat who exclaims with condescending pity ‘wow, he’s so short for his age’).

  • vino14

    OH MY Gosh, Thank you for the article, I too wish people would STFU. We just got back from swim lesson and once again someone made a comment about my son being so little for his age. I could spit fire. I know they don’t mean to be disrespectful but he keeps hearing it over and over again. He is 5th % for height. Doc said he will hit puberty later rather than sooner after bone density scan. I am just sooooo tired of the comments and worry about how they will affect him. Today I just said “well someone has to be in the 5th %.” I just wish the comments didn’t bother me, but they bother me because I know are starting to bother him. He told me so. And I want him to grow up feeling empowered and am searching for the words and way to empower him.