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)