Small Big Boys: The Height Issue

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photo by Judmr

On the rarest occasion, my husband will look at my oldest son, then look at me and silently mouth something like, "Is he growing?" Of course, he is growing. But maybe not as fast as we expected. It's a private thought that everyone in my family of mostly tall men harbor: Is this kid gonna be short?

Even my petite mom in my pre-husband days would remind me about short men (my dad is 6'3"), "They can be a little insecure, you know." So the expectations are set. Set by society, set by my family, set by...me: Boys should be tall. But what if he's not? At birth my first boy was nearly 10 lbs and clearly a giant, but every year since then he's dropped a noticeable amount on the height/weight percentile chart. I rarely concede this, but sometimes I wonder to myself if what's adorable now at nearly 5--those stubby legs and fat fingers--will be something of liability later. It's a shameful admission, these thoughts, considering that my beautiful child is healthy. And all you need to know is a parent of one sick child to know how off-based this focus on size is.

I found a wonderful mamazine.com essay by a mom of a small boy, that if you have time you should check out. Here's some of what moved me: I always wonder why it seems acceptable to comment on a child's height (or lack thereof) but not much else. Surely parents of tall children also grow weary of hearing how much their children tower above peers, though I hear from my friends of tall kids that such comments are common. But I would never say to another parent "Wow, your kid sure is fat. I'll bet he can't secure the strap on his backpack," or "How did your daughter get such hairy arms?" or "Check out the bucked teeth on your son—is he able to eat with such big Chiclets for front teeth?"

Of course not. That would be rude.

But is it any less rude to remark on a boy's small stature—a physical feature the kid himself cannot change?

No, it isn't. And I would be devastated if someone said something to me or my baby about his size. If the change starts with me, then it's official. Small, tall, whatever, we're all the same around here. Do you have a smaller than average son? I welcome your feelings.

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