Both my twins were "off the charts" small at birth. They were both just under five pounds and then went down to four pounds by the end of their first week. Preemie clothes didn't even fit them. But gradually, as they got older, my daughter caught up to the growth charts at the doctor's office. My son did not.
He's 7 now, and is still considered underweight. Looking at growth charts, hearing percentiles, and comparing my son's stats has caused constant worry for me. It's something that lives in the back of my mind -- or is put in the forefront depending on whether the comments are from a doctor or from others. But I learned how to deal with the worry.
It's all about compartmentalizing the barrage of information. Some of it is useful; some of it made me worry too much when I shouldn't have been worried. And since it's our job as mothers to worry, this shouldn't come as a shock. Still, the feedback from others -- professional and not -- can make even the most laid-back mom a little rattled.
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I remember when my son was about a year old and we saw a different doctor at our practice than we'd been seeing. She was concerned about how much weight my son didn't put on and began talking about ways to help him gain more weight. Her concern made me overly concerned.
I started down the path of doubt: Is he not eating enough? Am I not feeding him well? Is it something I did or didn't do? It's MY fault! Am I not paying enough attention to my kid? Is he healthy? But then a month later, we saw his original pediatrician, who wasn't concerned at all. She told me something to the tune of: He's a healthy kid, does all he is supposed to do, is alert and happy -- he's just a lighter weight than most kids his age. This up-and-down cycle continued depending on what doctor we saw throughout the years. My emotions experienced the same fluctuations.
There's also the fact that well-meaning friends and strangers like to point out that my son is "skinny" -- a word I don't like using. Some can't believe he's a twin since his sister "is sooooo much bigger than him!" This is sometimes said right in front of my kids, making both of them feel a bit uncomfortable. I've even had people tell me what to feed my son, making me feel as if they think I'm not giving him proper nutrition. This is all unsolicited advice. And I feel as if I have to remind people that I have two kids -- both healthy -- both fed essentially the same things, just with two different body types. I don't, but I remind myself this in my mind quite often.
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Perhaps it's my son's clothes that call attention to him, especially now at 7, where he has his own sense of style. He prefers tighter-fitting shirts and pants, and his slender frame is noticeable. And about those pants -- they have been high-waters for years because most clothes that fit in length do not fit in the waist. He doesn't like the feeling of the adjustable pants with the tabs inside (and I can't blame him). I've done an amateur stitch in bottoms that work in length but not in the waist. Still he rocks the high-waters a lot with really cool patterned socks. It's become his signature look. Both he and I are working on not letting what other people think affect us. It's good practice.
In regard to his health, I have to admit that I've also gone the route of searching online and created an unnecessary panic for myself, questioning everything. I suppose that's healthy in a way -- keeping yourself in the know always is -- but the truth is that there can be 100 off-the-charts small kids with 100 different reasons why they are off-the-charts small.
As far as my kid is concerned, he's not on the charts because that's just his body type. Sure, he's a picky eater, but he does eat the foods he likes. What's most important is that he's healthy, and that he's growing, just at his own pace.
With everything in parenting, as I've come to learn and continue to remind myself especially since I have twins, we can't compare one kid to another. They're all individuals, just as we adults are. And we all have different body types.
What has worked for me -- to keep calm regarding his size -- is to look at my son, to see if he is doing all he should be doing. And what I see is a really active, healthy, full-of-energy kid running around the playground in high-waters and socks with sharks on them. Nothing wrong with that.