Things Never to Say to a Mom Whose Kid Is Smaller Than Average

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As a mom, you worry about everything involving your kid. If your child is smaller than average, this becomes one of your biggest concerns. It's all because of the love you have for your little one and your desire for him or her to feel "just right" in the world. Other people aren't coming from that same angle. Sometimes you'll get unsolicited comments that can make even the most zen mama get a bit mama bear. 


Don't assume a kid's age -- at least don't say it out loud in front of him.

I have twins who are now 7 years old. My son and daughter were born at nearly the same weight and length. Now, however, my daughter weighs 12 pounds more and is a few inches taller. And she's a bit below average if you compare her to the other kids in their second grade class.

On the other hand, my son is off-the-charts small. He's a healthy and active kid, though he is a picky eater. If people don't know my kids are twins, they always ask how many years apart they are. My response is almost always "two minutes." I see the confusion come over their faces and add, "They're twins," with a smile. This is when my daughter chimes in and lets the person know that she's older. And she is ... those two minutes mean a lot to her. And they also make my son feel a little uneasy about the whole exchange.

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This makes him "feel bad," he says, as if he's not doing the right thing by just being himself and growing at the rate he is growing. This has made me realize that it's important to never assume anything when it comes to kids and parents, but we all have a slip-up now and then, and it's mostly a comment that was never meant to offend or make anyone "feel bad," especially a child.

Don't ask why my child is "so fill-in-the-blank?"

There are offenders who really want to know more and ask things like why is your child so small, so tiny, so petite, so little, so skinny, so thin, so short, so not like all the other kids his own age? I added in the last one because while those aren't the exact words people use, it's what they're implying.

Sometimes I want to respond in a peculiar way just to get them to realize this isn't a conversation I want to be having. Something like, oh, my son is so tiny because he's training for the 'squeeze into the space under the door' competition. But I know if my son heard, he'd wonder if there really was such a thing. Other times I want to say, well, his dad was small when he was a kid, too, and he's 6 foot 2 now. But then I worry that's a lot of height pressure to put on my son. He doesn't need to grow to be 6 foot 2. He needs to grow into whatever height is right for him. 

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Don't ask me if he has "issues."

These often well-meaning folks sometimes want to delve deeper. I've been asked if he eats well, if he has issues, and if he'll catch up to the other kids his own age. Those are questions I don't really want to get into with people I barely know. We all have "issues" of some sort. And if he'll catch up to the other kids isn't something I worry about. The eating thing, however ....

Don't ask about his eating habits, unless I've brought them up.

My son is a super-taster -- he's very particular when it comes to food and can taste things with heightened senses. Still, I don't like to blame his size on his picky eating, because to me, that's just blaming him. He is who he is -- so what if he's a vegetable-hating, chicken-only-loving kind of kid? I also don't like to fault the fact that he was born with low muscle tone. I don't feel these are issues -- these are just facts that make up who he is as a person. If I put blame on these things, it might make my child feel he is doing something wrong. Or that something is wrong with him. These are not things I want him to feel. These are not things any child should feel.

It's key to remember that whenever anyone asks any mom about her smaller-than-average kid, it stirs up a lot of emotions. The wording comes out differently depending on the person. They can say things like Oh, he's so skinny! Is he eating? What are you feeding him? Is something wrong with him? Was he small at birth? -- but the sentiment is all the same. It makes a mom feel like she has done something wrong. It can make a child feel that something he did is wrong. When that isn't the case at all.

Some may even say that moms like me should stop being so sensitive on this topic, and that may be easier said than done. As any parent knows, that's a challenge when you want to protect your kids. Still, others should be sensitive in the words they choose to use, and not bombard people with potentially hurtful questions. Many moms don't mind talking about things involving their kids, but it's important to let them lead the discussion, and to think about words before just blurting them out.

In the end, some kids are small. Some are tall. Some are at the top of the charts in size, and some way below. Just like adults, kids are all different shapes and sizes. And that's okay. 

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