I was at Kid City at the Greenwood Community Center the other day (side note: absolutely amazing, cheap place to take a kiddo!) and I overheard a conversation that was pretty familiar for me.
To set the scene: Two little ones are playing in the same vicinity as (presumably) their parents look on:
“She’s so cute! How old is she?”
“Two?! No way! I definitely thought she was one. My son is two.”
“Yep, she turned two a couple months ago.”
I could hear the annoyance in the second mother’s voice, and was thankful on her behalf when the conversation appeared to be over. And then:
“I just do not believe she is two!”
Ugh. I have been on the receiving end of similar conversations a handful of times. My son Deacon is on the small side. Ever since he was born, he slid back and forth between the 10th and 30th percentiles for height and weight.
My pediatrician (shout-out Southpointe Pediatrics!) is really great. Deacon is following his growth curve, and she has never been concerned about his weight or height. I’m 5 foot 2; we’re probably not going to have a basketball star on our hands, folks, and that is more than okay. When it comes to opinions about Deacon’s body and size, I care about what his doctor says and what the parental instincts of me and my husband indicate. But just because I don’t care about what others say doesn’t mean it isn’t annoying when someone comments about how small he is, or acts completely flabbergasted to learn his age.
What is appropriate?
I am not totally against commenting about how a kid looks, in general. I have told more than a few babies that I love their chubby cheeks or thighs. But there comes a certain age when commenting about anything related to a child’s appearance should be done with care. You think a kid isn’t listening, won’t remember or doesn’t care, but if something someone says about Deacon’s size ever made him feel down or less than, I would be so sad. And also, pissed.
The morale here, to parents and to anyone, is just to keep in mind that not all kids are the same size, shape, color, have the same personalities, interests or preferences. Just because someone looks or acts differently than your kid, or a kid you know, or a kid you saw on Facebook, doesn’t mean either child is weird, wrong or problematic. Our differences, after all, are what make us special. Don’t accidentally make people feel bad about those differences.
Thank you so much for this. It is a hot button topic for me. Would love to email you Nikki. My two were tiny babies and now ironically are giant preschoolers. My oldest who is 5 looks more like 8 or 9 and I’m over the comments. It’s also starting to sink in to my oldest. And I’m not sure it’s positive.
This is so true! Interestingly, people seem to know enough not to comment on how BIG/HEAVY kids are (that would be RUDE!!) but they seem to let you know when your child is, in their opinion, “small”. It absolutely has an effect on how kids feel about themselves and we, as adults, should know better than to comment and make kids feel self conscious whether they are large or small. Kids have enough to deal with these days without adding another label (small, short, tiny, fat, heavy, whatever it is!) I tell my kids, “it doesn’t matter what your size is, it matters what kind of person you are.” When people comment on my child’s size (when I have not asked for the person’s commentary/opinion) it reveals a lot about they type of person THEY are and I just keep it moving along away from them….
Unfortunately it isn’t true that people don’t make remarks when a child is much larger than her age. My daughter is 9 but has always been at the top of the height/weight curve and people always think she’s at least several years older than she is. The problem with it is they also expect her to act much older than she is so when she behaves like a child her age she gets looked at with disdain. It’s also very hard because she’s developing faster than most other girls her age and is constantly worried about looking “fat.” It breaks my heart. I continue to tell her she’s strong and healthy and made exactly the way she was intended but it’s still hard on her. I guess if kids are exactly in the middle of the curve there will be people out there who have to make comments.
I have three children. I had those same comments with two of mine. If you make it an issue, it becomes an issue. Never thought anything about it, because the truth being they were little. I thought they were the cutest little things. Neither one of them have ever had a problem with it. Both grown and are well adjusted children. Still are not very big!!
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