When your child doesn’t look their age.
It did not surprise me when my daughter gave a sarcastic response of “I might not look like a nine-year old to you; but I am – okay”.
This was in reply to a family member’s comment on her size that does not match her age. If I said this was the first time such a comment was made, I would be lying. It happens all the time. Uninvited comments from strangers, family and friends.
“Oh you so tiny”
“What!, In grade 4, but you look as if you should be in Grade 1”
“My 5 year old niece is bigger than you”
“Your parents need to feed you more, you are just sticks and bones”
She has endured these comments for the longest time. At first she would just brush it off and smile but over time I could see it is really starting to annoy her. Honestly, I don’t blame her for her recent reaction. To be scrutinized from head to toe is humiliating. My child is well aware that she is short for her age and therefore don’t need constant reminders of it.
Adding to the fuel of comments; same-age friends who are taller wants to pick her up. Obviously it frustrates her and we hear endless complaints about this and why she is not tall. She always falls in second position when the teacher lines them up from shortest to tallest. Due to height restrictions; she has been prohibited to go on certain obstacle courses and amusement park rides. So basically she has been pulling at the short end of the stick. No pun intended.
Nine year old, Mika is like any normal child her age. She has a healthy appetite for real good food and appreciates every bite. She has successfully reached all her milestones, is smart, energetic, resilient and feisty. Making her a force to be reckoned with and not to be underestimated. Besides a few height restrictions, she has the ability to do everything other kids her age or even older can do.
The only difference is, she is petite for her age. It is just what it is. And that is okay. Measuring children up against each other – some will be tall, some average, others short, skinny or chubby. Children come in different shapes and sizes. They grow and develop differently. Often genetics play a part in how children grow as well. My husband is not the tallest person so that could be a contributing factor as well.
Looking back; Mika’s birth weight was 3kg and length 49cm. This falls within the normal range for newborns. During the first 4 months of her life, she was breastfed. But even when switching over to formula, her growth chart indicated steady growth during our visits to the wellness clinic and paedeatrician. At the age of two and a half, she started slimming down. This is also normal as growth and weight gain slows down during the toddler years. Percentiles change as children grow older.
For now, I can say for sure that there is no cause for concern about my daughter’s height and weight. According to the BMI Percentile Calculator her weight is healthy and she falls within the 5th and 85th percentile. As long as my child is healthy and is showing steady growth; I am happy. And that is all that matters. Children often go through a growth spurt when they reach puberty. Of course when growth really stagnates and there is a developmental delay then it will be a real concern.
On the other hand, being petite has it’s benefits. Mika does not outgrow her clothing as quick as her sister does. This is a financial saving as she gets a longer wear out of her clothes. As she looks young for her age, people think she is cute and this allows her to get away with discounted rates.
Although I can not control other people’s comments about my child’s body image. I can control what I say in front of her. Admittedly, I have been guilty of letting slip a few unintentional and innocent remarks myself. Although it has been positive slip outs. Words carry power and children pick up on this. And it needs to stop.
Both my husband and I have spoken to our daughter about this. Explaining to her that her size is normal and that she will grow at her own pace. I don’t want her to worry about her appearances. At all costs, I want to avoid her from developing an inferiority complex. No one should make her feel uncomfortable or isolate her due to her size. We have told her that should she in any way feel discriminated against due to her size; she should assert herself like she did with the family member or come and tell us.
So, next time you want to comment on a child’s body image, think before you say something.
Yes, my daughter is small for her age and I’m okay with it but most importantly, she is okay with it. Like they say dynamite comes in small packages.