Does a child's size really matter?

Tracy wonders if other parents worry about how big or small their kids are.

By Tracy Chappell
Does a child's size really matter?

I read something this week that gave me a bit of a perspective shift. It was a quote from a mom worrying about her child being too small.
If I had given this any thought before, I’d probably realize that it’s a relatively common parental concern, especially in the first year. But, you see, I’ve never had such a worry. I have big kids.
How do I know? Because people tell me. All the time. “Wow, is that your daughter? Is she really only in kindergarten?” a mom will ask as we’re standing outside the kindergarten courtyard. “Yes, she's just turning six,” I’ll say. “She’s sooooo big!” she’ll exclaim. “Yes, she’s tall,” I’ll respond.
Then she’ll turn her sights to Avery. Her eyes will widen in surprise. “And she’s how old then?” I’ll answer: “She’s three. She’s tall too.”
“I can’t believe it! She’s the size of my five-year-old! I think she’s bigger! Look at my three-year-old,” she’ll say, pulling him over. “She’s twice the size of him! What size does she wear?”
It doesn’t bother me anymore, but it certainly used to when they were younger. They’ve always been big — 95th percentile big — and when you’re raising two girls while you're bombarded with news about the obesity epidemic and childhood inactivity and girls' body images and have your own body image issues to deal with too, you worry about such things. I know we’re supposed to be teaching that beauty comes from within, and I do — it’s something I believe in wholeheartedly — but at the same time, I know that it’s no fun growing up as a “big girl.”
When they were beautiful, rolly-polly babies, I got lots of comments. “You don’t have to feed her every time she cries, you know!” “What are you feeding that girl?” “Is she eating again?” “She weighs how much?” You feel like everyone assumes your baby’s subsisting on Chicken McNuggets and Coke.
When Anna was a baby, my doctor definitely did ask a lot of questions about her diet. But Anna was an amazingly healthy eater (and still snacks on carrot sticks by choice), so my doctor told me not to worry, that she was just a big girl, and as long as she was growing in proportion, there was nothing to worry about. And she has. As she got to be four and five, she shot up and started to slim down. While she’s still a head taller than many of her classmates, no one would ever call her overweight.
Avery has followed a similar growth curve and, because we've seen Anna grow, no one's worried about it. She’s turning four in September, but she already weighs nearly 45 pounds. She is also 42 inches (3.6 feet) tall and her feet are size 11/12. She wears Anna's size 5/6 hand-me-downs. There’s no denying she’s a big girl, but likewise, she’s perfectly proportioned — she just looks like a five-year-old instead of a three-year-old.
I was only sad they were bigger because it meant I had to give up carrying them around sooner than most, and they grew out of clothes at lightening speed. It never occurred to me, in this skinny-obsessed world, that some parents worried that their kids were small. When I was young, I remember wishing so badly that I were one of the small kids. They were cute, they wore cute clothes, people would hoist them up on their shoulders, and they didn’t have to stand in the back row with all the boys for class pictures.  
But I realized this week that those parents commenting on my kids’ size probably aren’t intending to be rude or inappropriate — being big is my issue, and that’s why my instinct is to take offense. They’re just observing and maybe wondering about their own kids’ sizes. Because as parents, we all worry about our kids, even when there’s nothing at all to worry about. Maybe, even though it’s coming out all wrong, they’re really impressed with how tall my kids are. Who knows?
So, this is something I don’t worry about anymore; the way Anna’s grown this last year has eased any concerns. My children have big genes, but I know that they are active and healthy and that they are growing perfectly for them. They’ll never be petite, but there’s nothing wrong with that. As I've learned, when you’re tall, you can do better at the long jump at track and field, see over people’s heads at concerts, and never have to hem your pants. I hope they’ll grow up happy for all that their strong, tall bodies are capable of, and always feel comfortable in them. 

This article was originally published on Jul 12, 2012

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