cady-7Though most of you have seen her grow up on social media, sometimes pictures don’t really do justice to how much baby Cadence has grown since I announced her birth here. But to preface this conversation, Cadence has always been in the 98th-99th percentile for height. That means that since her infancy, if you had picked 100 children her same exact age, measured each one, and ranked them from 1-100 with 1 being shortest and 100 being tallest, Cady would have ranked 98 or 99.

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Photo by Andrea Friedman

Just a few months after she was born and I took her for a regular check-up at her pediatrician, her doc told me that she was tracking to be quite tall for her age. No big surprise as her dad is 6’3″ and I have always been on the taller side, but as she’s getting older and finally able to walk on her own, I’ve been noticing something a little disturbing.

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You all know I love to dress Cady up and have her hair looking cute. So when we’re out and about, because she’s absolutely adorable, she typically garners attention. The “ooohs” and “aaahs” and “how adorables”, if you will. But then comes the obligatory question – “How old is she?”

I answer, only to find that the conversation quickly switches from how cute she is to how oddly large she is for her age. I’ve gotten used to bracing for the same insensitive responses. “Oh my gosh, seriously?? She’s so big!” Or “Wow, she’s tall” or “Geez, already?”

So let’s be clear. I get it. When people see something they are not used to seeing, it’s hard for them to wrap their heads around it. She’s two and a half and she looks like she could be 4. She’s already wearing 4T pants and 3T tops and she’s not yet 3. They’re often in disbelief and wonder. And this, understandably, causes diarrhea of the mouth. But what I want everyone reading this to understand is that those types of immediate reactions are not always appropriate. Yes, stating the obvious, she is big(ger) and she is tall(er). She is more physically developed than most children her age. But is it necessary OR appropriate to comment on that? No more appropriate than it would be for you to say “Wow, she’s really black” or “Geez, her ears are huge.” Right?

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Even though “big” and “tall” don’t necessarily constitute insults, these are still comments on my child’s physical characteristics – something she cannot control or change. Commenting on her clothes or her hairstyle is one thing. Those are choices I made on her behalf. Things that can easily change tomorrow. But commenting on her physical attributes as a human being just because she’s too young right now to process what you’re saying, just isn’t appropriate.

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Take it from someone who, growing up, was always the tallest girl in the class. I was always at the back of the line in elementary school (we used to line up in size order), turning off the lights and closing the door behind everyone. I was the first girl in my class to wear a training bra because I developed curves early on. On the one hand I had an incredible sense of responsibility at an early age because of all these things I had to do that my peers didn’t. But constantly having my size addressed in public and seeing that play out from the extra responsibilities I was given to the awkward conversations I overheard about myself, had really long term effects on my confidence. I would venture to say that my love for fashion & beauty originated as a defense mechanism for deep rooted confidence issues I had as a child. Looking good was my way of drawing attention away from my “bigness” and “differentness” toward something I could control. Like my dope blazer or my shiny new shoes.

I know I know. You’re reading this and you’re thinking “Shit, I’ve done that before. I’ve said those things to someone about their child. I am a horrible person.” You’re not. I promise you’re not. You were just blissfully unaware that those comments can be taken negatively. But now, hopefully, you’re a little more educated about how it can be perceived when you say things like “wow she’s so tall” or “omg he’s so little” in reference to someone’s child and their physical attributes.

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Think about it – would you say that to me? If I walked into a room would you ask me how much I weigh and then say “Wow, you’re so big”? Because please believe (and you know this if you follow my style blog) I’m definitely overweight. I’m 5’7″ so by some accounts I’m also taller than average. But those of you who are commenting on my baby’s size would never make comments like that about me to my face as an adult. You don’t get a pass just because she’s under the age of 3.

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Why not replace that commentary with compliments like “Wow, she’s so smart!” Or “Omg she has such a cute laugh.” Positive things that differentiate her. Things she will be proud to say about herself when she gets older. Characteristics that are not completely defined by her physical appearance. Because it all starts when we’re young. Negative self-image, self-confidence issues, false self-truths. Those seeds are planted when children are young. You think they’re not listening, but they are. They hear EVERYTHING you say. So please, be mindful of your words. Let’s uplift our kids instead of using language that could potentially divide them based on physical appearance.

What are your thoughts on this? Mommies, have you ever been irked by someone commenting on your child’s physical attributes?

Photography by Joe Chea

Facebook Comments
  • MommieKnowsfresh

    Girl this really grinds my gears! I’ve gotten “she’s so tall” or “she’s so skinny”, I also grew up with insecurities and STILL deal with them to this day. The one thing I said I was going to do as a parent was to surround Mickey with positive self/body image. This includes me not talking negatively about MYSELF around her either. Great post!

    • Yes! We have to surround them with love and all things positive. I know people are not saying these things maliciously, but we’re conditioned to comment on what we feel is different. But I always think about how different my life would have been had I not been reminded constantly as a child that I was different in some way. I think we should just let kids grow into understanding their differences instead of bombarding them with them once they pop out the womb.

  • Melisa Boutin

    My son is tall for his age but every time I hear a response that his size make him look so much older than he is, it’s almost perplexing to me because I see him as just my little boy.

    I never really thought of how focusing on something he cannot change and the impact it ciuld have on him. But I do know how it feels to be the child who was short but fatter than everyone else and how adults comments about my weight had a negative impact in myself image.

    Definitely something to for me to be aware of when it comes to him.

    • Yeah it’s interesting that people comment on the reverse for boys like “oh wow, he’s so small.” Because inherently it is a “bad” thing for a boy to be small or for a girl to be tall. Bad or strange. I just think we should let the kids “be” and find other things to comment on outside of the attributes about them that they can’t change.

  • Wow. Now I’m sitting here tryna think if I’ve ever said this to someone! I get your frustration though. I have a similar issue.

    With Micah, he catches flack about his personality. A 17 month-old! I’ve noticed early on that he takes after me: he’s shy/introverted. Because he’s a baby, he exhibits those feelings differently than would an adult. So he’s got this reputation of not being friendly. It bugs me because I’ve struggled with the same thing just about ALL my life. I don’t speak so I MUST have an attitude or be conceited or antisocial. So I’ve got people not wanting to speak to him because they’re afraid he’s gonna grunt at them. Smh. It’s so annoying and it makes me sad that my child will likely have to experience the same feelings I’ve had to endure all these years.

    This was a great post and you’ve motivated me to write about my situation. Thank you! 😉

    • I can’t wait to read your post about it. This post alone opened up so much conversation and also shed light on how ADULTS deal with criticism from outsiders about their physical appearance. It’s so important for us to talk about these things. I could’ve gone to bed angry and maybe snapped at the next parent who said the same thing about her. But I said “nah let me get to the root of this”. And while I was writing, I discovered the root of my angst is my personal experience with it. I don’t want my little one to go through that so let me tell people how it makes me feel, you know? Each one teach one.

  • Shaloma

    hmm this is such an interesting topic; so many layers. Glad you brought it up. I have definitely said things like that to my mommy friends and never even thought twice to think it could be giving them flashbacks. I think the solution is giving everyone grace – as friends, we give mom and child grace and as a mom, give others grace. It would be hard for me personally to know what to say or not say because I would never interpret that comment as an insult (actually the opposite like “thank youuuu! yes! she gets it from me and her daddy!” I’m 5’9 and LOVED being tall as a child), so I think this opens up the discussion of, how being a mum helps heal old wounds. I’m sure other things would trigger my old insecurities as well though so I GET IT. Culture also plays a huge role. My Jamaican mother constantly and embarrassingly states the obvious w/ my friends – you’re so cute and SHORT! – and some of it has rubbed off. But they came to know that it’s all love and her way of showing affection and I told her to stop with the ones who were super bothered. Love, trust and communication always wins 🙂