Though 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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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