Both of my babies were teeny-tiny, barely-on-the-charts, bite-sized peanuts. I used to call them my little chickens because their limbs were so long and scrawny that they really did look kinda chicken-like. No plump roly-poly bellies or fat cheeks or dimpled thighs over here. They were lean, mean, baby machines. My vagina and I were very thankful to only have to push out those 6-pounders, but after they were born, it turned into a full-time job worrying about keeping weight on them.
My only consolation was that we live at a high elevation and a lot of the babies look on the smaller side up here. Sitting around at baby story hour at the library, most of the kids toddle around on stick-skinny legs with their diapers and pants all falling down at the same time. They all catch up in grade school, so I’m not sure why the babies always seem so tiny. One theory is that they are just working so hard trying to get enough oxygen into their lungs that the fat just melts right off them. I really wish that’d work for me.
Over the years, there are some basic truths that I learned from having small children, and here they are:
1. People will ask you if are feeding them. Of course, I freaking feed them. I spend my whole life thinking about what to feed them. And even if your doctor continues to reassure you that your child is following their own growth path, if you’re an overachiever, you’ll still want to get them fatter.
2. You will worry about the quality of your breast milk all the time. I would think, “Is it just water coming out of there?” And you will justify eating all sorts of dessert and bacon products because that just has to make my breast milk fatty, right?
3. You can babywear those kids until they head off for college.
4. You will do crazy stuff to put weight on them like dump olive oil into their oatmeal and add avocados and bananas and cheese to absolutely everything. You will know the calorie-counts for everything, and your children won’t be strangers to full-fat ice cream.
5. You will celebrate the day they make it onto the weight chart. My daughter was almost 2, and she made the second percentile for weight. This was a huge deal, and I might have cried.
6. Nothing will fit them, ever. At 10, my son fits into the corresponding numbered clothes to his age — for the first time in his life. I used to think that all other kids must surely be giants because the clothes were so huge.
7. They will be running much sooner than you are ready for them to. At least mine did. They didn’t have any extra weight to haul around and they just took off sprinting one day. Mobile 9-month-olds who have absolutely no good decision-making skills make for lots of adventures and high blood pressure.
8. Your mother will fret about all of this more than you. Mine fretted a lot. My mom loves to feed people, especially baby people. She needed them to be chunky and well-fed-looking and that just wasn’t happening, so she stressed out (which stressed me out).
9. You will look at the folds of fat on your friends’ babies with awe. I remember seeing that my friend’s child had creases in the middle of her arms. I had never seen such a thing before. What do you do with all those crevasses during bathtime?
10. You will be limited to buying only the brands of pants that have those tabs in them to cinch up the waist.
11.They can use the same bathing suit for about five years. My daughter still wears a 2T swimsuit bottom and she’s going to be 6 in September. True story.
12. Your child will get very angry when strangers think they are younger than they really are. This makes trips to the grocery store even more awkward than usual.
13. When they get sick and don’t eat, this will be awful for you. Those days were so stressful because they couldn’t afford to lose any of that precious weight that took me months to put on them.
14. It is very difficult to teach someone with no body fat to swim because they just keep sinking. My daughter has baffled many swim teachers. I’m not kidding.
15. Their skinny-arm hugs are the best, and they fit in your lap just right for a very long time.
So, if you have a baby or toddler on the small side, just know that at some point the annoying comments will die off. They will grow, and as they get older, people seem to care a lot less about how much they weigh or what growth percentile they fall in. You will start to stress less about every calorie that goes into their bodies and just worry that they don’t eat anything green ever.
I’m also pretty sure they’ll figure out how to swim — but I’m still waiting on that one.