I make big children. Robust babies. Newborn-size clothes have no home in the bins of baby stuff sitting in my attic. Both of my kids are in the 99th percentile for height, according to the World Health Organization. I have two of the tallest babies in the world. I think that’s what that means.
At 18 months, my daughter was the size of the average 3-year-old. My son is the youngest kid in his preschool class and one of the tallest. They both appear to be older than they are. When my son was 1, he was screaming in the checkout line at our grocery store, angry that he had to stay in the cart and that it wasn’t moving. I loaded the belt with our items as quickly as I could, trying to get us out of the store before flames started shooting out of his ears. Kids are fun. Then I heard someone in the next checkout line (somewhat miraculously, over the screaming) remark, “Wow. Somebody’s 2!”
Somebody is 1, actually! Somebody is only a toddler. Somebody is practically still a baby. Somebody else is a grown adult and a dickweed, thank you very much.
My kids are often thought to be older than they actually are. It’s almost always harmless. Maybe some doubting side-eye from a ticket person, skeptical that my enormous child is young enough to not require an admission into wherever we are. Other times, I’ve had to correct parents who are trying to scold one of my kids, expecting behavior that is completely out of the range of possibility for their current age.
“She doesn’t know any better. She’s not even 2.”
Like any other parent, I try to teach my children manners, respect, kindness, and not to eat random bits of food they find on the floor. But at certain ages, there’s only so much you’ve got to work with. Even when there isn’t a specific comment made about my child’s suspected age, I can just sense it with some parents. They assume that my child is a “big kid” in comparison to their waddling little one. The shielding begins, and they start talking to my child about what she should and shouldn’t be doing because they assume she is older, instead of the same age (or younger) than their own child.
And you know why they aren’t talking to their toddler? Because toddlers don’t listen to shit.
Once the other parent starts giving my daughter instructions on how to interact with their child, I usually walk over and say hello. I ask how old their little boy or girl is.
“Aw! Mine too.”
Their eyeballs get big for a second. Then they make a giggled comment about how big she is. Maybe they use my personal favorite descriptor — sturdy. Expectations are adjusted and my daughter can go back to palming her peers in the face like a basketball in peace.
It’s enough to make me want to buy a pack of those age stickers people put on their baby’s onesie to keep track in those monthly pictures. Just so everyone is on the same page and aware that my daughter isn’t some terrifying 3-year-old barreling into the baby play area at the library, coming to clothesline their children, kicking ass, and taking names. She’s a terrifying 1-year-old barreling into the baby play area at the library, kicking ass but not developmentally ready for name-taking, thank you.
Sometimes, I’m caught off-guard because the expectations are inappropriate across the board. My daughter might waddle up to another kid roughly two-thirds her size and take a toy from them. It happens. Most of the time, I prefer to let them figure it out on their own. Since when do 1-year-olds know how to share? Other parents are probably expecting my child to know better because of how old they assume she is, and I make that leap based on the shitty looks I get during my silence.
But then that child takes the toy back from my kid, and the other parent rushes in with an exaggerated “No, sweetie. Share. You can take turns.”
What does that even mean to a toddler? They’re not going to nod their head in agreement and give up their prize. You say “share,” and all your toddler is thinking is “Mom keeps saying that word when I get what I want. This ball is great. Oh, look! A cracker on the floor!”
So after some back and forth between our two kids, just as the other mother is becoming thoroughly fed-up with me and getting that “hold my earrings” look on her face, I speak up.
“Man, her brother was just like this before he turned 2. It’ll be nice when they’re older and not jerks.”
The big eyes come again, and the mother softens.
Kids come in all shapes and sizes. Their ages aren’t going to always be apparent or match what we decide is appropriate, but it’s probably safe to assume that no matter the age of the kid climbing on yours, their parents are trying. At least a little.