My kids are not on the growth chart. As in, at 3, 5, and 7, they don’t even hit that graph paper. They’re too small. This isn’t a shock: Their father and I were tiny children, always the smallest in our class. Our babies were born normal-sized, but just never grew much or fast. They remain tiny.
People don’t get the ramifications of that (adorable) tininess. Only other parents of tiny people understand these things:
1. Your kid’s clothing never corresponds to their age.
My kids all wear a size at least one below their chronological age. When your relatives ask what size your kids are wearing and you give them an answer of two less than your darling child’s age, you can feel the askance look over the phone. Then you’re gifted younger kids’ hand-me-downs (-ups?).
2. You’re under pressure to beef them up.
The pediatrician often gives you The Look after the kids are weighed and measured. But unless they suddenly changed their growth pattern, there’s no cause for alarm. You know this, but this does not stop you from going home and feeding them butter, ice cream, and protein shakes. You’ll press for clean plates, worry you’re encouraging unhealthy attitudes about food, but then decide screw it and tell them to clean that damn plate. None of this will make them grow faster, of course.
3. People will think your kids are younger than their age.
No one believes my 7-year-old Blaise is 7, my 5-year-old August is 5, or my 3-year-old Sunny is 3. They speak to them accordingly — often in high baby voices, often about Paw Patrol. Humiliatingly, they may ask my oldest when he’s starting kindergarten. Then they about fall over when he starts rambling on about the technical specs of dinosaur skeletons. I have to explain, “He’s 7. He’s just small,” over and over and over.
4. The next thing out of their mouths is a squealed “They’re so tiny!”
It’s not given as a compliment, and my kids can usually hear them. I put on my thin-lipped smile and say, “Yeah, their dad and I were small,” so my sons know they aren’t alone. You know they’re small. It’s obvious they’re small. But for some reason, people find the need to squeal it.
5. But they look really smart.
Even if people know their age, when your kids start spouting their academic achievements or interests, they look like baby geniuses. My oldest, for example, is super into the Revolutionary War. When he starts discoursing on the Battle of Yorktown, people’s eyes goggle out of their sockets, because he’s so smart, OMG, because he looks 5. No, he’s 7 1/2 years old and listens to a lot of Hamilton. But on a 5-year-old, basic 7-year-old knowledge looks like genius level. Yeah, he’s smart, but he’s not some kind of child prodigy — except his shorter stature makes him look like one.
6. You feel a pang when you see him among his normal-sized peers.
Your tiny kid’s BFFs all probably stand at least a head-and-a-half taller. Everyone knows the shortest kid often gets teased. You worry that your baby is going to school — even to preschool — to a chorus of “Baby!” and “Shorty!” You wouldn’t change him for the world, but it sucks that this could be his reality.
7. You celebrate every growth milestone.
Most parents bitch when their kids need new shoes. You’re thrilled — it means he’s getting bigger! When my oldest hit a size 12, I got him a pair of cowboy boots to celebrate. When 3-year-old Sunny moved into 3T, I tossed those 2Ts with abandon and just about threw a party. Sure, I felt a pang in my heart. But hooray! It’s growth! It’s progress! Maybe those protein shakes are helping after all?!
8. You dread height restrictions on amusement park rides.
At our zoo, you have to be 36 inches to ride the ponies. That happens for most kids way earlier than it did for mine, and it was hard for them to watch clearly younger kids cowboyin’ it up around a dirt track. We dread telling our sobbing kids that, no, they can’t ride the ponies/carousel/train today even if their BFF of the same age can.
People with big kids just don’t get it. Average-sized kids hop off the pediatrician’s table, all grins at their perfect 50th percentile, and go on their merry way without their mother plotting how to stuff butter down their throat. They don’t get it either. It’s only the other parents of peanuts, the ones who have teensy children, who understand the struggles of the tiny (but mighty!) child. Oh, they’re freaking adorable. They look super-smart. But the struggle, my friends, is real.