I have two children, and most of the people who read this blog know them. One is petite, and one is not. That is why they are often mistaken for twins. The younger one is as tall as the older one, and unless someone has an unexpected growth spurt, she will be taller within a year or so.
They are both healthy and at a good weight for themselves. I have asked the doctor about this. I have wondered about childhood obesity with my “big” child and failure to thrive with my “small” child, but they are both on their personal growth curves and have been for a while. He is happy with their growth.
So, lately, I have been thinking about this. The younger child is always exclaimed over, “She can’t be three, she’s so big for three!” “Wow, she’s a big girl!” “Oh I thought she was five!”
I wonder, do these comments sink in? We do not use the word “fat” in our house, even though I definitely could fall into that category. We talk about exercise and healthy food. We try to encourage healthy behaviors. But one child is, undeniably, bigger than the other. It’s just in her genetic makeup. My kids have a lot of tall genes in their heritage, one just failed to get any of them. And, for the record, the "bigger" child is not overweight, nor does she have a BMI issue. She is just genetically "big."
I know that body image is a very real thing for kids, and that it is becoming an issue at younger and younger ages. I know this because I taught. I know this because I was a kid with a body image issue. I want to protect my daughters from this struggle, yet people are already making comments about their bodies. Comparing them to each other. It hurts me.
I was always the “big” kid in my class. Looking back at pictures, I absolutely was not overweight, but I felt like I was. I remember feeling this way from about fifth grade on. I was not petite, I developed early, and, well, other people in my class were slim and trim. I probably never in my life wore a size 2, but many of the girls throughout my junior high years did. I was also tall, which when you are taller than all of the boys in your class is not always a good thing.
I remember being self conscious about my size. I do not want that for my daughters, any of them. But, when people are already making comments about how “big” she is, and I even catch myself doing the same thing, I wonder. Is the damage being done now? If they continue to follow their growth curves, my younger child will have a small, petite older sister she towers over. How will she feel about that? How will I help her accept herself as she is? She already weighs more than big sis. How is she going to feel when she realizes what that means, exactly?
But, more importantly, what do I do now? What do I say to the well-meaning older ladies at the store who make comments? How do I assure my little girl that she is fearfully and wonderfully made without being rude to these strangers?