At my son’s first checkup, our pediatrician joked to my daughter, who is just shy of 15 months older, “How do you feel that your baby brother is going to be bigger than you?”
My son was 2 days old.
At the rate we’re going, he was right. My son was bigger at 6 months than his sister at 9 months. He is on pace to lap his older sister by his first birthday in October.
We joke about it because it is kind of crazy how two kids from the same parents, born a year apart can be built so differently.
But to be honest, it does bother me when random strangers come up to us and say what a great eater he must be (sometimes), assume I had gestational diabetes with him (I didn’t), or commend me on what a great football player he’ll be (he won’t be allowed to play).
Other than my pediatrician, who is the one person outside of my family whose opinion on my son’s weight matters, I’d prefer if people didn’t comment on his size. To be fair, I don’t like it when people comment on my thin daughter’s weight either.
Ever notice how every birth announcement comes with the same standard info: baby name, birth date / time, and of course, the weight?
How strange that a number most adults keep as concealed as their Social Security number and salary is often one of the first facts we share with the world about a new child.
I get it, people are hungry for information about your new bundle of joy, and well, you’re just getting to know one another, so there isn’t much to share.
I’m sensitive to this for two reasons.
First, I myself am fat and have been basically my whole life. I can distinctly remember some comments adults made to me about my weight when I was as young as 6. I’m consciously trying to make healthy decisions about nutrition, activities and more for my family, to help my children be and stay a healthy weight from the start.
Second, my two kids fall on either end of the weight percentile bell curve. My daughter was 4 pounds 14 ounces at birth and is still pretty lean. My son was 8 pounds 1 ounce. Want to guess which pregnancy had gestational diabetes? Hint: Not the one you automatically assumed.
Therein lies the problem. Often, we make assumptions based on baby weight that are just incorrect or flat out rude.
Babies grow at different rates
My first pregnancy had one totally manageable complication after another, such that it added up to high risk and I had to be induced at 37 weeks. I gave birth to a perfectly healthy but very tiny girl who barely registered on the percentile charts. She wore premie clothes for almost a month and newborn until 3 months. (I had intrauterine growth restriction, which is why she was so small.)
Today, my 22-month-old daughter is tall but lean. People comment on her height all the time and are surprised to hear her age. She’s as tall as her 3-year-old cousin, which isn’t as great as it sounds. When you look older than you are at this age, people expect you to be talking in sentences instead of still trying to form new vocabulary every day.
Plus, finding clothes for a tall, lean toddler is challenging. Based on weight, she’s at the top end of 12 month clothes, but by height she is solidly 2T. I’m glad it’s warm again and we can rock dresses and pants that fit like capris for a few months at least!
On the other end of the spectrum is my son, who’s “a big boy!” as nearly every person who meets him feels compelled to point out. My pregnancy with him was practically textbook.
In reality, he’s larger than average, but not sumo-wrestler material. In fact, other than a bit of baby fat on his arms and especially thighs, he’s pretty lean too. He is tall — 99 percentile at his 6 month check up — but his weight, just over 19 pounds, puts him just on the heavier side of average for that age. At 7 months, we’re just phasing into 9 month summer clothes.
Look beyond baby fat
My daughter and my son are both such great, happy and loveable kids. Seriously, people who have spent any amount of time with them comment on how calm, smiley and easygoing they are. They both have gorgeous deep blue eyes and crazy long lashes, silky blonde hair and grins that rarely leave their face. My daughter is crazy outgoing and a natural friend to kids, adults and dogs. My son lights up the moment anyone locks eyes with him and has a giggle that could thaw even the coldest heart.
All of that to talk about, yet people usually zone in on weight to comment on.
I do worry that my kids will be bullied because of their weight, probably because my own weight issues growing up. And the meant-to-be-cute comments today — about how I “need to feed her” or how my son is “built like a linebacker” — may give them a complex about their bodies before they’re old enough for me to explain how awesome diversity is, let alone equip them with the confidence to deal with body shaming and “shake the haters off.”
I have friends with babies who were several pounds heavier at birth than my son, and others whose premies still weigh less than my daughter once did. These kids (and while we’re at the birth moms struggling with that birth weight) deserve to be seen for who they are, not for the weight they do or don’t carry.
We’re all just trying to raise kids who grow up to be happy, productive and nice people. Let them be little, figuratively and literally.
So tell me, as a 10-year-old neighbor recently did that, “She’s a really good sharer!” Tell me you can’t believe “how big he is getting,” not “how big he is.” Because there’s a difference.