I was at Kid City at the Greenwood Community Center the other day (side note: absolutely amazing, cheap place to take a kiddo!) and I overheard a conversation that was pretty familiar for me.
To set the scene: Two little ones are playing in the same vicinity as (presumably) their parents look on:
“She’s so cute! How old is she?”
“Two?! No way! I definitely thought she was one. My son is two.”
“Yep, she turned two a couple months ago.”
I could hear the annoyance in the second mother’s voice, and was thankful on her behalf when the conversation appeared to be over. And then:
“I just do not believe she is two!”
Ugh. I have been on the receiving end of similar conversations a handful of times. My son Deacon is on the small side. Ever since he was born, he slid back and forth between the 10th and 30th percentiles for height and weight.
My pediatrician (shout-out Southpointe Pediatrics!) is really great. Deacon is following his growth curve, and she has never been concerned about his weight or height. I’m 5 foot 2; we’re probably not going to have a basketball star on our hands, folks, and that is more than okay. When it comes to opinions about Deacon’s body and size, I care about what his doctor says and what the parental instincts of me and my husband indicate. But just because I don’t care about what others say doesn’t mean it isn’t annoying when someone comments about how small he is, or acts completely flabbergasted to learn his age.
What is appropriate?
I am not totally against commenting about how a kid looks, in general. I have told more than a few babies that I love their chubby cheeks or thighs. But there comes a certain age when commenting about anything related to a child’s appearance should be done with care. You think a kid isn’t listening, won’t remember or doesn’t care, but if something someone says about Deacon’s size ever made him feel down or less than, I would be so sad. And also, pissed.
The morale here, to parents and to anyone, is just to keep in mind that not all kids are the same size, shape, color, have the same personalities, interests or preferences. Just because someone looks or acts differently than your kid, or a kid you know, or a kid you saw on Facebook, doesn’t mean either child is weird, wrong or problematic. Our differences, after all, are what make us special. Don’t accidentally make people feel bad about those differences.