Sunday, June 30, 2013

A Small Problem

I want to preface this post by saying that I'm a reasonable person. I KNOW that the people I mention here are kind, curious folks who mean absolutely no harm. I am in no way upset with them--just the situation.

Here's the scenario, which is very, very common:  Amelia, Anderson and I are walking into Cardinal Hill Pediatric Outpatient Therapy for Anderson's Social Skills group.  The waiting room is always hectic--lots of kids waiting for therapy, lots of parents waiting for kids. On this day, it's fairly calm, and I recognize a couple of the women from our appointment the previous week.  We walk up to the sign-in desk, and one of the women says, "She is SO TINY!! Isn't she precious?"  I smile and nod, say thanks. I try not to say too much because honestly, I don't want to have this conversation. I know what's coming. And it does.  Another woman pipes up and asks what is becoming the dreaded question, "How old is she?"  I sigh inwardly and say, "She's four years old."  Insert a variety of loud, shocked comments here. Meanwhile, Amelia slithers between my legs, shyly buries her head into the middle of them so that she isn't facing the mamas. On this particular day, the conversation is extended--usually it kind of ends here, but it's a small space and we aren't going anywhere. The women talk back and forth about people they know who have tiny children; I gather my two and we go and sit on the other side of the waiting room. Amelia walks with her head down, careful not to make eye contact with any of them.  We sit, and I'm thinking to myself that it's over. It gets relatively quiet in the room, and then one of the women says loudly, "How much does she weigh?" Ahhhh, yes. Another question that always gets a big reaction. "She's a little over twenty pounds", I say. Another round of shocked, loud comments on how petite she is, how tiny! A woman closer to us asks how old Anderson is, and I explain that they're twins. All the mamas kind of chuckle, say they were afraid to ask. Then, I hear another unfortunately common comment: "He just took all of the food in there, didn't he?"

When the kids were much younger, this conversation was not a big deal to me. See, they couldn't hear it, and more importantly, they couldn't understand it. The problem herein is that Amelia is a four-year-old girl (and a smart four-year-old girl at that) in a body that looks closer to 18 months. So, when curious people ask these kinds of questions, THEY aren't expecting her to understand them, and yet she does. And although she never comes out and directly says that she doesn't like it, her displeasure manifests in other ways. She is unhappy that she's so small. She asks almost every single day if she is going to get tall. She tells me she will be big some day--and she isn't talking about getting older. She's talking about her size.

I want Amelia to know that her size absolutely doesn't matter, that it doesn't define her in any way. But right now, in other people's eyes, it kind of does. It's what she's "known for", so to speak. Of course I make sure to talk to her about all of the other great aspects of her being--I tell her how smart she is, how good she is at dancing, how beautiful her art is, etc. etc. I also tell her that it's okay to be small, that her smallness doesn't mean anything except that she's a little shorter than everyone else. But she's four. None of that really matters yet. She wants to be like everyone else, and in her eyes, she isn't.

I have no doubt that we will struggle with this many times, and in many ways, over the years. The reality is that there's not a chance that she's going to "catch up" and be anything near an average height/weight for her age. I know that there will be tears and frustration and confusion, and I just hope that we have the right words for her in those moments.

Her size did make her crack a smile yesterday, though. Elton John's "Tiny Dancer" was on Sirius as we were driving to the store, and I may or may not have been singing very loudly, cabaret-style, to the kids in the back seat. When I got to the "Hold me closer, Tiny Dancer..." part, Amelia said, "Hey! That's me!"  She's all about the ballet right now, and she's tiny. I told her it was in fact her. Now she calls it her song. :-)


  1. I don't know what it is about people when it comes to pregnant women and children. They think they can just say and ask whatever they want - nothing's off limits. I've gotten all sorts of inappropriate comments when I've been pregnant, including someone asking the ages of my kids then asking if they were all planned since they're close in age. And from what you write and post Amelia sounds like any other four year old girl I know, including my own. Funny, smart, drama-filled. She reminds me so much of my own daughter.

  2. i have come the conclusion that people are stupid. okay, maybe not really. But sometimes they are. Kids understand and it is unfortunate that people do not. I have no doubt that you will have all the right words. they may not seem like the right words, but they will be.