Thursday, 22 September 2011

Size does matter....

Why hello!

I've been very quiet haven't I? -
Sorry about that - you know how it is, life and all...

I'm going a bit 'off topic' from sewing today - to chat about the way the world works, or my world at least.

Size, or more correctly, height, is a much discussed issue here in my home.
Why you may wonder??

Well, my husband is 195cm tall (6 foot 5 inches for you non-metric folk!) and my two five year old daughters are 127 and 123 cm while their three year old sister is 106 cm tall.
(That's 4'; 4' 2" and 3' 5" respectively).


They are all TALL for their age, quite tall in the case of Miss A - the tallest of them all.
Well above average and off the standard scales.



Gorgeous illustration from here

My problem with this is not the way people speak to my children as though they are older, they and I manage that OK; or the daily conversations I have about why they are having a "day off school" when in fact they are only kindergarten kids, or even the many jokes about what I must be feeding them - but the fact that people insist on saying, usually in a loud voice within earshot of my intelligent and literate child, "She's so BIG", when they hear her age.

"She is very TALL" I say, "quite tall for her age".

And that is the truth - my girls are all tall, long skinny beanpoles.
I know that and I love it, it's part of the reason I sew for them - so they can have age appropriate clothes that actually fit them properly. (nothing to do with my fabric obsession).

But they are not at all BIG for their height.
If they were then I doubt people would comment - as it's considered impolite to call someone big or fat if they are.

Growing up as a tall girl playing basketball I was constantly referred to as one of the 'big girls' - and it is only now, with hindsight, that I can say it does have an impact on the way a young girl thinks of and views herself.

I've always accounted for my weight being above the standard scale as being OK  because I am a 'big' girl, that's just the way I was made I say to myself.
It's probably accounted for the fact that as I gained weight I felt it was OK to do so - after all that was the way I was meant to be.

And it works in reverse I can assure you.
I have friends whose children are small for their age - and are constantly bombarded with comments about how tiny they are, or are treated like a 'baby' or much younger child than they are, generally in a patronising manner.

I guess what I am saying is, take care in the way you communicate with people, especially children and young people.
They see, hear and understand much more than we often give them credit for and what you think is an offhand comment, they may have already had said to them ten times that day.
And it all sinks in.

They are trying to discover who they are and what you say to them shapes that.

Don't get me wrong - I am not bothered by people who comment that my children are tall, they are, we're fine with that.
But if one more person in the street declares them to be "SOOO BIIIIG", I may just turn my motherly wrath upon them!

What is your experience??
Are you exceptionally tall or short or do you have some other prominent physical characteristic on which people seem to define you??

How do you deal with it??
I'd love to hear your experiences.

I'll get down off my soapbox now!
I promise to show you some sewing soon - there's been a little bit getting done - not a lot, but a little.

21 comments:

Sally said...

I'm incredibly average. Infact the only way in which I am special is that I am so average that it must indeed be unusual and special.

To date my son is short for his age and my daughter tall for her age... so even though there is just under two years between them peeps on the street has commonly assumed them to be twins! The older looks baffled... his eyes giving away his thoughts: that the speaker is a total moron.

My brother was always tall, and I was small. People always assumed him to be much older than I. He was expected to behave and I could be as silly as I liked (around people who didn't know us well). I liked it - a change from at home. He has grown up all serious and grumpy. Maybe this is why.

Jenny from Ohjoh said...

YEs YEs YEs!
We are talls with my smallest also getting the same school/kinder comments too. My sister is on the beginning end of this too with her kids as her partner is 6ft 9!
I agree also on the age appropriate clothes for girls. 7 year olds are generally not professional pole dancers which begs the question as to why clothes for them require stillettos or an extraordinary amount of body piercing and a few tattoos (hopefully that will wait until her teens.....)

CurlyPops said...

Oh my goodness, I wish people would think before they opened their mouths!
I was 170cm at 15 but then I just stopped growing, so I was always tall and skinny for my age.
Now, the comments are always of a different kind - if one more person at the shops asks me if it's a pain to drag an oxygen trolley around I might just donk them on the head, or ask them if it's a pain to have a pimple on their nose, or if it's a pain that they have big ears, or something else equally as inappropriate.
Whoops sorry - rant over!

thornberry said...

Hi there Karen - great soapbox topic! I agree with you wholeheartedly, except from the opposite perspective of the house of short (and small, where my daughters are concerned). If Clare hears "you're so cuuuutttte" one more time I know that she will scream - she is often treated as much younger than she is, simply because she is short. Yet if people actually listed to her for a moment they'd quickly realise that she's very much an 8 year old with a 8 year old's perspective on things - not a 5 year old at all! In our culture being tall does at least have positive associations, whereas there are many unfair negative associations with being short. I think it's okay to describe people's physical characteristics as they are - after all, they're pretty obvious - but we still do need to be careful in our choice of words, and the vibes that we give off. Words definitely do shape meaning! I look forward to reading further comments!

rachelmp said...

Your girls are just beautiful and lucky that you can sew as I can imagine how hard it is to get age appropriate clothing. I have 2 tall kids, one small kid and one off the chart tall kid. My circumstances are different as Ayden is 17 and 200cm or 6'7" and probably still growing. Its hard in Ballarat to buy clothes and shoes are bought online. We order in jeans from a factory and they come in unhemmed. He can't get a work uniform to fit or long school pants. I've requested a larger bed on his applications for uni residence next year. He can't go anywhere without someone stopping him and people always want to stand next to him and compare heights.. to the extent that they want to be photographed next to him. I feel for my small kid the most in a family of tall people. I hope this all calms down a bit when the girls go off to school and it's just not appropiate to talk to children just based on their appearance anyway!

Melinda said...

I just had to comment. I have EXACTLY the same problem with my very tall 4 year old daughter and its only in the last year that I have got absolutely pi#@ed off with strangers telling her she's big. "Wow, she's sooooo big!" is the comment that we get mostly, always said over her head to me. How is she ever going to grow up without having a complex? I always answer "Yes, she's so lucky to be so tall" when I actually just want to clobber them and scream. She is perfectly in proportion for her height/weight and I desperately want her to stay the happy wee girl she currently is. Why are people so insensitive?

(Incidentally, when I had a very large tummy whilst pregnant with both of my children nobody held back in telling me how massive I was either - the cheek of complete strangers!)

Becky said...

It does matter. A lot. I was always slim, and my sister was a bit bigger, still normal, but bigger. This was always pointed out to us and while I am mostly happy with myself, she has always been worried about her looks.

I won't let anyone do that to my children.

I always tell my children the are smart and beautiful everyday. One of the Uni lectures said it was very important to praise effort to creat little people who want to learn for the sake of learning (master learners), not just to be right (performance learners) so now I am adding that to the list of things to be positive about.

Miss Prudence said...

Yep i know this one, my martha gets the big girl thing all the time - from a ballet mum too that is constantly stating she looks like a swimmer not a ballerina...i often feel like pointing out her dull skin, fuzzy hair, poor command of the english language and her meanness - but like i would be that cruel. I remember actually saying to you, wow they are tall yeah? Martha is too. and i think now that look we exchanged was relief that it was unloaded exchange !

Having wrestled my weight and negative body image all my life - yet i am still stunned that people think they can say anything to me about how i look. And I hate the defence "oh i just say it how it is"..usually the sign of an ignorant person

Susie said...

Hard not to jump in on this one. Our boy is 'off the chart' with his height and my husband and I are only just above average, height wise. So the question about 'where does his height come from?' is sometimes an intrusive one. I hate that he is treated as an older child (and you will often hear me say 'he is only just 4' and watch the eyebrows go up). The important thing for me is that he doesn't think that he is 'special' because of his physical trait and so will not perpetuate this obsession we have with physical characteristics (either tall, short, skinny, fat) over intellect and ability into the next generation.

Wendy . . . said...

love the soap box ... "here, here" ... i can remember words that cut like a 'knife' that made a huge impression ... so yes - choice of wording is paramount!

Nikki said...

Yep, yep, yep.....
When I was a short, stocky kid with an inherited J.Lo rear, I was constantly told that I was SHORT (yep...)and headed for a backside the size of a small country. As a teenager and young adult I was self-conscious and ended up with all manner of body-image issues. It took me 30 years to realise THEY WERE WRONG.... at least about the big backside bit.

Now... don't get me started on the way people comment if you're small and skinny....!!! That's a whole new rant.

Jennifer said...

I am small, I have always been small. When I was in first grade I weighed 15kgs. Everyone used to comment about how small or how skinny I was or how young I looked for my age. It hurts. People think that that is the first time you have heard it - believe me, it was old the first time and by the 100th time it is really old. Ella she is small, she is nearly 4 and weighs 11kgs. She can still fit into 00 clothes. If people comment, I tell them that I am small, her dad is short, so she is not going to be a super model - maybe in the looks department, but certainly not in the height department. I think people think that its OK to comment on height or lack there of, but just like calling someone fat - it is rude.

Like I was always taught, if you dont have anything nice to say, dont say anything at all!

Cass said...

Opposite in my house especially for Lucy, she is a shortie and has many younger friends who are taller than her so of course everyone always thinks she is younger than she is.

Rachel said...

My children are also quite tall. My 8 yo daughter is wearing size 14 (US) clothing. Thus I sew and shop selectively as well. A very tall friend once told me that she was always told that she was 'nice and tall' and did the same thing with her very tall daughters. Putting the Nice part in there helps equate the tallness with the goodness.

Megs said...

very interesting post Karen. My Stella is the shortest in her class and is pretty much the same height and about a kilo lighter than her 4 year old brother, so I think she will be on the more average side of things, we get a number of small/short comments too, but at this point I am hopeful that she is not taking them to heart. I think Indi will be the same she is 2.5 and about 11kg, Willow may be more like Oscar though who is just 1 and only slightly less than Indi in the weight department. I love Becky's comment about the master learners, versus the performance learners, must remember that one. Slightly different angle but Oscar has been tested and found to have a very high IQ for his age, and the comments that he gets for his intellectual ability seem quite similar to the "big" comments, and the amount of people that ask him to perform more "tricks" (reading, counting, spelling words backwards, maths etc), I just hope it doesn't have the reverse effect on him and he suppresses his abilities - some people just have no idea.

Carolyn said...

i hope I havnt said that to your kids... I dont think I have anyway...

We have the opposite problem- I say that my DS is 8 and the jaw drops! And I am left to pick up the pieces when he says "I dont want to be small". And now at 8yo he wants to get muscles and 'squares' on his tummy.

sophie said...

Oh I hear you. I am guilty of doing that to my own kid! Lucia and Siena are pretty average, (Siena may be a little taller than the average) but Eva, oh man, she is tiny (skinny)and I hear that all the time. I know that I baby her more because of her size and because it's reinforced from everyone. It has affected her behaviour and all that babying is coming back to bite me because she really thinks she can get away with anything. Words are powerful and girls especially are so sensitive and can hear even when we think they aren't listening. Thanks for posting this, I needed it.

Tanya said...

great soap box! And, is it the general assumption that for kids, clothes size = age? Because Jack just turned 11 and a relative wanted to buy him a shirt for a present and asked what size- I said 14 and they said "REALLY?" Kind of questioning me, It annoyed me! Also there was a kid in my daughters class who was really short comparatively to my tall kids and other kids in the grade- and I had to consciously remember to not treat him like a 3 year old and was often surprised when he was so eloquent- it banashing those assumptions and being mindful of language, I agree. Likewise- my grandma always called me clumsy...and I still hear it!

ingrid said...

I love this topic. As another mother of very tall girls I can completely sympathise.

Kel said...

I heard a great radio feature on ABC last year with documentary film maker who is a tall woman. I can't find a link to it but one of the quotes that really stuck with me was a young woman who every time any other person would say to her mother (about the young woman) she's tall/big her mother would say "Yes, lovely and tall". She said that she felt that had been important is shaping her own positive feelings about being tall.

It must be frustrating hearing such dumb comments all the time but I thought this was a great way of turning it around somewhat.

m.e (Cathie) said...

good topic Karen! we have talked about this personally too & Amelie gets the same aswell at 5. people assume she is older & expect her to behave differently when in fact she is just a 5 year old.
i don't want her to feel uncomfortable with her height, I always did & was made to feel big when i started high school by older kids.
that and other things lead to poor body image & I definitely don't want that for my child.

your daughters are absolutely beautiful & I am sure you tell them that all the time.

missing you at NCB, hope to see you soon ♥