“At least she’s a girl,” – something parents say without thinking twice
A friend of mine recently posted this link from a news story about a 14 year old boy who committed suicide because he was constantly bullied because of his small stature. Lamar Hawkins III, whose family affectionately nicknamed him “Shaq,” because his big personality, took his own life last week in the boys’ bathroom of his middle school in Seminole County (near Orlando), Florida using a firearm. According to the article, his parents moved from New York to Florida because of the constant bullying at his previous school where he was pushed down stairs and mocked in the lunchroom. Sadly, their move to Florida didn’t make things any better.
I am deeply saddened when I hear stories of children taking their own lives because of bullying – whether it’s because of their sexual orientation, color of their skin, their personality, etc., but especially because of their size. I am of small stature, and in turn so is my daughter. While other parents beam with pride over the high percentiles their children reach at every pediatrician appointment, I cheer when my daughter gains a few ounces. “She’s so big,” is something we will never hear. For awhile, it really bothered me that she was barely on the charts for her age. After all, her father is a man of average height (he’s 5’10”), so one would think she would be a little bit bigger than she is.
“At least she is a girl,” some well-meaning parents have said, thinking they are offering consolation. But what if she was a boy? What if I decide to have a second child and it is a boy and he, too, is small? What would they say then?
“She’s so tiny,” is also something I hear quite often. Previously, I took the apologetic route and responded with – She is small for her age, or She was only 5 pounds when she was born, as if I had to give a reason why she is so small. The “tiny” remark was told to us recently by a man in an elevator. I tried out a new reply. I said, “Just like her Momma” and gave him a big smile. He then said, “She is so cute.”
And cute she is. Cute and perfect is what she always will be to me, tiny or not. When she was in my belly and barely the size of a bean, I loved her. All I wanted while she was in there was her to come to full term (I previously had a miscarriage), and she did. She is happy (most of the time. She is a toddler, after all) and healthy and that’s all I can hope for.
I realized, and it was pointed out to me by a good friend, that I just needed to just embrace who she is – that her small features are just what people see first and not take these general observations too personally. I recognized it may be something I never fully overcame, and I might be reacting by unintentionally being defensive.
I found this book on Instagram a few months ago and bought it on Amazon. It’s really cute and helped me embrace the joys of my short stature:
I’d Rather Be Short: 100 Reasons Why It’s Great to Be Small by Becky Murphy
This book is by Becky Murphy, a graphic designer and illustrator, who celebrates brevity with adorable illustrations and observations. I enjoyed and could relate to all of her statements, especailly this one about pregnancy.
Not only accepting, but celebrating differences is what I wish for future generations. I wrote a post about my friends Sophie and David Phillips’ kickstart campaign for their childrens’ book “I Am Neapol,” a picture book about an Ice Cream character who starts a new school and has trouble making friends because he is different. I am happy to report I Am Neapol met their fundraising goal and the book will be out soon!
We are all unique in our own way. I applaud the celebrities who celebrated their differences: Anna Paquin for her tooth gap, Owen Wilson‘s crooked nose, and Jennifer Lopez‘s booty. (Here is a link to 10 Celebrities who celebrate their individuality on Prevention.com)
It starts at home
I’ve learned that accepting and celebrating differences starts with me. By appreciating what I have and who I am, my child will do the same. I’m not saying I had a terrible time growing up, but it was not easy. Because I can remember the things I heard when I was a kid that stuck with me in a negative way, I will make the effort to be aware of what I say and do around my daughter. Parenting is a long and difficult process, but I think I am becoming a better person because of it.
I’m going to start applying one of the rules of improv I learned when I took improv class – to Yes, and…
“She’s so tiny,”
“Yes, and…she is also quite strong”
“Yes, and…she is a very fast walker!”
another very true fact:
“Yes, and…she is very independent”
I feel blessed to know such fantastic people and parents that are supportive of my journey as a parent and have helped me out along the way. Thank you…I think you know who you are. I appreciate you.