Today, while checking out at the grocery store, the cashier began talking to my 2-year-old daughter as she mindlessly rolled our items across the scanner.
“Hi there. What’s your name?”
“My name is Ella.”
“How old are you, Ella?”
“I’m two!” My daughter proudly stated with the most adorable cheeseball grin you can imagine.
“TWO?” The woman looked at me in shock, then began to speak to me as if Ella wasn’t there. “She’s not really two, right?”
“Yeah, she is. She’s a smart girl.”
“She’s SO BIG!”
“Yep, she’s a tall girl.”
“Wow, my 5-year-old niece is probably smaller. She’s at least close to being 3 then, right?”
“Oh my GOD! I just can’t believe how BIG she is!”
It didn’t even hit me until I was in the car that the woman was being rude. I’m almost used to it. My daughter is likely in the 90th percentile for height and weight, and is proportionate and healthy. I actually have no clue exactly what percentage her height and weight fall within, because I honestly don’t care. Why would I? Her pediatrician always tells me that she’s healthy, and has no concerns about her diet, which includes vegetables, skim milk, and lean meats. She does have cookies at times, but she is perfectly healthy. Why would I restrict her caloric intake? It actually hurts my feelings when the first thing someone says about her is what a “big girl” she is. It makes me worry for her. She’s unfortunately — for this case — very smart and picks up on things quite quickly. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if she’s already wondering what it means to be a “big girl” exactly. Does it hurt her feelings? Does she understand that they’re not being nice? Even writing about it now upsets me a little.
The thing is, I know that we are visual creatures. I myself am a lover of beauty and art. My problem is that I believe that my daughter *is* beautiful. In fact, I think her soft cheeks are some of the cutest, most kissable things on this planet. I think that her sweet giggle is infectious, her perfectly round tummy that begs to be tickled, her healthy legs that carry her effortlessly at impossible-to-catch-me speeds, and her strong arms that hug my neck so tightly are some of the most beautiful that I have ever seen. I honestly don’t think that she would be any prettier if she were more petite, if her arms were like spindles, if her cheeks were hallow, or her legs more svelte. When I look at her, I see healthy. I see gorgeous. I see perfection. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not the least bit surprised that our lovely cashier this evening pointed out my daughter’s size first, and not the fact that she was carrying on a fully comprehensible conversation with a toddler. Nope, not one bit surprising as I stood in the tight aisle, squished between magazine racks as tall as me, displaying for all to see what true beauty is. According to the magazines, my healthy daughter and I don’t quite cut it.
Really, my daughter isn’t the least bit overweight, and neither am I. But of course, I’m talking about in real life. The standard with which we use to judge ourselves and others is not within reach for most people. It’s NOT based in real life. So why the hell are we still using this impossible chart? Why on Earth is my daughter’s size even crossing anyone’s mind? Since this is my third child, you would think I’d be over it by now. However, even though my boys were just as tall and proportionate for their ages, I really don’t think their size was given the same critical examination.
Like everything else in life, I just have to learn from this. I cannot change others, only myself. I’m not sure if I do this to other parents, but I know that I’ll be more careful not to from now on. Do I ever accidentally upset others by speaking without thinking? Of course I must. By pointing out a child’s size or height or appearance in some way? I know that I’m not perfect, so I know that I likely have. This is my goal moving forward. There is no reason to ever point out a child’s size to his or her parents. I’ll point out how smart or funny or how well-behaved instead. It shouldn’t be too difficult. Join me?