“She’s too little to be a minnow,” they told me as I went to put my daughter in her swimming group at the pool. “This class is for six and up—usually more like eight or nine.”
“I’m six!” My daughter proclaimed, a little scowl accentuating the furrow between her brows.
That furrow is there because she’s used to this. She comes in a full three inches shorter than the average 6-year-old girl, and when you’re only 43 inches tall to begin with, those few inches make a difference.
She comes up to the other kids’ shoulders or, if she’s lucky, their chins.
People often talk about how small she is.
When she was younger, this worked to her advantage. People would exclaim about how well she could speak, walk, or climb, thinking she was a much younger girl.
Now Lila wants to be BIG. She wants independence. She wants to do everything for herself, keep up with the other kids her age. She wants to be tall. She wants to grow up.
But she’s still small. Much smaller than most kids her age. And that comes with consequences.
She can’t ride the big water slides with her friends.
Can’t go in the bumper cars with her cousin.
Can’t ride the Tilt-a-Whirl at the fair.
Can’t reach the peanut butter on the pantry shelf.
Can’t turn on the faucet without a stool.
She is constantly underestimated.
Because she’s too little.
But as the saying goes: though she be but little, she is fierce. She is gumption and grit and strong will wrapped in a pint-sized package. Her size does not define her—her strength does.
She may be little, but her true self is anything but small.
She stands up to kids much bigger than she is when they try to cut her down.
Climbs counters and chairs and step stools to get to what she needs on her own.
Comes in last in every race she runs, but never shies away from the chance to compete.
Doesn’t back down from a fight when she’s cornered—or sometimes, even when she’s not.
And she doesn’t mind telling adults when they’ve pegged her wrong.
So when they suggested we take her down a level, placing her in the tadpole class with other kids her size, I turned to my tiny little big girl.
“What should we do, Lila? Should we try the harder class? Or go into the easier one?”
She steeled her little chin and looked at the woman at the registration desk, staying just on this side of being defiant.
“I’m not a tadpole. I’m a minnow. And I’d like to try.”
With all the confidence of someone twice her size, my little girl hopped into a pool that was over her head. And no, she couldn’t touch.
But you don’t need to touch if you can SWIM. She knew every kick, every stroke, and every flip. She proved to herself—and to me and to the ladies at the registration desk and to her instructor—that just because she is little, it doesn’t limit her in any way.
Sure, she was the last one to reach the finish line every time. But as always, coming in last is not enough to stop her.
Because my girl?
Not only can she swim. She can fly. Just as high as she wants to.
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