I pulled up to my son’s school one day last week, and he climbed into the car full of his usual middle school stories: who said what at recess, the awesome grade he received on his science project, and the questionable side dish that was served at lunch.
After a brief pause, he told me something else that happened. He wanted to share it with me because he wasn’t sure how he felt about it.
During class, one of his teachers was casually talking to the students as they were working. When she got to my son’s table, she said, “Can I ask you a question without you getting upset? How does your height affect you? You’re pretty short . . . are your parents short? When I first saw you, I thought you were in the wrong school! I thought you belonged in grade school, not middle school! Have you given up all hope of being tall? Well, at least you’ll always be able to order the kid’s meal, right? Hahaha!”
I watched my son in the mirror as I was driving, gauging his reaction. I am 5-foot-2 and my husband is 5-foot-6. We are under no illusion that our son will grow to become 6-foot-9.
My son is well aware that he is short for his age, and 95% of the time, it doesn’t bother him.
He plays soccer and basketball. Obviously, there is some frustration at times (especially in basketball) when he’s not as tall or strong as other players. However, he’s fast, flexible, and smart. He works with his strengths. He’s not the type of kid who will melt into a puddle and sob when someone points out his size. However, I could tell his teacher’s comments that day stung. He told me his feelings were hurt, and he was a bit embarrassed in front of his friends.
I, of course, was livid that someone hurt my son, but I was also trying to stay calm and see things from the teacher’s perspective. I genuinely believe she did not intend for her words to hurt, but they did. Eventually, I spoke to the teacher, and she apologized saying she’d never make a mistake like that again.
My son’s height has never hindered him socially. Since starting school at the age of four, he’s always been well-liked among his classmates. He’s never been teased or bullied about his size. Opponents on the basketball court and soccer field have had a few choice words here and there, but my son is mostly good about letting mean comments slide.
My husband and I are always very open when discussing his size, always letting him know he can vent to us and reminding him that he’s a handsome, intelligent, kind, healthy boy who just happens to be short.
If the worst thing he’s got going is that he’s short, well, it’s not a big deal.
American culture sometimes tells a different story, however. My son’s school is big into sports—all his friends play one or more sports and are consistently praised for how big and strong and tough they are. I hear parents discussing my son on the sidelines as if I’m not there. “He’s pretty good for a little guy!” or “Man, if he’d just grow a bit he’d be awesome!” I even had one father pull me aside and tell me to make sure my kid grows.
Besides making sure he eats and rests properly, there’s not much I can do there, Buddy.
I truly believe people mean well, but I honestly wish the comments would stop entirely.
It’s absolutely not OK to discuss a child’s weight. It’s absolutely not OK to discuss a child’s race or ethnicity. Why is it OK to comment on a child’s height?
Boys are more than sports and the size of their muscles.
My son may grow several inches overnight. Or he might not. Either way, his height is only a small part of who he is—he’s so much more than his size. I am so proud of the person he is and the person he’s becoming!