Let me begin with this important message: Please refrain from comparing children, especially when it pertains to their growth and development.
If you happen to notice differences in a child’s height, weight, or appetite compared to another, that’s perfectly fine. Your observations are appreciated. However, I kindly request that you avoid openly discussing these comparisons as such conversations can inadvertently distress a parent who may already be grappling with concerns about their child’s growth trajectory. Trust me, I say this from personal experience.
Recently, at a dinner gathering, a couple casually remarked that someone’s 1-year-old child appeared larger both in weight and height than my 2-year-old daughter. I chose not to respond, but their comment affected me deeply.
At the time, I had been anxious about my daughter’s growth, and their words struck a nerve. While I believe their intention was not to cause harm, I found their remark disconcerting.
That evening, my focus shifted away from the dinner table and onto my daughter, who sat beside me contentedly enjoying her meal. Her slender frame seemed even more delicate to me, and her height suddenly seemed inadequate. Perhaps they were correct in their observation. Maybe my daughter was genuinely delicate, and it saddened me that I had overlooked this aspect until now.
Upon returning home, I scoured the internet for images of 2-year-old children. I found that they came in all shapes and sizes, each possessing their unique characteristics. But my inner turmoil persisted, and I became consumed by the idea that perhaps I had not been doing my best as a parent.
In the days that followed, I meticulously crafted a meal plan for my daughter, compiling a comprehensive list of foods intended to help her gain weight. Full-fat milk, yogurt, avocados, butter, finger millets, cheese, and more—I was determined not to falter.
However, what I failed to recognize at the time was that my daughter was a content and joyful child who consumed precisely what satisfied her appetite, neither more nor less. Her daily intake consisted of five meals—three main meals supplemented by two snacks, occasionally indulging in sweet treats. Regrettably, during that period, I also neglected to acknowledge that she was experiencing healthy growth, albeit at her own pace.
As the stress of trying to increase her weight took hold of me, my daughter too sensed that something was amiss with me. I was no longer my usual cheerful self. Instead, I appeared troubled and irritable. During mealtimes, I would insistently seat her and urge her to consume more than she desired, leading to her outbursts of screaming and flailing her arms in protest. Mealtimes became an agonizing ordeal. She began to dread them. She was no longer the child who once relished food. Instead, tears streamed down her face, and I felt a profound sense of helplessness.
It took me nearly a month to realize that her eating habits had further deteriorated and my relentless efforts to make her gain weight had dimmed the sparkle in her eyes. The infectious laughter that used to fill our home was gone, replaced by a sad and fragile figure.
“Just take it easy,” a dear friend advised me when I confided in her about my situation. “I have been there too, you know,” she said.
Her words provided solace, and suddenly, it felt as though the burden I had carried on my shoulders the last few weeks had vanished. I felt lighter.
We reverted to our previous routines, and before long, she returned to her former self—enjoying her food, and playfully interacting with her meals. Yes, there are days when she chooses not to eat, but I’ve come to accept it. I’ve come to recognize that as a parent, my responsibility is to give my best, provide her with a diverse range of meals, and keep a close eye on her well-being, leaving the rest to the expertise of a doctor.
And as for fleeting, unassuming comments and comparisons, I have learned to invest significantly less mental energy in such remarks. My most fitting response is to smile gracefully and move forward.