Laura is a small child. She’s in the 20th percentile for height and weight – and has been since she was six months old. She’s perfectly healthy. Perfectly! She just happens to be smaller than 80% of children her age on average. Averages have highs and lows on both ends, which is how we come to create averages. So just being a little smaller on average does not make Laura unhealthy in any way.
So it really bothers me when family obsessively discusses Laura’s small build. Last time I checked, having a healthy, active and lean child was a good thing. So why does everyone want to Laura to plump up?
I have had body image issues almost my whole life. I didn’t recognize my skewed feelings about my body until college, when I was 104 pounds soaking wet. When I realized it then, I felt all the memories of self-disgust woosh in and slap me in the face.
At age three, I paid more attention to what my stomach looked like when I sucked in than the Pirates of Caribbean live-action show going on in front of me at Disney World. At five, I realized that my thighs looked thinner when I crossed my legs like an adult, which is why to this day I cannot sit with my legs uncrossed. And I was just as small a toddler as Laura is now.
I can’t help but feeling that obsessing over Laura’s weight will only encourage her to focus on it later. Laura won’t know that we are worried about her being too small. All she will know is that we overlook everything else to discuss her weight. If we don’t fuss over how well she’s learning words or the new color she learned – and only fuss over her weight, what message are we sending our daughter. I admit, too, that at times I have worried about her small size; I’m her mom and I don’t want to mess this up. But I’m done with it. Laura is a perfectly healthy child in every way. She is smart as a whip with a great sense of humor – and she’s not even telling jokes yet. I can’t wait to see how she turns out. And I don’t care how big or small she will be.