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My daughter is small. Does size really matter?

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#1 Kylie Orr

Posted 18 June 2015 - 09:31 AM

My daughter was gifted a beautiful picture book for her first birthday called Stanley Paste by Australian author, Aaron Blabey.

Stanley Paste is small.  

Really small.  

And he hates it.  

But when a new girl [Eleanor Cabbage] arrives at school, Stanley learns that perhaps being small is not so bad after all.

My daughter could be Stanley Paste’s little sister. She’s small. Really small. And she hates it.

She wasn’t always tiny. She started off a whisker shy of eight pounds, but just like her brothers, stretched out long and thin. She shadowed the percentile growth chart following an arc of her own but unfortunately the tiny little dot of development didn’t actually reach the graph paper. We were referred to paediatricians. Despite all signs pointing to a healthy, thriving baby who met milestones, specialists shrugged their shoulders and suggested bottle top-ups progressing to early introduction of solids.

“Could it just be that she's built small?” I’d asked on many occasions. It wasn’t until an older, hardier Maternal and Child Health Nurse with a huge dose of common sense injected her opinion, that I could actually breathe out.

“As long as she’s putting on weight, even if it’s not the amount the charts say she should, and as long as she’s flourishing, I can see no problem.”

She kept one eye on my daughter and the other on my toddler who was an uninhibited climber scaling walls during most of our appointments.

It’s incredibly stressful having a small, underweight baby (and a climbing toddler). All those health appointments with doctors scrunching their faces up in painful thought, poking at the baby, making references to the quality of your breast milk. It’s natural to jump to the conclusion that something is wrong. And that the wrong is your fault.

I’d successfully breastfed three other children, who were also long and skinny, so experience should have told me that this is how they roll – well, without rolls - in my house. My confidence still took a sucker punch when all the recommendations pointed directly at me as the poor provider of sustenance. It took a while to shake that guilt. Yet even with top-ups and extra food, my daughter remained petite.

My daughter is now four. Four-and-a-half, actually, (I’m usually corrected if she’s in earshot). She’s small but she’s no pushover. To borrow words from a man you may have heard of by the name of Shakespeare, “Though she be but little, she is fierce”. He probably wasn’t talking about a fierce appetite, but man, the girl can put some food away (if you just add sugar she’d eat a mountain). Perhaps she has the world’s fastest metabolism, the dream most women wish for?

As the youngest in our house, with three older brothers, she will likely always be the smallest, even once the boys stop growing. If she’s lucky, she’ll outgrow me, which I wouldn’t expect to be much of a challenge at 165cm. I’m no garden gnome, and my husband is no sky-scraper at 180-odd cm; we are fairly stock standard. I’m unsure how we made such a tiny child.

Just to make the height issue more blatant, she’s chosen almost the tallest child at kindergarten to be her best friend. Her own Eleanor Cabbage. And now she’s started to notice the height difference amongst her peers. She tells me that when they play “Mums and Dads” she always gets assigned the role of the baby. She’s cottoned-on to the “not fair” phrase that she repeats relentlessly in relation to her height. Apart from suggesting she find herself some shorter friends, I’m at a loss for advice.

I’ve tried to emphasise the many benefits of being small – she’s super fast, she can fit in small spaces (she’s adept at hide-n-seek), she’ll never have cramped legs on an airplane (not particularly relevant to a four-year-old), and everyone comments on how adorable she is.

Truth be told, she’s cute. Damn cute but I try my best not to focus on that. Plenty of people tell me she’s lucky she’s a girl given she’s so miniature. Apparently small boys are what? Undesirable? Cursed? Seems ludicrous to me but I know it’s out there.

I can’t blame her height obsession. As a society, and individuals (yes, I’m guilty too), we tend to focus on physiques. The topic, like a rash all over the media, fuels our constant desires to be better than we are in the body department. Rather than appreciating our bodies for the amazing physiological feats they are, we bemoan our shortarsedness (yes, it’s a new word), our loftiness, the muffin top rolling over the jeans, the mum-gut, the pregnancy weight, the beer belly, the baby booty. We wish we had bigger boobs / smaller boobs / weighed less / weighed more / had more laugh lines, less crow's feet … The list is not exhaustive yet it's exhausting.

So my daughter may be small, and she may be starting to recognise that she’s on the lower end of the height scale amongst her friends but it’s my job as her parent to refocus back where it belongs – on who she is as a person. Cheesy? Sure. But so much more can be achieved in life, in the pursuit of happiness, in the feelings of accomplishment and contribution to the world around us when we feel confident about who we are. The reflection from the mirror, and the commentary from our peers, should be peripheral.

Perhaps if I borrow a quote from the wise man, Dr Seuss, I can sum up size to my daughter: “A person's a person, no matter how small.” Maybe, like Stanley Paste, she’ll realize being small isn’t so bad after all.

Do you have short children? Are they bothered by it? Or do you have tall children who feel their height is a talking point?


#2 kirtyw

Posted 18 June 2015 - 09:53 AM

While my boys are now "average" in height.. they are still very slim (Slinky Milinky we call it).. you can count their ribs from across the room and when they get sick, it often really knocks them as they have no spare weight anywhere... it's just the way they are.

During my first pregnancy I had all sort of extra test for my "small for dates" baby.  This was really distressing.  I also, was sent, by my ob's receptionist, to buy little clothes as the OOO's just weren't going to cut it...
DS1 was beautiful, perfect but small (not tiny)  - 2.6kg (5 11 ish).  He lived in a box of OOOOO's that a friend leant us.  I often got the giggles when he was older as he hit all the 'neutrals" we had bought for him... a 5 month old in lemon and white... so sweet.  He lost weight at birth (as they all do) so there was talk about him staying longer.... we did topping up for the first 3 month (how exhausting)

fast forward....

DS2 measured HEAPS SMALLER for dates... we were convinced he was a girl due to size.... After DS1 came 2 weeks early we had heaps of discussions about what was going to happen with our new, smaller baby....

Fast forward.. DS2 was overdue!  But still exactly the same size as DS1 was (to the gram).  We didn't top up, there was no discussions of staying longer in hospital.  I loved what my Ob said... You 2 just make small babies.

DS2 is very average (though slim), DS1 is still on the short side and very slim.

We make small kids.  Some ppl make whopper sized kids.  I know which I'd rather push out! ;)

Don't stress.  Let your daughter embrace her "me-ness".
Not just good things come in small packages... GREAT things do too!

#3 Jingleflea

Posted 18 June 2015 - 09:53 AM

I am short. It bothered me.
I'm glad my DD should end up a few cm taller than me, all going well. Mostly because I hate having to ask people to get things off supermarket shelves for me.

My mum and her mum and I are all the same height so it's obviously genetics.
I tell my DD(she's 5) that people come in all different shapes and sizes.
So far she's not bothered, but I'll see next year I guess when she's in FYOS and the other kids are bigger and play rougher.
Eventually you realise there's NOTHING you can do about it, so you may as well accept it. And that's what I'll be telling my DD if she's bothered by her size.

#4 livvie7586

Posted 18 June 2015 - 09:54 AM

My eldest is a squirt (although was my biggest at birth), his sister (24 months younger) is one of the tallest in her year, and my youngest is big for his age, too.  Add in the fact my eldest has hypotonia, so is also slow and has issues keeping up, and wears glasses, we've had a few issues with him.

Luckily, his school focuses on their abilities, so whilst he may be short and not the fastest runner, he can problem solve his way out of things (he never loses a game of tag), and is quite a good reader.  At almost 9 his height isn't an issue anymore, and he is more than aware that there will probably come a time where his little sister is bigger than him.

DD isn't fussed by her height, her best mate barely comes up to her shoulder.   She spends most of her time sitting anyway, drawing to her hearts content.  And DS2 is only 2, so has a way to go before he realises any differences (i'm getting it instead, he does things a typical 2 y/o couldn't, and he gets some funny looks in playgrounds when he does something age appropriate, cause he looks older)

#5 kirtyw

Posted 18 June 2015 - 09:55 AM

WE talk to our son's.... they know size come from their parents.  DH and I are average (for our age group), I am perhaps on the short end of average.. or I am just surrounded by giants ;)

They're happy.  DS1 shows no fear on the footy oval... I don't think the taller kids see him coming..

#6 Literary Lemur

Posted 18 June 2015 - 09:56 AM

I had a daughter who was significantly shorter than her peers.  I told her is was no big deal and that with parents of average height she will likely be average height in the end.

She was recently had a huge growth spurt and has gained on may of her friends.  They all seems a little thrown by it as part of her self identity was being small and her friends viewed themselves a being taller.

She is still a petite build and obviously that wont change.

Her size did impact how people treated her.  I think she's often underestimated.  I said she can use that to her advantage.

#7 lucky 2

Posted 18 June 2015 - 09:58 AM

I have a tall girl and yes it is a topic of conversation quite often.
My Dad saw her last night and it's the first thing he said, but I know he's just fascinated and excited about her growing up.
At times it seems like she is praised for being tall which is very wrong.
It's a point of difference with her and a lot of her peers so it gets noticed.
It's physical features that are most remarked upon, right or wrongly and I'm guilty of this too.
I suppose it's because it's right in front of our faces.
There was a thread recently about people commenting on an adolescent girls breast development, and why people feel the need to comment.
Some people do comment, some people wouldn't dream of commenting.
Some people say whatever crosses their mind (I'm prone to this) and others always think carefully before they speak.
I'm trying to develop this characteristic, it's a work in progress!

#8 ~Kestrel~

Posted 18 June 2015 - 10:06 AM

DS has always been one of the smallest kids in his classes at school and he likes it. He is actually fairly average for his age but one of the youngest in his grade and in a composite class with some kids more than 2 years older than him.

When he grows up he wants to be the same size as a family friend (around 165cm) so he can 'look like a teenager forever'. He was disappointed when I told him that he would be likely end up with an adult height of 175-180cm.

#9 Jingleflea

Posted 18 June 2015 - 10:09 AM

My niece is tall for her age and will be a tall adult(dad is over 6feet) and my MiL commented once that it's 'nice when girls are smaller" which p*ssed me off on my niece's behalf.
It's the whole "girls must be pretty and dainty and short and delicate" CRAP which is so unfair.

#10 Justaduck

Posted 18 June 2015 - 10:11 AM

DD1 is around 50% for height, DD2 around 75%

Both were soley breastfed, both labelled "failure to thrive" (I really hate that term).

DD1 was born at 50th %Ile and dropped to 2nd and stayed there. For her it was put down to genes as her Dad doesn't gain weight despite eating like a horse. She was happy and hit milestones well ahead of times with a good wet nappy count so everyone just left her be. For her, she started gaining weight when cows milk was introduced, so the joke was I produce skim milk.

DD2 was born around 60%ile and stayed there and even went up to 75% at one point. Then at 11wks weight gain slowed and then stalled. At her lowest she was 0.001ile (computer calculation!). We saw one paed who told me she was overfed on breastmilk (fed on demand, 8-12x a day, short feeds, at 8mths old) but I was underfeeding her solids (3x decent sized bowls of solids at 8mths, only 2mths into introducing foods). She told me I needed to see a dietician, I refused. Food amounts were fine according to WHO and every other Dr and CHN.

Decided to take her to see a paed privately. She ran several tests and we finally got an answer. She has a genetic metabolic disorder. It is easily treated too!

She, like her sister, was always alert, good wet nappy count, fed well (not screaming looking for more etc) and met milestones.I really hate it when people say online (not necessarily on here) a good wet nappy count + meeting milestones = nothing wrong! Hopefully for most bubs this is the case, but it is dangerous to dismiss all under that umbrella!

Since beginning treatment she has lept from 0.001%ile to just under the 50th! That is in only 4mths

#11 IkeaAddict

Posted 18 June 2015 - 10:24 AM

DS was on the small side of average at birth.....6 pounds 6oz and was only 47cm long. It took till he was 4 months old to get rolls and they got burnt off pretty quick once he started crawling and walking. Now at 5 he's a little stringbean....tall but very thin despite the massive volumes of food he eats. It works to his advantage....the doctor told me that he needs to eat regularly as he obviously has a good metabolism, and the energy to match it. So now when he asks for food and I say no, because he has barely finished the food he has in his mouth, he says to me "but the doctor said I have to eat more often" LOL. I'm not tall at all, only 157cm but his dad is 185cm so there is potential for him to be that tall. If he tracks along the growth curve like he is now he will be 184cm tall. Which I am happy with him being a boy and all.

#12 born.a.girl

Posted 18 June 2015 - 10:38 AM

I've only anecdotal experience to go by, but have not seen much evidence that birth weight has much implication for later weight or size.

My mother first went over seven stone when she was pregnant with her first - a ten pounder.   Another four were nearly nine pounds, only one was under eight.  As both parents were short (5ft & 5ft 6in) there must have been a point in infant/toddlerhood where their growth rate was low to accommodate being short.

A friend had a daughter who was above average at birth (over 8 pounds) and got the old 'failure to thrive' bit from all and sundry because she wasn't putting on much weight. Turns out she was going to be like a relative, short and slight - 5ft as an adult.  

Girls can have quite different growth patterns, too, depending on age at puberty.  A friend was always taller than average in primary, then reached puberty at 9 and ended up short.  Niece was taller than average and also reached puberty early and so stopped growing earlier.   My daughter reached puberty later than average (15) and was a smidge above average until early teenage years, when she fell behind, then suddenly shot up to a bit above average (170cm) later than the others.

#13 F.E.B.E

Posted 18 June 2015 - 01:17 PM

There is a lovely kids book on this issue. DD and I really enjoy reading it:


#14 aligirl

Posted 18 June 2015 - 01:43 PM

DD is very short, but so am I (I'm 152cm). DD is 7yo and in grade 2 at school and her nick-name is 'Shorty' - she is the shortest in her year level and is shorter than most preps - we caught up with cousins last weekend and she is shorter than her 4yo cousin. Added to that she has a very petite frame. The 'Shorty' nickname bothers her and it bothers me. It is not seen as an issue describing her as short and the kids calling her this are not pulled up on it - but they are if they call someone else 'fat' or 'dark-skinned' - I don't see what the difference is - none of those names are appropriate. I try and encourage her not to be bothered by it, short people can achieve a lot. I hope I set a good example for her - the majority of my work colleagues are men over 6 ft and I stand my ground with them on a professional level and have been very successful in my career. The best bit about being small is the element of surprise... people don't expect as much from you and it is a fantastic feeling when you knock their socks off!

#15 Julie3Girls

Posted 18 June 2015 - 01:57 PM

I've got short girls .. Not really a surprise as I'm only just 5'1"
Oldest has never been bothered, and youngest is a my "tall" baby (although I do notice her freinds are starting to shoot away from her)

Dd2 (age 11) is my really itty bitty one ... Off the bottom of the chart, has been forever. And yes, her best friend is the tallest in the year (also the youngest funnily enough)

For the most part, dd doesn't seem to mind her height.
There have been the occasional teasing episodes - her height is an obvious target.  And if you want to score a hit on her, being called "a baby" is a sure fire hit, she hates it. But generally speaking, she is pretty confident about it.

The only other issue that we have had is people underestimating her, overlooking her by assuming she is younger, that sort of thing.  Usually only from people who don't know her. But as she also as a very quiet personality, I do find teachers overlook the "quiet, little one"

#16 Moonl!ght

Posted 18 June 2015 - 02:08 PM

View PostMarchioness Flea, on 18 June 2015 - 10:09 AM, said:

My niece is tall for her age and will be a tall adult(dad is over 6feet) and my MiL commented once that it's 'nice when girls are smaller" which p*ssed me off on my niece's behalf.
It's the whole "girls must be pretty and dainty and short and delicate" CRAP which is so unfair.

I have two very tall boys and people always feel free to comment "my god they are huge" or "look at the size of them".

At the moment it doesn't bother them and I hope that will continue but it might be tough for them in their teenage years.  You can't go under the radar when you are tall.

At the end of the day we can't do much about our height and just have to make the best of it!

#17 Cherish Sleep

Posted 18 June 2015 - 03:28 PM

My son is very small for his age. He has been around the 3rd percentile since birth.

I am just shy of 5ft and my DH is 6ft 3". He seems to take after me. I was always the smallest, and I still am, but it was never something I was ever self conscious about. However there seems to be more of a stigma on boys who are short.

He is eight now and has always been the smallest in his classes. He is not ultra skinny, and has more of a stocky physique. Due to his build he doesn't look as small as he actually is until he is standing right next to his classmates. Only recently has he started being picked on at school for his size.

He is very active and enjoys sports, especially MotoX. At home we try to emphasise that his height doesn't matter, we tell him he is wonderful just the way he is. We point out all the things he is great at, and how his size doesn't affect those things at all. We especially focus on his love of MotoX, as a lot of his favourite MotoX racers are not overly tall. This seems to help his confidence a lot, by finding something/someone he can relate to.

Most people we meet/know say "Don't worry, I knew a boy who was the shortest person ever and then they hit puberty they grew to over 6ft. There is still a chance he will grow"

These sort of stories are unhelpful, as realistically he won't ever reach 6" and he will most likely always be a bit smaller than average. It also highlights to him that there is something fundamentally wrong with his size. I would personally rather people focus on other things rather than his height, such as his personality.

#18 bec578

Posted 18 June 2015 - 03:37 PM

*waves* short Mum (155cms) and I can't remember what hubby is but not that tall! We have 2 short girls... Miss 5 is in FYOS & is 100cms - all the other kids tower over her! Luckily she is feisty and takes it in her stride. Her older sister however is not so great & tends to let it bother her, she is 120cms & in year 3

#19 DZP

Posted 16 July 2015 - 09:04 PM

My almost 12 year old DD is very small for her age, she is no where near the growth charts for height or weight and despite being only 6 months off high school age, only just put away her size 4 uniform at the start of this year. She wears size 13 shoes, sometimes can get into a size 12.

She has seen all kinds of specialists, had full genetic testing and bone scans. She will actually not grow much more, she was at 80 something percent of her adult height a couple of years ago. Other than being very short and very light, they have never found anything.

She does well at school, her dots sit in that top triangle on her NAPLAN test results. She is very athletic, has been state champion for a few years now, breaks records and is ranked #1 in Australia for her age group in her preferred event.

On the flip side, her twin is equally as small, however we are unsure whether his small stature is what he should have been or because he had undiagnosed Hashimoto's disease for the first 7 years of his life, as this condition going untreated in children stunts both mental and physical growth.

Either way, they are a perfect example of how being really small can either be because they are perfectly normal or because there is something very wrong.

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