My mother used to say, “there’s nothing small about the women in our family.” And she’s right – not only are we tall, but we are sturdy and strong with a big bone structure. (Read into that as you may.)
I grew up feeling too big. I was the tallest kid in my class through elementary school, yet at 5’8”, I’m the shortest in my family. I was socialized that I needed to find “a nice tall man” to marry.
And that I did. My husband is remarkably tall at 6’6 and a half inches tall. So you add my gene pool (where one of my brothers is 6’5”) to that of my husband’s (where my mother in law is 6 feet tall), my kids got a double dose of the tall genes.
When my kids were babies, they would literally be an inch above the 100th percentile on the growth charts. My daughter, who is 9, stands at 5’2” – the size of a small adult already, and wearing size 14 clothes (which I believe means she’s the size of an average 14 year old if our sizing system goes by age).
She stands almost a foot taller than some of her classmates, and when I introduce her to people, their first reaction is, “wow, she is SO TALL. Maybe she could be a model.”
I don’t want my daughter to be a model – that sounds like a recipe for an eating disorder and a life of people judging you by your looks if you ask me.
Since it has been apparent her entire life that she’s on track to be over six feet tall (and if she is like the past three generations of women in my family, she’ll have her full height by 12), I’ve made a conscious effort to socialize her that height and size is a good thing.
Because as a tall woman in this American culture, I can tell you that it often feels like being tiny and petite is the American ideal, and being tall and… not petite… caused me a lot of self-image issues growing up.
So when people say in front of my daughter how TALL she is, I often react by saying, “I know, isn’t she lucky?” I focus my conversations with her on how tall and strong is a good thing, and one more key bit of socialization – that the men she dates and the one she eventually marries doesn’t necessarily need to be as tall as she is. Because if my girl at 6 feet tall limited her dating pool to people that were 6 feet and above (which from my experience of online dating, most of the men on dating sites that claim 6 feet are nowhere near that), it will be slim pickings to find the personality traits that are so much more important.
My goal is to raise my daughter so that she is proud of her height. I hope she’ll stand tall with good posture and never wish that she was one of the petite girls. I hope that she’ll wear heals whenever she darn well pleases, and will be glad that she’ll always have a good view in crowds.
(Let’s also hope that these seeds I have planted can withstand the socialization that is sure to happen when she hits middle school.)