Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Perils of Tall Children

When I first met with Rut at the Sperm Bank, she counselled me against choosing a tall donor.  She warned me that two taller than average parents could produce a very tall girl, who would have social and self-esteem issues over and above the "usual" issues expected for a child from a non-traditional home.

According to what I have been told, Raphaela's anonymous donor and biological father measures approximately four inches taller than me;  according to her last physical and check-up, Raphaela stands in the 75th percentile in height.  I agree with their assesment, especially when I see her tower over some of the older kids in her nursery.

It took me many years and lots of positive feedback before I could enjoy my height, rather than feel awkward inside my own body.  Today, I had the opportunity to pass on that experience to one of my young patients.

A woman (who herself is quite large in both height and girth) brought her 12-year old daughter [R] to me for a consultation and Chiropractic treatment; she had gotten injured in a football game.  I have known R since she was three years old.

When R walked into the room, the first comment that came out of my mouth was, "Wow, you have gotten so tall."  At which point R cringed and sunk into terrible posture, she did not enjoy hearing that she looks more like a 16 or 17 year old..

I gave R the pep talk I had heard so many times during my childhood:  "Don't you know that supermodels have to be at least 5'10"?"  "Tall people radiate more power and are chosen for more leadership positions." "Why slouch so you can be the height of all those short people, when they could be looking up to you?"

The response I received could have been coming out of my own mouth, when I was her age:  "I always have to stand at the back when they take group photos."  "I can never find pretty shoes or dresses like the other girls wear."  "I'm not tall, I am fat.""It stinks to be tall."

Hearing R complain, I realized also that when a person looks older than she really is, other tend to assume maturity and the acquisition of certain skills that may not be present.  I remember when I stopped enjoying hearing that I looked older than my chronological age, that I looked "mature" and "responsible." I wanted to be young and cute like the other girls in my class, like the women you see in magazines.

I hope that my acceptance of my body and that my words helped R, even in some small way.

More importantly, this encounter today opened my eyes in terms of possible implications with Raphaela as she gets older and taller.   I hope that she continues to grow up happy and self-assured, and not at all ashamed of who she is and how she looks .  If Raphaela experiences a crisis and needs to talk to me, I hope she will know that I will always be here for her, and will give her love and support.

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