Sunday, November 13, 2011

One little worry: Oct. 5, 2003

My older son was a skinny 3-year-old when I wrote this. Now he is a skinny 11-year-old. I used to be a big worrier -- about this and a whole slew of other stuff. But I've learned that worry doesn't get you much of anywhere.

There are worse fates than skinny. 

Having a tiny child just one of life’s worries
    My son is a tiny little person.

    This makes me crazy. It makes me worry. It makes me crazy with worry.

    He is 3 years old and still hasn’t hit 30 pounds. He’s skinny all over, with legs that look like wrists, and arms I can wrap my hand all the way around, overlapping my fingers and thumb.

    I recently measured his waist, just to see. It’s 18 inches. My mother witnessed this exercise in neurotic parenting. She feels sorry for Jack because his mother is crazy.

    "That’s not so bad, 18 inches," she said. "Scarlett O’Hara’s waist was 17 inches after she finished tightening up that corset."


    "In the movie, "Gone With the Wind." Her waist was 17 inches."

    "Where do you come up with this stuff, Mom?"

    I look for other little kids, seek them out. When I see a tiny child in the park who is talking too well to be as young as he looks, I ask the parent: "How old?"

    "Oh," she says, "he’s almost 2, but he was born six weeks premature. He’s catching up fast, though, doing great."

    "Mine’s 3," I reply.

    They watch Jack, his spindly little arms, his comical, birdlike legs. "Was he early?"

    "No. Born the week before his due date. Average weight. Fell off the charts around 9 months. They did a bunch of tests, didn’t find anything wrong."


    What else can they say? He’s built like a Pez dispenser, and I have no explanation.

    I took him to the doctor this summer for his 3-year checkup. I hate checkups. He’s always so much smaller than those stupid charts say he’s supposed to be.

    I hate those charts, with their blue lines and curves and percentiles. They make me feel like I’ve failed in my primary responsibility as a parent: to get the child to grow. Feed him, watch him grow. Simple.

    Stupid charts.

    "He’s in the fifth percentile for weight," the doctor announced, after measuring and weighing Jack and drawing numbers on the stupid chart.

    I gasped. "He’s on the chart? He’s on the chart?"

    "Yep, fifth percentile."

    That means, of course, that 95 percent of 3-year-old boys are heavier than Jack. But that is much better news than usual. Usually, Jack is in the basement under the chart, falling out of the blue lines into the white area, where he is bigger than absolutely no one.

    The doctor scribbled some more. "He’s in the 10th percentile for height."

    "Tenth? TENTH percentile?" I am ecstatic. I hug Jack. "You’re a linebacker, baby boy. You’re a lumberjack."

    Then the doctor tells me about this formula he can use to determine Jack’s projected adult size and to make him his own growth chart. I am very much in favor of this.

    I want a new chart. The old one is just stupid.

    I tell the doctor my height and weight (5 feet 4 inches, 135 pounds) and my husband’s height and weight (5 feet 8 inches, 135 pounds.)     

    "You both weigh 135 pounds?"

    "Yes. I used to weigh 125, but hey, I gestated and then delivered an entire human being. I am entitled to my 10 pounds."

    (I am NOT defensive about the 10 pounds. NOT AT ALL. It looks good on me. GOOD, I tell you.)     

    So the doctor starts scribbling and determines, based on complex math and stuff, that Jack will be 5 feet 8 inches tall and weigh 135 pounds as an adult. He is in the 50th percentile in height and weight based on that projected adult size. He’s average, for a child born to his particular parents.

    Discovering this has allowed me to relax a little and enjoy some of the benefits of having a tiny kid.     

    For example, I can still lift and carry him easily, while most of my friends’ kids are way too big to tote. His clothes take up virtually no room in the wash, and his entire itty bitty wardrobe fits in two dresser drawers.

    He can pass for 2 and get into stuff for free. He is so small that people think he’s some kind of baby genius, talking as well as he does. Sometimes I explain that he’s older than he looks. Sometimes I just smile.

    Also, when my husband and I walk on either side of him holding his hands, we can swing him really, really high between us because he is so light. He absolutely loves that. He laughs wildly and flips his little bird legs up, up, up as far as he can, giggling, pushing himself into the air.

    We laugh, too. Our boy is beautiful. He is perfect. And that is just huge.

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