My son had a rocky start in life. We discovered he was breech when I was overdue already, tried to turn him, that didn’t work. Tried to have a vaginal breech delivery, that didn’t work. He nearly died, I nearly died. It was all rather dramatic, to put it mildly. I wound up having him in a proper emergency setting, me knocked out cold and having to meet him after the c-section two hours later when they brought me out of my coma.
And then he wouldn’t feed. He wouldn’t latch properly and try as I might I couldn’t get the blighter to put on weight, not surprising, probably, after his dramatic entry into the world. He was born in the 40th percentile and swiftly moved down and down the centiles until they referred to him as FTT: Failure To Thrive.
I’ll save my personal pity party for another blog post but suffice it to say the scars of that first year of motherhood run deep. Every other mother I knew would endlessly boast about their enormous babies with their fat rolls while the only thing growing in our household were the bags under my eyes from crippling anxiety.
Fast forward eight years and Sam is right at the top of his class. He is super brainy, popular amongst his peers, has the girls fighting over him for his good looks. He has is the very opposite of failing to thrive. But he’s short. He’s the shortest boy in his class - probably in his whole year group - and it rankles him. Because folks, believe it or not, in 2020 boys still have to be big.
Tonight, as I kissed him goodnight he asked me, “When am I ever going to get taller?” His chin wobbled and my heart cleaved. Because at cricket club today, they lined the children up from tallest to shortest and he was the shortest by a long way.
Why the hell are we still doing things like this? Apparently they had already divided the children into groups so it's not like they were trying to match the kids with others of similar sizes. You wouldn't group kids according to their race or sex so why do it according to their size? All that served was to make my son feel bad about himself and potentially open him up to mockery. Kids can be cruel, therefore grown ups need to do better.
My husband is 6 ft 4 so everyone tells my boy that he will shoot up one day. “Don’t worry, look at your dad, you’re bound to be tall. You’ll have a growth spurt soon.” But I don’t like that rhetoric. It harbours a hope where they might be none. My own dad was 5 ft 7 so there’s a big chance my son will be short. And my point is: why should it effing matter?
The unconscious bias surrounding men and their height is hardly ever talked about. Malcolm Gladwell pointed out in his book Blink in 2011 that 58% of CEO’s of Fortune 500 companies in America are over 6ft tall. We are all sizeists whether we are aware of it or not.
There is a lot of chat at the moment, deservedly so, about the rights of all people: that the colour of your skin and the gender you identify with doesn’t make you less so. Yet somehow it’s still ok to line up children according to their stature? My little boy had to fight to enter this world and I have no doubt there will be many battles ahead. But there is sweet FA he can do about his height. Except now obsess about it.