Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Judge Me By Size, Do You?

Size does matter. But not in the way you think it does.

I watched Little A. walk out of school today, joking and laughing with two of his best friends. They’re all the same age, but Little A. stood out, about a head taller than both other boys.

I grew in a family of tall kids. (Laugh now. Yes, I’m short.) Believe it or not, I was a tall kid until about fourth grade. (Laugh more, please. I understand.) One of my sisters grew tall exceptionally early and so I’m very aware of the downside of that.

You see, her height didn’t actually cause problems—adults’ assumptions based on her height did. People assumed, based on that one physical measurement, that she was much older than she actually was. Then they expected her to act according to the age they assumed.

When S. was little, one of her best friends was a little boy her exact age, but a head or more taller. His parents got so much grief when people say him crying or with his pacifier. He was two! But he looked four.

Big A. also grew tall very young and dealt with all those assumptions. I actually had the opposite problem by the time I hit my teens. I had a baby face and I’m on the—yes, okay—on the short side.

I married Big A. at the age of twenty-five and was repeatedly mistaken for a teenager. I had multiple people ask me if I got married right after graduation (as in, high school graduation) and I nearly wasn’t given a raffle ticket at a baseball game because I didn’t look eighteen. Karate parents mistook Big A. for my dad. It was pretty harmless, but ludicrous as I look back on it.

And now we’re seeing Little A. go through it.

At a playground recently, he ran without looking and knocked into a kid who, based on his behavior, was about four. His dad (who may or may not have anger issues) started ranting as Big A. and I ran up to the boys. We encouraged Little A. to apologize, but—as any six year old might—he got too upset by what he’d done to talk.

Surprised and devastated by what he really hadn’t intended, he cried and got that look every parent knows, the look that says, “Please take me in your arms and make this go away.”

I did take him in my arms. As Big A. attempted to apologize to the angry dad, the smaller boy’s mom and I exchanged glances over the heads of our upset boys. “I’m sorry,” I said. “It’s okay,” she mouthed.

I know that the kids-bumping-into-each-other scenario happens fairly often on playgrounds and I know most parents recognize that. And I really don’t know where that dad was coming from. But, as we walked away, it occurred to me that he might have thought an eight year old ran into his son. That doesn’t excuse his rant, but I can understand how angry it can make a parent to see a big kid hurt their little one. An eight year old would probably have more coordination and self-control.

We used the opportunity to have a positive talk with Little A. about how people who don’t know you sometimes think things based on how you look. We said that’s not great, but it happens. We assured him that we know him and we knew he was doing his best. Mistakes happen! And next time maybe he can apologize.

I can’t help thinking, though, how arbitrary and useless it is to judge kids by that one dimension. How many inches there are between your feet and the top of your head determines…what you can reach. And that’s about it.

So then I can’t help wondering why we do this with so many random numbers—weight, age, income, zip code, number of kids, number of cats, whatever.

We are all so complex that no measurement can encompass it. And nothing can measure our beauty, our power, our potential, our thoughts, our love. And maybe that’s why we lean on the numbers so much—numbers are easier.

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