Lately, what’s been cropping up in conversations with my daughter Lilly is how tall everyone else is getting. She hit her growth spurt early and was one of the tallest kids in fourth and fifth grade. In sixth grade, her classmates started catching up, and now, most of them are taller than she is.
I’ve always tried to remind her of all the wonderful women she knows who are, well, a bit on the short side. Friends of mine, mentors and former teachers of hers—strong women all.
“You might not be very tall, but you can stand out in other ways,” I tell her.
It’s true, she can.
Honestly, though, I have no idea what it’s like to be short. Growing up, I had the opposite problem. I was a full head taller than everyone else through fifth grade, at least. I was even taller than my fourth-grade teacher.
To say I hated being taller than everyone else is an understatement. Back then, I would have given my left arm not to stick out because of my height.
Right about seventh grade is when everyone around me started catching up. And these days, my height is solidly average for American women.
As a result, I find it hard to relate to Lilly’s issue with her stature.
We were in the car recently, and she was talking again about how everyone is taller than her. In sixth grade she could still see over people’s heads, she said, but now, she finds herself staring at the backs of everyone’s necks.
We moved on to other topics. But later, I remembered something.
At her fourth birthday party, we planned to play pin-the-tale-on-the-donkey. She has always loved games of every sort, but at the party, she wanted nothing to do with that one.
At the time, we didn’t think much about her reaction. Different people have different things that bother them. I personally hate it when I can’t see my feet in the dark. Lilly, apparently, doesn’t like to be blindfolded (which is sort of a requirement for pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey). There’s nothing wrong with that.
Why I thought of this after our latest talk about being short, I don’t know. But suddenly, it all made sense.
At her birthday party, Lilly didn’t want to be blindfolded because she doesn’t like it when she can’t see.
And now, in the halls of her middle school among 700-plus other students, she’s not afraid her height will keep her from being noticed. Nor does being on the shorter side bother her because she wants to be like everyone else.
It bothers her because it keeps her from seeing.
Lilly has always been a big-picture person, a noticer, a keen observer. She has always known everyone’s names, always kept track of what everyone is doing, always had a knack for reading people well. It’s all part of what makes her a good conversationalist and an amazing leader.
Now, though, it frustrates her that she can’t see as much as she once did.
High-heeled shoes may add some inches when she gets older, but right now, she’s not interested in that solution. She also realizes that, in the grand scheme of life’s problems, being slightly over 5 feet tall is not very high on the terrible scale.
She’ll have to learn to observe in other ways. And I have every confidence that she will.
In the meantime, I’ve come to a few realizations of my own. Sometimes, what I think is the problem is not really the problem at all. And the more I listen and ask questions, the better I will know and understand my daughters.
Which, from my perspective as a mother and a daughter, is one of the greatest gifts a parent can ever give a child.