We were just checking out at Target. The older woman in front of us and my son were smiling at each other. “How old is he?” she asked. I told her he had just turned 15 months. She made a confused expression, looked back at my son, and said, “hmm, he’s really small for 15 months.” She then looked back at me, raised her eyebrows, cocked her head, and shrugged her shoulders, then turned and walked away.
Maybe I should’ve let the conversation go without another thought, or maybe I was justified in being bothered by a rude comment by a stranger who knows nothing about my child or our family. For better or worse, I was the latter.
This sort of incident has happened at least a handful of times in my child’s short sixteen months of life – someone made a comment about his size that seemed to imply something was “wrong” with him or my parenting. And every single time their judgment bothered me for longer than I care to admit.
It bothered me not because they were right, but because this motherhood gig is hard enough the way it is, I don’t also need someone (who doesn’t even know me) making critiques of my family, thinking it’s okay to make a flippant comment about a person’s appearance.
My son has always been on the lower end of the weight percentiles doctors provide us, he’s always been on track developmentally, and no health care provider has ever expressed concern about his health and well-being.
But what if that weren’t the case?
What if he was struggling with an illness? What if he was born prematurely and his current size is actually above the expectation? What if he was a bigger baby and resided on the other end of the percentiles? Would a comment about his physical appearance really be appropriate in any of these situations?
My answer is no.
My answer is this: In a world where we know it would be completely inappropriate to make a comment about an adult’s physical size upon meeting them, it also isn’t appropriate to make a judgmental comment about a child’s. They’re people all the same.
My son is nourished, my son is happy, my son is healthy, and while I welcome a comment about how smiley, attentive, curious, or even how cute he is, I request that no further comments be made about his size.
In a society that’s terribly obsessed with body image/perfection/physicality, let’s look inward. Let’s encourage. Let’s lift our fellow mamas (and their babies) UP.
After all, we are all made in the image of God.