Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Don't inflict bias against big on unborn daughter; just love her
Anonymous: This is going to sound really awful, but with a baby girl on the way, I am worried about passing along my husband's physical genes. He is 6 feet 8 and fairly husky, and his son and daughter from a previous relationship are enormous for their ages. I worry I've done my daughter a disservice by sentencing her to a big, awkward life. Any advice on learning to feel less guilty about this?
Carolyn: You will do your daughter a disservice mainly — and possibly only — if you maintain this attitude that big is bad for a woman.
Any child who is "different" — a head taller or shorter, flaming-red-haired, super-skinny or super-round or whatever — will feel awkward sometimes. There's no way around that, nor can anyone predict perfectly when a conspicuous trait will become an asset or a liability.
But think about it: Being unusually intelligent can attract unwanted attention, but do you ever find yourself hoping this child-to-be won't get the smart genes?
There is nothing more beautiful than a human being who carries unusual traits with confidence. And there's no one who has more say in a child's self-confidence than a parent.
Please, please have the presence of mind to foresee the beauty in statuesque women. Watch the Williams sisters play tennis, or watch some WNBA games, or stand and salute the bodies on world-class female swimmers — I mean, wow. These are impressive riffs on the human form.
I haven't even gotten into fashion models, who are of heights that make them conspicuous well before middle school.
And your daughter hardly needs to appear on magazine covers. She just needs to like herself. That starts with your liking her. I don't want to punish you for being honest about your trepidation, but, please, take a hard look at the anti-big bias that's driving it.
Surprise! It's a human! I'm 5 feet 10. My sister is 5 feet 4. Same parents.
This goes beyond a parent's concern for just one possible outcome. She might have terrible acne, or her ears might be too low on her face. She could dance terribly, sing like a banshee, laugh like a hyena. Her teeth might come in looking like an enamel free-for-all, or she could be knock-kneed.
In other words, there are so many things about her that could be "remarkable," but don't get hung up remarking on them or assuming her life will be less (or more!) because of them.
Carolyn: I'm dancing terribly and singing like a banshee in celebration of this contribution. Thanks!
Anonymous 2: "Big, awkward" and "enormous." This is how Anonymous described her stepchildren. So I think some internal work on the large bias is a good place to start. How would they feel knowing how she perceived them?
Carolyn: I know, ouch. The thing is, all kids go from cute to eek-not-cute-anymore, before settling into their more pleasing adult configuration. There's a reason we all want to burn our yearbooks from middle and high school.
Parental love is a lifeline through these years.