My 15-year-old daughter is 6'4". I always knew that my children would be tall, and it was evident that my daughter would be an above-average height at an early age. “Off the charts” was what the pediatrician said. Her growth has slowed down but doctors tell us she might have an inch or so left to grow.
Being “bigger” translates to awesomeness when you’re in preschool
When Ashley was in preschool she was a natural leader — her teachers said the kids would follow her around and listen to her speak. In elementary school, Ashley was always the one in the middle back row of the risers such that one year she was touching the basketball net with her head. She didn’t emerge as a leader as she did at preschool — she was a bit shyer and more reserved.
Elementary school proved to be the place where boys and girls started to separate and kids would pick on you for no reason at all; where girls started to notice boys they wanted to “go out with” and boys picked girls they thought were “pretty.” There was only one boy Ashley ever mentioned, and he happened to be the only one nearest her in height.
Being tall makes you feel different during the years when all you want is to be like everyone else
I grew up as a tall girl, or relatively tall at 5’10”. I was always conscious of it — it was something I carried with me like my race, religion, or socioeconomic status. I’ve grown to love it and appreciate it, but it was a journey.
It was my own experience that made me mindful of what my daughter would go through. We’ve always taught Ashley to embrace her height, but I’ve noticed other people and society as a whole see it as something that sets her apart from the “normal” crowd.
It was in junior high that I first noticed Ashley slouching. I attributed it to being a teenager, but the longer it lasted the more I was afraid she was slouching to make herself smaller. It saddened me. I watched as my quiet daughter would always stand at the back of a group of girls or eat lunch by herself.
Last year, Netflix made a Tall Girl movie. I asked Ashley if she ever gets teased like the 6’1” girl in the movie, but she said that’s fake — no one at her school is that rude. I was glad to hear it, but I know that movies have to embellish those things that are more subversive in the real world. Do fellow students really ask “how’s the air up there?” No. Do they look up and stare when she walks by when they wouldn’t stare at a smaller person? Yes.
I know Ashley is a naturally shy person. She gets embarrassed if I breathe the wrong way. But I think the WORLD of this girl and seeing her try to hide her AMAZING self from the world is disheartening.
Society has an unconscious bias toward tall girls.
Unless they are on the runway or in the swimsuit edition, tall girls are scary. It makes it difficult as a parent to teach my daughter body positivity when the world around her has embraced a “smaller” woman. As parents, we need to recognize these biases and teach our kids how to deal with them — whether your daughter is short or tall, big or small, loud or quiet, or any other opposite of what society deems “normal.”
While I can’t change how others act, I can teach my daughter a few things I’ve learned along the way.
1. What Makes You Different Makes You Special
I know, teenagers don’t want to hear this, but keep repeating it and someday they’ll realize it’s true and thank you for saying it.
2. You Are More Than This One Thing
Even though it makes her special, Ashley is more than just a tall girl. Her heart and mind are the true definitions of her identity. In a world where body image is too prevalent, girls need to be reminded of this.
3. It Takes All Types of People in This World
It’s hard not to shame the short people when you’re trying to taut the tall ones, but it’s important not to boost up our daughters by putting others down.
As a mother, I’ve championed my tall girl. When she first played basketball in kindergarten and kept rebounding the ball over the other kids’ heads, and shooting until she made a basket, my husband and I joked that we should start calling college recruiters. I lamented about finding pants long enough or shirts with sleeves that could reach her wrists, but it was also nice when she could ride some of the “fun” rollercoasters when we went to Disneyland.
Ashley has kept up with basketball and uses her height to her advantage. Her basketball team is her community and the court is her safe space. But it’s not the only thing that defines her. I’m proud of all that she is and excited for all that she will become.