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Nothing wrong with being short

Elizabeth Chicoine

NPR’s Michele Trudeau reported on Morning Edition recently that a new study in the journal Pediatrics found that height in high school-aged children, grades 6-12, is not linked to likeability and social acceptance. Moms of short boys and girls: RELAX. Science now has proven much of what a mother’s instinct has known since the beginning of timeI love you just the way you are!Perhaps this story on NPR grabbed my attention because I am still reeling from a pediatric visit a few years ago when the doctor mentioned the possibility of growth hormone injections for my son. He was not making any significant gains on the height percentages for boys his age. I listened. I smiled. I went home. I cried. My healthy happy boy wasn’t fitting into society’s mold of normal. Looking back now, I want to scream at the top of my lungs, “alleluia!” He’s unique, beautiful, healthy and confident. Oh, and I almost forgot, he’s short.Instead of following the pediatrician’s advice for “someday in a few years we might consider growth hormone injections,” my husband and I enrolled our boy in karate. He was just three years old. Now, he is six and a brown belt in the Fighting Chance Vail Academy of Martial Arts. I just love the name of the schoolFighting Chance. He has learned never to give up, to give every ounce of energy towards a cause.In rejecting medical treatment to “fix” our healthy son, we chose to focus on his inner self. Karate has taught him pride, stamina, the joy of winning and the comfort of losing despite giving your all, and humility. Instead of a nightly needle, our son would get instruction from his respected teacher in character development.I have been haunted by the idea of growth hormone therapy for several years. I knew in my heart that I made the correct decision, but how comforting to see new research. CBS’ Sixty Minutes also did a feature this month titled Growth Industry. This was an excellent piece presenting thought provoking questions as to whether medical insurance should be paying for these FDA approved therapies on healthy children. A bioethicist queried, “Is this the first in a trend toward the creation of designer children?”Along with such a powerful way to change one’s self comes debate. A boy featured on the Sixty Minutes segment took nightly injections for 2 1/2 years, fully credited his present happiness and social acceptance to the growth hormones. I was bothered by his remarks. Maybe, perhaps, a bit of something else such as inner peace had helped him, too. Maybe, just maybe, he was happy because he felt that he met his parent’s expectations of what he was supposed to be.The bioethicist commented, “Every kid has something they’re not good at, every person has something that is less than normal. That’s what we have to live with in life. We don’t try to fix it with drugs. We sort of say we’ve got to learn to cope with some of our foibles, something that’s less than perfect. That’s what humans are.”I thought of how I cope with things about my body that I’m not wild about. For example, the new flash-to-the-past style of hip-hugger pants. On me, these pants just push the rolls of fat from having children up over the top of the pants! Hip-huggers don’t look so “hip” with a tire of fat hanging over the top. But just to “fit-in” I’ll probably go buy a poncho and a pair of culottes to mix into my hip-hugging wardrobe for this fall season. I am camouflaging my not-so-young body to fit into society’s newest accepted trend.If I’m feeling a bit inadequate, I can just pop out and buy that latest fashion to blend in. But do we want our children to get the message that if you’re feeling a bit short, not happy about how you fit in, just go ask mom to find out about injections?Believe me, I’m usually the first mom ready to jump in and “save” my child. I am an excellent example of the popular psychologist’s notion of a Helicopter Mom. I want to swoop in and help my kids when and if I can.For example, I am always the “First Mommy” in the carpool lane for pick up after school. The absolute stress and anxiety that I feel if I’m not there to pick up my son for karate, which starts promptly at 3:30, can be undoing! I know there are also many other mommies just like me. It is simply just easier to be on time.I’ll never forget the panic that I had in Wal-Mart at 2 p.m. the other day. I had a cart full of pumpkins that my three-year-old had just picked out. We were next to pay when all that could go wrong at a Wal-Mart checkout did go wrong. No way would my daughter allow me to ditch the cart for a later trip! We waited and waited until my heart about leapt out of my chest.We were fine. I was toward the middle of the carpool lane that day. And I think that my son will be fine with waiting to grow, too. He may never grow to reach the charts. But he’ll be a junior black belt soon. He smiles and has friends. No one will be trying to “fix” him, because he is perfect to us, and he knows it! Love is powerful medicine. VTElizabeth H. Chicoine lives in the Valley and writes about issues important to the family for the Vail Trail. She can be reached for comment at ElizChicoine@cs.com.


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