Twins tend to be small babies–my daughters are no exception—particularly my daughter K, who, as of her last checkup, is barely on the charts. (And don’t get me started on those charts…) At 7+ months, she’s small enough to still be wearing 3-month clothing, and whereas many babies have those adorable pockets of pudge on their arms and legs, K clearly does not.
In fact, you could technically say that she’s a pretty skinny baby. But here’s the problem: People have been saying that to me. A lot. And for the most part, it really rubs me the wrong way.
Just the other day, I was pushing my daughters in their stroller around the supermarket when a stranger came over and hit me with the usual barrage of questions: Are they twins? Are they identical? Are they girls? (Clearly, being dressed in bright pink is no longer a giveaway.) How old are they?
When I told her they were 7-months-old, her response went something like, “Even the little one? She’s too skinny to be 7-months-old.” (Yes, amazingly, even the little one has managed to be the same age as her twin sister.)
Maybe I’m being overly sensitive (it’s certainly not out of the question), but I’m really, really not a fan of using the word “skinny” to describe babies. First of all, is it supposed to be a compliment? When people use it in the context of my daughter, it tends to have a negative connotation—as is, “Why is your daughter so small for her age?”
In fact, I’m not too keen on the word “skinny” in general. To me, it’s a word that’s just begging for trouble.
Here’s the way I see it: Kids have a way of being intuitive, and if a child hears that she’s skinny from the moment she’s able to recognize words, it could impact the way she develops ideas about body image over time—or at least that’s my fear.
I have a friend who spent much of her early childhood constantly being told how skinny she was. When puberty hit, her body changed, and so did her attitude toward food. She spent much of her teens and early 20s cycling through crash diets and struggling with food and body image issues, and it took months of therapy to get her to a place where she could finally be content with not being a size 2.
I don’t want my daughter getting a complex because she keeps hearing how skinny she is. I don’t want her to ever feel pressured to remain skinny, nor do I want her sister to start developing issues if it turns out that of the two of them, she’s not “the skinny one.”
I want my daughters to grow up content and well adjusted. I want them to recognize that being healthy is more important than being skinny or wearing a particular clothing size. And I want the people in their lives to help them get there.
So folks, let’s please stop calling my daughter skinny. Whether you mean it as a compliment, a point of concern, or something in between, it’s just not a helpful word to use, and I’d really, really like to see it go away.