I get the questions from other moms a lot. “So how tall were you when you were her age?”
“How big are your feet now?”
“What age did you stop growing?”
They’re mothers of daughters who are growing up tall, and they’re scared.
“She’s already FIVE TEN,” they tell me in hushed tones.
I get it. They’re wondering if their daughters will end up alone. If they’ll spend their lives helping shorter grocery store patrons reach crackers on the top shelves while wearing men’s loafers.
When other moms ask me about my height, at the playground or at school, I answer their questions honestly. But the answers I give are not the ones I want to.
What I want to say is that your daughter’s height gives her power, and that she should own that power. The power to be noticed when she walks into a board room, to be taken seriously when she stands behind a podium, to stand eye-to-eye with any man. That her beauty and social acceptability don’t depend on how dainty she looks next to her husband.
Now that I have my own daughter, who at two months old is already topping the growth charts, I’m thinking more seriously about how to raise confident tall girls. As a tall woman myself, I know what she might face when she hits middle school. The words freakishly tall, creature, or jet ski feet (okay, that one at least gets points for creativity) might be flung at her as she navigates the hallways or dresses for gym class.
Let’s be friends: Join our email list for more great content delivered straight to your in-box.
So I’ve made a list to guidelines to help counteract some of the negative messages she may receive. Maybe if enough of us start to think this way, by the time she’s in middle school, we won’t need them.
- Don’t make it a thing. Your tall daughter is probably already getting a lot of people stating the obvious when it comes to her height. Accept her stature as normal and don’t comment on it, even if it’s technically above average.
- Stop seeing your daughter in terms of her marriage-ability. See her as a person in her own right, not in terms of how desirable a potential partner might find her.
- If she is dating, don’t comment on the height of her significant other. If she gets discouraged when she enters the dating pool, remind her that insecure partners will weed themselves out when they pass on tall women. They’re doing her a favor, even if it’s painful at the time.
- If you have boys, encourage them to love and respect women. Let them know that their masculinity doesn’t depend on them towering over their girl friends (or girlfriends).
- Sign her up for sports early, but don’t force the issue if they’re not her thing. For me, participating in a sphere in which my height was an undeniable advantage helped me feel proud of it. But if she doesn’t take to basketball or volleyball, that’s okay too!
Remind her of tall women who rock their height, like Michelle Obama (5’11), chef Julia Child (6’2), comedian Leslie Jones (6’0), and director Kathryn Bigelow (5’11).
The real challenge isn’t just teaching our girls that it’s okay to stand out. Our biggest task is to teach them that it’s okay to be powerful. I think we’re all still recovering from some antiquated ideas about femininity—that we need to be small, meek, quiet, and sweet.
Maybe you have a daughter who gets called bossy. Try recasting it as assertive and encourage her confidence. Maybe she’s big-boned. Try recasting it as strong and marvel at what she can do. Always focus on what she’s capable of, not how she looks.