My Daughter Is Taller Than Me
I have never had a hang-up about my height. At a mere 5’2 (and a half), I’ve become used to having people tower over me, sometimes being the shortest in a group. My parents aren’t very tall and neither are my sisters. So it’s never been an issue. And it’s not like heels can’t add those extra few inches when I feel I need them!
When Shalini was born, everyone who visited her in the hospital said she would be tall. Her feet were pushing so hard against her newborn sleepsuit, begging for escape. Sukh went out straight away to buy a bigger size – and there went all our meticulous planning and shopping! We never used those sleepsuits again.
The new suits were very roomy and her body swam in them but at least her feet weren’t complaining. I loved just pulling her feet out and stroking them. They were so slim, with slender long toes. I will never forget Sukh proudly telling me over and over again that she had his feet.
As she grew, I had to get accustomed to never being able to buy clothes from her age range. I would always have to buy a size or two up. When she was gifted clothes, I would either have to return or exchange them.
Shalini was the tallest girl in her class at playgroup and the pattern continued throughout school. All her life, people have always asked how old she is. When I tell them her age, they look genuinely shocked and comment along the lines of ‘she’s so tall’ and ‘what are you feeding her?’
Now don’t misunderstand me. She is not a giant. She’s just always had a couple of inches on any of her classmates or cousins. It’s been great in some ways – but frustrating in others. For example, never being able to just buy a particular size of shoe and holding on to it for a while. She’s been going up by a size more regularly than other children I know so most of her shoes have hardly been worn – and passed onto her older cousins. I’ve always joked with my sister that it should be the other way round and that it’s me who should be benefitting from some of their hand-me-downs.
I’ve always felt very proud when her teachers or family members comment on her height even though that’s such a strange thing to feel. It’s not something either of us can control and it’s not like she’s achieved an A* in an exam or performed her latest song on her guitar at a concert!
For a few months now, Shalini and I have been talking about how she’s almost as tall as me…almost. She’s going through a phase of tying her hair into a tight bun on top of her head so that makes her look even taller.
But a couple of weeks ago, we were standing side-by-side in front of my bedroom mirror. She turned to me and said: “Mummy, I’m taller than you”. My first reaction was “No, you’re not”. I don’t know why I said those words even as they came out of my mouth. I could blatantly see that she was speaking fact. Shalini was taller than me. I was very happy that she would at least be 5’4” and hopefully more.
Yet those words didn’t match my sentiments. I was confused about my feelings and about my reaction. I turned to hug Shalini and said “well done” – as though she’d achieved some mean feat. She giggled and was so happy that I buried my questionable unease for the time being.
Later, Sukh measured her up against the kitchen doorframe – where he has kept a record of both Shalini and Shivam’s heights for some years. And yes, she was exactly 5’4”. Everyone was really ecstatic – me included. But I still had that feeling in the pit of my stomach that I just couldn’t explain. I told Shalini how much I loved her and that I thought she would grow a couple more inches at least. That made her very happy.
I knew I wasn’t jealous of her. How could I be jealous of my own flesh and blood, my pride and joy? I also knew I wasn’t envious. Like I said, it’s not as if I’ve ever had a complex about my height. I decided to sleep on it and re-evaluate my feelings with a fresh mind in the morning. But I didn’t sleep very well that night.
Suddenly it dawned on me. I realised why I had been having uncomfortable feelings and I admitted to myself that I’d been feeling this for a while now. It was simply because I was sad that my first-born had grown up so fast. I felt like I had blinked and more than a decade went by. She’s now a tween and I can no longer just sit and hold or cradle her. I used to be able to just hug her and give her affection whenever I wanted to. Now I have to wait until she’s in a happy mood and wants to reach out for some Mummy love. Now she tells me to link my arm into hers instead of her holding mine when we’re walking alongside each other.
Fast forward to today. I still have those niggling feelings but now at least I know what they are and why I’m having them. It means I can deal with them. But it feels like only yesterday when I was cradling Shalini in my hospital bed, stroking her slender toes. These may just seem like small things, may even seem insignificant to others – but they’re enough to make me wistful, as I’m reminded on a daily basis that my baby is no longer a baby.