How can I help my daughter with her height?
December 28, 2012 11:07 AM   Subscribe

Please help me with my incredible (and probably irrational) guilt and grief over my daughter's height. I know that she'll be okay but I blame myself. Is there anything that I can do now?

My daughter is 16 and 5 feet tall. That's it. She's been through puberty. We saw a doctor a year ago who said that she was done growing and that maybe, maybe, she would grow another inch.

She is upset about it but coping. I never show my feelings about it to her and I appear positive and I listen support her feelings.

But I feel such guilt about it. She was a picky, picky eater and we are vegetarians. Although, she drank gallons of milk and grains (bread) she never rarely ate fruits or vegetables. She would gag. My husband would get mad at me for pushing her. She couldn't swallow pills so never took vitamins and would gag and spit on liquid ones that I would try to give her. She was a 33 week preemie - not super tiny - almost 4 lbs.

I feel like it's my fault. I feel like I should have been stronger. I just feel like I should have noticed and taken her to the doctor sooner. Maybe we would have gotten HGH shots or vitamin shots something. When I would worry about it and take her fr blood tests they were always normal. Yet, I wake up feeling guilty everyday for not being stronger.

I know that taller people have it easier. Not always and in all cases, but the studies show that, all other things being equal, they get more respect and opportunity.

She is smart but has anxiety issues and I worry that I've made her life hard.

Even typing this I know that I should get over this and that it's maybe silly but I do feel so so so so so terrible.

Any advice or anecdotes would be very welcome.
posted by Toto_tot to Health & Fitness (124 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Some people are just shorter than others. It's okay.

It's kind of a cliche Metafilter answer, but a therapist can help you with this. A therapist can also help your daughter with the anxiety.
posted by troika at 11:12 AM on December 28, 2012 [3 favorites]

Please, please, please go to therapy. Your feelings are not silly -- they are your feelings -- but this should not be weighing on you like this.

If you want to help your daughter, please talk to a professional and straighten out your feelings of guilt and shame. A mentally healthy mother is a great gift.
posted by purpleclover at 11:13 AM on December 28, 2012 [36 favorites]

Can you see a therapist to talk about this? It seems from your post that these issues are mostly yours and not hers, and that maybe her anxiety issues are unrelated. There are lots and lots of people who are short, and they do just fine. Kristin Chenoweth (Broadway and TV star) is shorter than your daughter.

I'm just a bit taller than your daughter, and at 32, I have not had an issue with my height since I was 14 years old.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 11:13 AM on December 28, 2012 [2 favorites]

Mary Lou Retton is 4'8"
Lady Gaga is 5'1"
Hayden Panettiere is 5'0"
posted by matty at 11:14 AM on December 28, 2012 [38 favorites]

I think you're blaming yourself for something you don't have much control over. And at 16, she's probably done growing, so there really isn't anything you can do at this point, except talk your feelings through with a therapist because your worry is a little out of proportion to what's going on here.

I hit 5'3" around 15 and that's as tall as I got. Aside from having to get help getting stuff off high shelves, and not being adept at sports requiring height, I don't think there's anything in my life that has been awful because I'm short.
posted by chiababe at 11:15 AM on December 28, 2012 [5 favorites]

You should see a therapist about this. I'm 5'1, had issues with it as a teenager but now I'm happy with my height and wouldn't want to be taller. If you feel your daughter's anxiety is more than run-of-the-mill teenage stuff, have her see a therapist too.
posted by Autumn at 11:16 AM on December 28, 2012

She is smart but has anxiety issues and I worry that I've made her life hard.

Please, both of you, see a therapist about this. Tall people may have it easier than short people, but it is far more important, and your daughter will be far more at ease with herself, far more confident, and therefore far more successful, if she can accept herself and her body as they are. More to the point, unlike her height, this is something she can change about herself.

Your own feelings of guilt about this are something that you should discuss with a therapist, first of all for your own good, because it is ridiculous to feel guilty that you have a short kid and you shouldn't walk around carrying that, and second, for your daughter's good, because the sooner you overcome your own stuff around her height, the sooner you can support her being the wonderful person that she actually is without bringing in all of your feelings about how you wish she were different.

Please, please see a therapist about this. (My own mother had some real issues with my appearance and made no secret of them to me, and if you memail me I can share with you how much more damaging her issues were to me than my appearance ever was.)
posted by gauche at 11:17 AM on December 28, 2012 [4 favorites]

Yeah, of the thousands of things in your life you can control, how tall your daughter is not one of them. Normally I'm all for personal accountability and such, but you can't fight nature.

As Matty points out above, being below-average height certainly does not have to be an impediment for future success and happiness.
posted by Fister Roboto at 11:17 AM on December 28, 2012 [2 favorites]

Also, my aunt is 4'10" and headed a university department for 40 years and retired into a second career as an award-winning documentary producer.
posted by purpleclover at 11:18 AM on December 28, 2012 [6 favorites]

When I would worry about it and take her fr blood tests they were always normal.

If this is true, and you live in a country that has supermarkets, you can be assured that this is absolutely not the result of malnutrition. The sort of malnutrition you're thinking of is multi-generational (i.e. ten generations living off potatoes in a remote village) and comes part and parcel with other health issues. This is, beginning and end, the genetic lottery.

You have anxiety issues too, and the worse they get, the worse hers will be. Please put on your oxygen mask first and get treated for your anxiety. In the long run, an anxious mother is a lot worse than a few inches.
posted by griphus at 11:18 AM on December 28, 2012 [79 favorites]

What. I'm just short of 5 feet tall and have absolutely never given it a thought. It hasn't held me back socially, professionally, or in any way whatsoever. I am glad you're giving this some thought, because I think it essential that you get help via therapy before you completely poison the way your daughter thinks about herself.
posted by Wordwoman at 11:18 AM on December 28, 2012 [36 favorites]

This would be much more of an "issue" if your daughter were not female, but even then it's what you make of it.

What's much more potentially damaging, and I do mean this gently, is having a mother who for one moment would seriously indulge in this (first world) angst.

Perspective. It comes from a lot of places besides height. Be grateful for your petite and healthy daughter. A lot of parents don't have that luxury.

Signed, rocking everyone of my 62 inches....
posted by 2soxy4mypuppet at 11:18 AM on December 28, 2012 [4 favorites]

I'm sorry you feel so bad about this. I'm 5 feet tall and it isn't really an issue for me. The only problems are that it's hard to reach high shelves in the grocery store and that I often have to pay to have new pants shortened. I've got a husband, a son (who is pretty tall for his age), and a good career. Most of the time I just "forget" that I'm really short.
posted by trillian at 11:19 AM on December 28, 2012 [4 favorites]

You may be viewing this through a strange lens. Being short is not nearly the social handicap for women that it is for men. I know lots of petite women who lead very happy lives. Short men, OTOH, have a huge handicap and until much later in life feel as though they might as well not exist.

So be sure you aren't applying the wrong filter.
posted by rr at 11:20 AM on December 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

Also, at 5'6", I am the tallest member of my family. By about six inches. My family is full of engineers, doctors, and other Successful Short People.
posted by griphus at 11:20 AM on December 28, 2012 [8 favorites]

There is nothing remotely weird or awful about being 5' tall. Occasionally she will have to stand on a chair to get things from the top shelf. That's it, as far as hardships go. If both parents are 6-footers I suppose it's a bit of a surprise, but who's to say jamming a bunch of vitamins down her gagging throat would have helped?
posted by 0127661 at 11:21 AM on December 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

Was your child under the care of a paediatrician through infancy and childhood? Then it is extremely unlikely she suffered from undetected malnutrition that would result in stunted growth. Indeed, your daughter is simply at one end (and not even the extreme end) of normal height variations. I am 5'4" and I am an Amazon in my family. My sisters are 5 feet even. My aunt and cousins are under 5". My dad is six feet, so you know, there is that.

There is nothing wrong with your daughter, her height is not a flaw you caused, and you genuinely do not have that much control over your child's growth. This is a problem you are making up in your head, to a degree that I agree you should seek help with this because it is unhealthy for you. Additionally, I think that your sociology is flawed - it's taller men who are shown to have more success, not taller women. Indeed, shorter women have a larger dating pool and taller women face all kinds of prejudice.
posted by DarlingBri at 11:22 AM on December 28, 2012 [9 favorites]

My grandma is about 5 feet tall. She's been living a rich, full life for decades. I don't think her height has held her back.
posted by Area Man at 11:22 AM on December 28, 2012

Oh My God being a short girl/woman is awesome! Really, I have never, ever felt that my height (5'1") has been any kind of hindrance to my social or professional life. I make a very good living in middle management at a non-profit, and have developed a good reputation as an expert in my industry. I've had articles and a short e-book published.

Also, on the social side it's great! I've had an active romantic life and most guys I've dated have said they love dating a short woman. I never have to worry about being taller than a guy I'm romantically interested in (though that shouldn't be an issue, it is for some.) I can wear heels without feeling like I'm towering over everyone else.

My fellow short women started a bike gang specifically because we're all under 5'2". If you don't impose your anxieties about it onto your daughter, she will be fine -- perhaps she'll even embrace it!

About the only problem is finding clothes that fit, but a quick review of AskMe questions about clothing reveals that everyone of every shape and size has trouble finding clothes that truly fit well. Oh, and getting stuff off the top shelf of the cabinet, but that's what step stools and/or tall friends/roommates/partners are for.

On preview, I agree with the others that perhaps you should consider therapy about the issue for yourself. It is really not a big deal at all. If I had the choice, I wouldn't want to be even a single inch taller than I am.
posted by misskaz at 11:22 AM on December 28, 2012 [14 favorites]

What the hell? I'm 5' tall and have never had a single issue with it other than being annoyed when clothes shopping. I can name at least a dozen friends off the top of my head who are 5' tall or shorter, all with professional careers, engaging hobbies, normal family lives . . . I don't even see the point of naming celebrities who are short--there must be hundreds of thousands of people in the world who are under 5'. Definitely you should talk to a professional about this before you give your daughter the idea that there is something wrong with her height.
posted by HotToddy at 11:23 AM on December 28, 2012 [14 favorites]

You're never going to know why your daughter is 5'. It might have been her diet, it might have been her preemieness, it might have been genetics. You'll NEVER KNOW.

So fixating on it isn't going to change anything.
posted by k8t at 11:24 AM on December 28, 2012 [2 favorites]

I don't think that you have much control over this. IANYD, but I don't think this is a result of what she was eating. Sometimes it's just genetics and chance.

5' is not that short. Sure you wouldn't call it tall, but I had a friend who was like 4'11" and she played a GREAT game of basketball.
posted by christiehawk at 11:24 AM on December 28, 2012

I understand your concern, but you can only do what's possible, and it sounds like you did that. While perhaps being a WNBA player isn't necessarily in the cards for your daughter, if she's healthy and happy and doing well in other ways, that's really all you can reasonably ask for.

Just as a data point, I married a man who's the same height as I am (meaning our combined genetics for height may not be great), and I took my husband's last name, even though it's later in the alphabet (and there are known effects of that in terms of reduced teacher attention, being chosen later for things, etc.). My plan is simply to teach any future kids we have what it means to be persistent and work hard in the face of any adversity they might face, whether from height, a last name that's later in the alphabet, or what have you.
posted by limeonaire at 11:25 AM on December 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

Yeah, another short lady (5'2" if I stand up super-straight) who honestly has never had it come up in any negative way. My brothers call me "fun-size" and that's about the worst of the teasing :) It is moderately irritating to buy pants. I am good friends with my tailor. Life goes on.

Bonus: She'll have a broader dating pool than a much taller woman would, because for some reason lots of dudes really seem to like dating women they can tower over a bit.

(I know, I know... guys always blame *women* for short dudes having no luck, but I'm a short lady who likes short dudes...and those short dudes always turn me down for *even shorter* women.)
posted by like_a_friend at 11:25 AM on December 28, 2012 [2 favorites]

Okay, I'm going to revise my answer to say that there must be millions of women under 5'. Check out this table of average heights around the world (scroll down).
posted by HotToddy at 11:25 AM on December 28, 2012

The heritability of height in humans is between 0.8 and 0.9. That means that how tall a person is owes much more to genetic factors than to environmental factors. So, you cannot place much blame on yourself for what you fed her. Yes, an omnivore diet might have given her an inch or two, but it wasn't going to make her 5'7". Her genetic potential gave her a narrow range of potential height. So, know that your self blame and guilt misplaced.

I will not dismiss your concerns as being "first world". Your feelings aren't any less important because you live in the first world, and even third world residents have minor annoyances. As others have noted, being short is generally not perceived as a liability in women. Her height should in no way "make her life hard".
posted by Tanizaki at 11:27 AM on December 28, 2012 [4 favorites]

Listen, I'm a woman who is way too tall. Look at it this way; she has a significantly larger dating pool than a taller woman. Also, she can just wear heels; I can't walk around on my knees. She won't hit her head all the time or injure her back and knees forcing herself into too-small spaces and slouching. She won't feel like a huge awkward gangly giraffe all the time. She won't get yelled at (yes, yelled at) for wearing heels. Being tall is a workplace advantage for men, but often detrimental for women. And being tall is correlated with earlier death, so she'll probably live longer. With a lower centre of gravity, she'll probably be more graceful and well balanced. Her clothes won't all be too small for her.

Also, 5 feet is short, but not bizarrely so. I don't understand why this is such a big dramatic deal, and I agree that you should consider therapy because I think you're seriously overreacting. She's not unspeakably deformed, she's just short. Lots of people are short. It's not the end of the world.
posted by windykites at 11:28 AM on December 28, 2012 [18 favorites]

Her height is not under your control. If your daughter was taking in non-starvation amounts of calories, there is not really anything you can do about her height. If increasing her height was as simple as eating a lot of vegetables, we would not have any short people. The odds are that her height is simply genetically set.

Growth hormone treatment is very expensive. It produces dramatic results for someone who actually has a growth hormone deficiency. For a few other conditions, it is sometimes prescribed (I believe Turner syndrome for girls), or healthy people can take it as well, but you can't really hope for more than a small increase in height. As far as this goes, it is pretty much seen as a cosmetic intervention. Besides, once a person stops growing, when the growth plates in the bones fuse, HGH can no longer make them taller. So, it is too late for HGH, but fortunately, not too late for dental veneers, breast implants, chin implants, cheek implants, microdermabrasion .... you get the picture. If you are basically opposed to cosmetic surgery, giving HGH to an otherwise healthy person is seen by many people as essentially the same thing.

The way height plays out for women and men is dramatically different. Statistically, being short is almost as advantageous for women as it is disadvantageous for men when it comes to dating. Also, women can wear heels without any social backlash, whereas men are discouraged from wearing lifts.
posted by Maxwell_Smart at 11:28 AM on December 28, 2012

If you have access to a sympathetic medical health professional, you could ask them to what extent your daughter's height might be related to her eating habits as a young child. (My guess would be that there are other factors with much more impact and food played little or no role at all, but that's just a lay person's guess.)
posted by rjs at 11:28 AM on December 28, 2012

I'm 5'2", mom's 5' 3" and dad's 5' 4" ... I've 6 footer friends who've met my parents only to later say they never even realized they were "short". Its all in how you carry yourself.

And seconding getting some counselling for your guilt! and grief!... I clicked through thinking you must have been chain smoking through pregnancy or drinking alcohol...
posted by infini at 11:29 AM on December 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

I think it is likely that a good part of your daughter's anxiety problems may be caused by your obsessing over what is largely a nonissue here.
posted by elizardbits at 11:30 AM on December 28, 2012 [43 favorites]

I just wanna say if the worst thing in your daughter's life is that she's five feet tall, then you have done a great job as a mom and you deserve to be proud of yourself and your daughter. You have my permission to go out together and have a great afternoon, and don't even spend a moment thinking about what if things were different.
posted by Sternmeyer at 11:31 AM on December 28, 2012 [8 favorites]

What griphus said, a thousand times. This this this. Your daughter is fine. Please work on your feelings of guilt.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 11:33 AM on December 28, 2012

I'm another example of a short person who's never felt it held her back. I'm 5'1, respected in my career, happy in my marriage. I spent my adolescence going to punk shows and dying my hair weird colors, so I got more attention from that than from my height. I have a cousin who didn't grow at all for almost a year when she was a toddler, and extensive testing showed a genetic kidney condition that somehow was a contributing factor; they treated it and she's now the same height as me and fine with that.

I hope your daughter's anxieties about her height aren't coming from her peers giving her shit about it - I did notice that in my high school years some of my male friends felt it was okay to do "funny" things like picking me up or using my shoulder as an armrest or something in a way they didn't do with our taller female friends. A combination of cool looks and biting, hard, just once, cut that out. Other than that, it's an issue fully outside her control, so all she can do is carry herself in a way that makes her feel confident.

My mom's 5'3 and my dad's 6'1; my siblings are 5'6 (sister) and about 5'10 (brother). There's no telling why I got the short (HA) end of the stick on height. You can't possibly know that doing anything different would have changed her height, and it's almost certain that nothing you did or didn't do was the crucial factor here. I'm sad for you that you're so upset about this, but that doesn't make your feelings any less valid. It might help for you to do some actual research into successful short people to remind yourself that your daughter's height will almost certainly not be a factor in her successes in life, and to help your daughter internalize that message.
posted by SeedStitch at 11:36 AM on December 28, 2012

If there's any chance at all that your unfounded guilt about your daughter's height might expose itself in your interactions with your daughter or with anyone else in any way whatsoever, then you should seek a therapy so you can get over it.

Your hangups should absolutely not be allowed to affect her; your daughter deserves to know that you think the world of her -- all parts of her, not just her grades or her art, but also her appearance.

So, nip this unpleasant thinking in the bud!
posted by seanmpuckett at 11:36 AM on December 28, 2012

Oh god being a tall girl is so much worse than you think. Especially the part where short girls can be chubs and have clothes fit, but if you're tall, you are already sizing out. And boys and planes and "being intimidating". Definitely not all its cracked up to be.
posted by dame at 11:37 AM on December 28, 2012 [4 favorites]

Count me as another 5-foot-tall woman who thinks it's a non-issue. Absolutely none of the problems in my life have been caused by my height.
posted by oinopaponton at 11:37 AM on December 28, 2012

What if you had forced her to eat things that made her gag, and dragged her from doctor to doctor even though her blood tests were normal? My guess is you'd still be feeling guilty about some quality in your daughter you perceive as the consequence of your actions.

(One of the best parenting decisions my parents made, in my reckoning, was never forcing me to eat anything.)
posted by feral_goldfish at 11:39 AM on December 28, 2012 [2 favorites]

I'm barely 5 feet tall and I grew up eating all sorts of things. I really doubt you did anything wrong. I think it would be worse if you had taken her to the doctor, made her take supplements, etc--that would support the view that there's something wrong with her; as you can see from me and various posters upthread, being short is totally normal!
posted by mlle valentine at 11:41 AM on December 28, 2012

She's going to be okay.

I'm not tall -- just a little over 5'3". I used to complain about being short a lot and was frequently upset about it. I grew up in a town full of really tall people so it felt like the end of the world.

Now it's just an occasional annoyance when I can't reach something or can't see over something. And once in a while, something happens that makes me feel awesome about my height. Two weeks ago, for instance, I was buying a new pair of heels and the gorgeous, leggy cashier said, "You're so lucky you can wear such pretty shoes. I have to wear flats." I had a little skip in my step leaving the store. :)
posted by cranberry_nut at 11:43 AM on December 28, 2012

Before I clicked the more inside to this, I thought your kid must be either three feet tall or eight feet tall.

Nthing everyone else that you and your daughter will be best served by getting treatment for anxiety, which is far more crippling than being slightly shorter than the average for one's sex.
posted by rtha at 11:43 AM on December 28, 2012 [6 favorites]

I just. Being a woman is already hard enough without having your own mother obsess over what she wrongly perceives as some horrible, monstrous, defective physical flaw. Plus she then has to live with the knowledge that her very existence has caused you to feel agonizing guilt over supposedly having caused this not-actually-terrible physical flaw.

Please, please do not do this to your daughter. Society will already be making her question every last physical thing about herself from now until the day she dies.

I never show my feelings about it to her and I appear positive

There is pretty much no way you are 100% able to hide something like this from your children. She will pick up on it in many small, subtle ways, and she will suffer for it.
posted by elizardbits at 11:45 AM on December 28, 2012 [38 favorites]

She is smart but has anxiety issues and I worry that I've made her life hard.

A mom who apparently cares about what her daughter's height says about her own dietary choices will do that. Look around: there are tons of successful short people. People who were raised in a way that taught them that their purpose in life was to validate their parents choices, on the other hand, tend to be pretty messed up.

You don't respect your daughter. If you did, you wouldn't be worried about something as trivial as being five foot tall getting in the way of her being a successful, happy adult. Hopefully, she has other people in her life who do respect her and have confidence in her abilities, but given that you don't, the most important thing you should do is realize how irrelevant you are and stop making everything about yourself.

I feel like I should have been stronger.

You are teaching her that you are responsible for everything that happens in her life, good or bad, not her own efforts. Knock it the heck off.
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 11:45 AM on December 28, 2012 [6 favorites]

I am the shortest person in my family by far never EVER ever has caused me problems, ever. I have about an inch and a half on your daughter. I have to use a step-stool more often than taller people? Seriously, that is it.

There are a lot of advantages for a petite woman, actually. For one thing, traveling coach is not nearly as agonizing for me as it is for my 6ft tall dad. You have a larger dating pool. Etc.

Does your daughter even care? All of my tall girlfriends had angst about their height; NONE of my short ones did.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg is barely 5 ft tall. Barbara Boxer is 4'11 or something. Nancy Pelosi is 5' 1 or something. All those women turned out pretty successful. Your daughter will be fine. This is like, not even a thing. It seems to me like you maybe have some other anxiety about her that you are sublimating into this, because -- I mean this as kindly as possible, truly -- what you are so worried about doesn't even make sense to me. I think it might be valuable to see someone to figure out what else is going on?

But your daughter is going to be fine. FINE.
posted by Countess Sandwich at 11:47 AM on December 28, 2012 [2 favorites]

I'm 5'1" and, in my 40s, yeah the only handicaps I've encountered are the things people mentioned above: sometimes I have to stand on stools and shopping for clothes is sometimes annoying. In many other ways, women who are "petite" have (unfair) advantages.

I'm actually really shocked by this question. I clicked on it thinking your daughter must be under four feet tall. It's kind of disconcerting to realize after all these years someone might have been silently pitying me for this monstrous deformity I never even realized I had until just this moment. I can't imagine finding out my mother felt this way about me.
posted by tiger tiger at 11:48 AM on December 28, 2012 [18 favorites]

Another anecdata point: I'm a 5' tall woman, and it's never been a drawback for me. I'm active -- I run, do yoga, ride my tiny bike -- and my body does everything I need it to. I can stand up (!!!) at my seat in a plane. I have a bad-ass loft bed with a workspace underneath it. I'm way more comfortable than taller people on road trips and I've got a kickass dependable little Honda Civic. I can hem my own pants, no big deal. I love a man who's 5'8" or so and he's the perfect height.

Sure, sometimes I have to ask someone to reach me something in the gro sto, but everyone has to ask for help sometimes, right?

If your daughter is otherwise healthy and smart and happy (and it seems like she is), height is a total non-issue. Breathe.
posted by fiercecupcake at 11:48 AM on December 28, 2012

5'0" isn't really all that short -- about 5th percentile. You should seek professional help.
posted by Perplexity at 11:49 AM on December 28, 2012 [4 favorites]

No offense, but this is really a very strange concern. I too thought reading the question that she was over 6'5" or something. 5' is a perfectly normal, petite girl. She'll be able to date and dance with all the guys. (Well at least, she won't be too tall for any of them.) I'm 5'5" and most of my friends are much taller than I am and they have a much more annoying time of it than the shorter girls and women I've known. My mom is 5' and was absolutely gorgeous when she was younger and is now the most adorable 78 year old lady ever. My dad is (or was, he's shrunk;-) maybe 5'6" and my grandparents were seriously tiny. If shortness was an issue my parents, being responsible people, would never have had me. The thing about "tall people have it better" is primarily for men, and fashion models. Teach your daughter how to hem pants and she'll be perfectly fine in life. Unless you freak her out obsessing over this.
posted by DestinationUnknown at 11:55 AM on December 28, 2012 [5 favorites]

I am just over 5 feet. I'm curious about what specific problems you're envisioning for your daughter. My feet still reach the pedals. I can ride on roller coasters. Really, it's fine. If I hadn't read this question, I probably would have continued living my life without ever realizing that someone might actually pity me for my height.
posted by Marit at 11:56 AM on December 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm actually really shocked by this question. I clicked on it thinking your daughter must be under four feet tall. It's kind of disconcerting to realize after all these years someone might have been silently pitying me for this monstrous deformity I never even realized I had until just this moment.

I know, I found this question really disorienting. My whole life I've gotten comments on how tiny and cute I am. So now I'm sitting here in my 40s wondering for the first time if people have been pitying me. The basic premise of the question completely contradicts my entire experience of being this height.
posted by HotToddy at 11:57 AM on December 28, 2012 [11 favorites]

My mother has similar anxiety issues though hers were about weight and not height. I am a short healthy person [5'2"] which has never been a problem. However, my weight has ranged from 115-150, usually in the middle-ish. When I was in high school I was concerned about my weight like a lot of teenage girls and my mom, instead of being like "You're lovely and normal and in good shape and healthy and that is great. If this is something you want to work on for you, I'm here to talk" got sort of squirrely and talked in empty platitudes that I knew weren't really the way she felt about me being more on the curvy side. And was picky about how I dressed. And so I grew up not even thinking about being short, but thinking about being heavy and how that might have been a problem and how it was DEFINITELY a problem for my mom (whose mother was a model and who probably had some body image issues) and how that was a thing, and about everything I ate and on and on and on.

Your response to this, as many people have said is irrational. No big deal, you feel how you feel, but you should probably speak to someone about that. My mother thought she was appearing positive and supporting my feelings, but she wasn't fooling me. My sister is overweight (looks good, and in decent shape) and my mom always brings it up whenever we talk which is weird and inappropriate and still bothers me. I'd work on your own feelings here, your level of feeling "so so so so so terrible." is disproportionate to the actual issue here.
posted by jessamyn at 11:59 AM on December 28, 2012 [4 favorites]

Seconding tiger tiger. I'm 5 feet tall and 46 years old. Reading this question was the first time I ever considered that my height might be an issue. Please don't let your anxiety get rooted any further in your daughter.
posted by fiery.hogue at 11:59 AM on December 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

agreeing with everybody that 5'0 isn't very short at all. check out wikipedia's entry on human height. there are many countries where the average female height is 5'0 -- or even shorter. (4'8 in bolivia, wow!) I grew up in a california city with a huge hispanic immigrant population, and 5'0 wouldn't even be a blip on our radar. 4'5, sure. but 5'0? the petite side of normal.
posted by changeling at 12:00 PM on December 28, 2012

I have two daughters that are alike in many ways, one is 5'3" and the other 5'11". There were really no differences in how they were raised or diet. That is how the genetic dice rolled. Both their father and I are heights between the two girls (now young women).

So who knows?
posted by readery at 12:02 PM on December 28, 2012 [3 favorites]

I am two whole inches taller than your daughter. My father maintained that I would hit a growth spurt in my teens. I'm in my mid thirties, and it hasn't happened yet. Literally the only time I think about my height is when I want to get something that my much taller husband put away in the cabinet. Your daughter will be fine.

As for the maternal guilt, I was born in the mid seventies. My mother was a smoker. I was two months premature, and I've had health issues that are potentially related to that for my whole life. My mother feels extremely guilty about it to this day.
posted by crankylex at 12:03 PM on December 28, 2012

Five feet tall is a perfectly normal height for a woman. I mean yes, she's short, but she's normal-short. I'm 5'2 on a very good day, and here are the ways in which my height affects my life:

* I always have to have a stool around in the kitchen.
* I prefer movie theaters with stadium seating.
* I make sure to buy my pants from retailers that offer different inseam lengths.
* In the professional organizations for which I sing, I always stand on the front row.
* I married a man a foot taller than I am, and when I kissed him on our wedding day, I had to go up on my tiptoes and you could see that I was wearing platform sneakers.

Pretty much, that's it. It's definitely a massive advantage while traveling; my knees never hit the back of the seat in front of me, and I can squeeze into even the smallest Speck-sized rental car. Your sadness and your grief and your guilt are disproportionate to the actual situation here; if the reams of stories in the answers here don't help reset your perspective, then honestly I would seek therapy to help you manage.
posted by KathrynT at 12:03 PM on December 28, 2012 [3 favorites]

On the HGH front, I took growth hormone for two years. I was going to be about 4'7" if I didn't take it, and now I'm 4'11" - those four inches make a huge difference. It's actually fairly difficult to get a prescription for growth hormone (or it was about 15 years ago). You have to have one of a short list of pretty difficult-to-cope with conditions - end-stage kidney disease, Turner syndrome, wasting due to AIDS - and be below the 3rd percentile for height. Your daughter doesn't have any of those conditions (which is a good thing) and she's not below the 3rd percentile in height, so HGH wouldn't have been possible for her anyhow. And even if it was, the treatment was not fun. You have to give yourself a shot every day, and you always need access to a fridge to keep the medicine in, and the growing pains and other side effects were not pleasant.

On the social side of things, being under five feet is pretty awesome. I've always been able to date any guy (lots of guys are weird about dating girls who are taller than they are, in my experience). I will always look younger than I am, which is becoming better and better the older I get. People constantly comment on how cute I am. I can still drive and exercise. The only limitation that irks me is that it's sometimes difficult to reach the top shelf in the kitchen. Oh, and I have to eat less than other people in order to stay slender.

I think you should examine what you're really upset about, because your daughter's height is just fine. A therapist might be able to help you with this.
posted by k8lin at 12:03 PM on December 28, 2012 [3 favorites]

I'm 4'11" and yes, I wish vaguely all the time I were three or four inches taller, only because life would be slightly easier - no asking people to reach things for me, clothes would fit, etc. Otherwise, not a problem, just an annoyance. Help buy her clothes that fit or have them tailored so she looks proportional and her height will be a non-issue.
posted by slow graffiti at 12:07 PM on December 28, 2012

Buy her a stool and take yourself to therapy. There is nothing wrong with being short and, as a 5' 1" early-twenty something, the only time I think about my height is when someone else comments on it. You will be fine. She will be fine.

I wonder how tall are you? Is she abnormally short in your family? Because maybe that's a large part of it. My mother and grandmother are short and so my height has never made me feel out of place. Maybe if all of my family members were giant I'd be feeling different about things.
posted by lucy.jakobs at 12:08 PM on December 28, 2012

I'm 5'1". When I read your headline I thought your daughter must be a midget. I like being short and feel it has plenty of advantages and has never once held me back. 5' is a normal height.
posted by queens86 at 12:11 PM on December 28, 2012

OK, so to address this point specifically:

I know that taller people have it easier. Not always and in all cases, but the studies show that, all other things being equal, they get more respect and opportunity.

"all other things" are pretty much never equal, so honestly this particular issue is never really going to go front-and-center. Raise a smart kid, get her help if her anxiety becomes problematic, teach her feminism. These things will do infinitely more for her in navigating this world than an extra 5 inches.
posted by like_a_friend at 12:12 PM on December 28, 2012 [4 favorites]

I am five feet tall, but literally no one believes me when I say that. Not a single person with whom I work thinks of me as short, partially because people come in all shapes and sizes, and partially because I don't "act short" - I'm assertive, I do my job well, and I act like I'm entitled to the same respect every other person gets because that is true.

Therapy for everyone! Being five feet tall means only one thing to me that I ever worry about, which is making sure I always have a car with 6 way adjustable seats.
posted by Medieval Maven at 12:18 PM on December 28, 2012 [2 favorites]

My son is 6'1" and has been a beigetarian (vegetarian who doesn't like veggies) his entire life. He is taller than his older, omnivore brother, taller than his father, taller than his friends, and self-conscious enough about his height that he developed a purposeful slouch for a while. Absent longterm malnutrition, height is a genetic crapshoot, has nothing to do with diet.
posted by headnsouth at 12:18 PM on December 28, 2012

I am 5'8". My brother is 6'7", his wife is under 5' tall. My mom is 6' tall. My best friend is 5' tall. None of feel weird or out of the ordinary (even when when all together in the same room which is often). However, when I was 13 or 14 and about 5'7" I was anxious about my height. But only very briefly because my mom brought me back to earth by reminding me that my height was normal and not a big deal. Let your daughter deal with any feelings she might have about her height and, if she is anxious about it, allay her anxiety by reminding her that there is nothing wrong, odd or remotely remarkable about her height.
posted by marimeko at 12:23 PM on December 28, 2012

I have a 15-yo daughter and I know how easy it is to blame yourself for every struggle or issue that your children face, and to question every parenting choice you ever made when you encounter rough seas in the journey toward adulthood. So, for starters, no, I don't think you are to blame for your daughter's height (a serious deficit in calories can cause growth stunting but then you would also be dealing with a child who was also significantly underweight; if it were a serious vitamin deficiency, there would probably be other symptoms).

But I also don't think you need to automatically shoulder a heaping helping of guilt for your daughter's anxiety or discomfort with her height. My daughter also 5'0" and pretty much done growing, I always expected her to be short, never had any problems with her being short, and have no anxieties or guilt about her shortness to ever have transmitted that to her. And yet she's had bouts of feeling bad about her height (along with feeling bad about every other aspect of her being, which is a manifestation of her social anxiety).

Obviously, it would be good to address your own feelings about this, and a therapist might be helpful. But it also might be good to step back and ask yourself how your daughter is doing, overall, and whether she might have a broader anxiety issue that is worth addressing. I guess I'm picking up on the picky eater + anxiety issues and seeing parallels with my own case and wondering if it's less a case of your anxiety fueling your daughters and more a case of you seeing your daughter in distress over her anxieties and dissatisfaction with her body and grasping for straws as to how to help her when "you'll be fine!" and "look at Lady Gaga!" are not bringing her around to acceptance.

Good luck, and MeMail me if you want someone to talk with in more detail.
posted by drlith at 12:29 PM on December 28, 2012 [3 favorites]

Anecdotally, my brother was an extremely picky eater growing up, and about the only thing he would eat were goldfish crackers and coke. He's 6'4".

This is not your fault, and regardless, this is about her being a bit shorter than average. It's not like you sat idly by while her arms and legs fell off or something.
posted by phunniemee at 12:32 PM on December 28, 2012 [3 favorites]

This is not your fault and you must be kinder to yourself about this and get therapy so you do not pass your anxieties to your daughter.

My mother is convinced that the stretch marks I have on my butt are due to her negligence and she has spent my entire youth and young adulthood telling me this and that I should hide my butt and never wear a bikini and that hopefully I won't get a man who will find the marks gross. Do you know how damaging that has been for the past 15 years? My mom is not only asserting that I am not good enough the way I am, but also insisting that I ought to hate her for giving these ailments to me when all I want is a mom that loves me and shows me so every day regardless of what my butt looks like and whether or not I can still be a model.

Please let this go or you will inadvertently start to tell your daughter that she isn't good enough when we both know that isn't true.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 12:41 PM on December 28, 2012 [18 favorites]

Can we get to the heart of the matter? Why do you think 5 feet tall is not tall enough? It is perfectly normal, your child is not abnormally short. I think your anxiety issues are probably going to give your child a complex about her height that she would not otherwise have had. Please go see a therapist, and perhaps take your child along so that she knows there is absolutely nothing wrong with her.
posted by echo0720 at 12:48 PM on December 28, 2012 [5 favorites]

I'm 5'2". I was a notoriously picky eater as a child, while my brothers ate like horses -- yet all of us, including my brothers, are short people.

I love being a petite person. I am comfortable in airplanes and on jump seats, never have had to worry about being taller than a boyfriend, can sit on my husband's lap, can be carried for fun and emergencies and can get my hands into small spaces readily. I also love heels, which allow women who like them to be just about as tall as they'd like for things like work.

Also, I have been hugely successful at work. As have my short colleagues.

The ONLY disadvantage to my height is that I need to fetch my stepladder or call on my husband for the tallest shelves/cabinets.

Love your child for who she is, and appreciate all the benefits of being small. There are plenty.
posted by bearwife at 12:50 PM on December 28, 2012

Jesus Christ, I'm 4'11". It's not a handicap. Your child is healthy and normal - so many parents out there would die to be able to say that about their child.

Get help for this immediately, and apologize to your daughter today for making her think there's something wrong with her. One of the most amazing gifts a mother can give her daughter is a good body image.
posted by imalaowai at 12:52 PM on December 28, 2012 [6 favorites]

I was raised as healthy as a child can be - homemade baby food, veg/fruit/fish centric Asian diet, mostly organic, no juice or processed sugars, etc. I drank milk every single day until I was about 13. I'm a 4'11" female. I'm living proof that good diet does not correlate with height.

And you know what? I fricking love being 4'11". It's my trademark, it makes me different, and I can't imagine being the same person if I was taller. There are times when I feel that I am slightly invisible or ignored in parties and stuff which used to get me down as a teen, but I learnt to show enough vitality, energy and personality to compensate for that. Nowadays I find it almost satisfying to overturn people's expectations that I'm 'cute and demure'.

Like with anything else in life, being short has downsides, but upsides too, especially for a girl - people always tend to give you attention/affectionate teasing (especially men), you still appear slim even if you carry a bit of excess weight, you can pull off tiny and cute clothes, you can wear heels, it's easier to appear graceful and light, you can fade in the background when necessary, you NEVER have legroom problems (= never have to fly above economy!), and I have a distinct advantage in my sport (martial arts).. I could go on. It's really a matter of perception, and learning to love the hands you are dealt.
posted by pikeandshield at 12:54 PM on December 28, 2012 [2 favorites]

My sister is barely 5 ft tall. She's been happily married for nearly 40 years to a guy who is 6'4". She's an MD, got her degree at one of the best medical schools in the US, has two grown kids and two grandchildren. Her height is insignificant. Stop worrying about it.
posted by mareli at 1:05 PM on December 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

I know that taller people have it easier. Not always and in all cases, but the studies show that, all other things being equal, they get more respect and opportunity.

Mahatma Gandhi was 5'4" ...
posted by infini at 1:05 PM on December 28, 2012

My father, who is 5'3, has such massive charisma that strangers automatically defer to him. I've seen my daughter, 5', enter a room and space clear like magic in front of her.

I like being 5'. There's no been a single thing in my life i wanted to do that being short has made difficult. Funnily, I never remember people as being taller than me, but I do remember how much charisma they have, how much psychic space they take up - it doesn't have much to do with their height.

Why are you feeling so guilty? Maybe your whole family should talk about it so your daughter gets an inkling it's more about your anxiety than anything to do with her.
posted by glasseyes at 1:11 PM on December 28, 2012

I am less concerned about your daughter's height and more concerned about how you think that her height reflects on you as a parent. I don't know what you mean when you say that you should have been stronger - physically? So you could stretch her legs out? Are there other things that make you feel this way about your daughter?

When I was 14, I had to get a school physical to play sports. They measured me and I was 5' 0.5". The next year, they measured me and I had grown to a whopping 5' 0.75". I was like, seriously? You can't help me out a little and round up? But yeah, I don't think being short has held me back in any way, except that I frequently need to get pants hemmed. And I'll never be on America's Next Top Model (not a huge concern for me). And I walk fast because sometimes it is hard to physically keep up with people (but then I get frustrated when I'm in a crowd of slow walkers so YMMV).

I never went out for the basketball team but I never liked basketball. I did karate for several years and became super flexible because being able to do a split meant that I could kick tall people in the head. I ran cross country and track in high school. I still run and do yoga.

I dated men in a range of heights, including a guy who was 6' 4". My high school best friend, who was underestimating her height when she said she was 5' 11", had a hard time finding guys who would go out with her because she was so damn tall - it's stupid but high school boys are dumb.

I'm not even the shortest person I know. I have a cousin and an aunt who are maybe 4' 10". I think I'm taller than my mother in law. My sister in law basically gave up wearing high heels because her fiance is short. I don't think people talk about me like, oh, kat518 is sooo short, because adult people don't do that. There are definitely people in my office who are shorter. I used to wear heels but um, I'm lazy and sometimes heels and running didn't mesh well so I don't wear them often any more.

The most important thing you can teach your daughter, IMO, is to see her attributes, whether it's her height or writing skills or awesome math grades, as opportunities or gifts, not something that limits her. Tall people are supposedly perceived as more confident. So are blondes. Is your daughter blond? If not, do you think that means that you failed as a parent? I've also heard that people think shorties are more trustworthy. And I can weave my way through a crowd like a boss.
posted by kat518 at 1:14 PM on December 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

Take yourself and your daughter on a world tour. You need to get some perspective here. Your daughter's height is normal in many countries.

Hell, just visit L.A., wander the various immigrant neighborhoods, and you'll see what I'm talking about.

Where I was raised, your daughter would've been more the norm than I was. As a tall gal, I used to wake up every day wishing I was shorter.

It's all relative.

She's perfectly normal, dang it.
posted by nacho fries at 1:15 PM on December 28, 2012

How tall are you and your daughter's father? Her height is just fine, and you need to speak to a professional to determine why you are so so so overwrought about this. There's no way your daughter doesn't know that you think her height is not at all okay.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 1:29 PM on December 28, 2012 [3 favorites]

Also, I encounter women who are significantly shorter than my not-at-all-tall self every day. Women from all walks of life, doing all sorts of jobs, in all sorts of settings. I never, ever, think about their height at all, except that sometimes being around shorter women makes me feel like a big galumphing oaf, so I'm momentarily sort of jealous.
posted by DestinationUnknown at 1:39 PM on December 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

When I was your daughter's age, I was 5'6" and jealous of my 5' friends. Go figure.

My relative height hasn't been a noticeable advantage in life. However, I could probably name a hundred times when anxiety or self-consciousness about my appearance has noticeably gotten in my way. Passing your anxiety to your daughter will ultimately hurt her much more than her height possibly could.

You will make life easier and happier for you and your daughter if you seek therapy for your worry and guilt. You've already figured that these feelings are irrational, distressing, and counterproductive, and from what I can tell you're correct. If you know a thought or fear of yours is getting in the way of your life, but you can't "get over it" or think your own way out of it, that's the perfect time for therapy.

Also, IANA parent, but from what I've heard, worrying about having somehow incorrectly reared your child is quite common. If it's not physical characteristics, it's intelligence or good habits or mental health or whatever else. So forgive yourself for worrying, and keep an eye out for whatever else your anxieties may attach to.
posted by Metroid Baby at 1:42 PM on December 28, 2012

5'2" here and it never even occurred to me to be upset about it.
posted by valeries at 1:44 PM on December 28, 2012

I'm female and 6ft tall and would have given anything to be 5ft tall. The grass is always greener...
posted by cecic at 1:50 PM on December 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

You did your best, Mama!

It seems to me like you might have some unplumbed depths that need sorting, and therapy would be awesome for that. Especially if you're passing on these worries or not able to mitigate your daughter's concerns effectively.

I'm 5'. My height has literally been the least of my issues in this world. It certainly hasn't held me back more than, say, my gender or starting socio-economic standing. And if I'd been taller, I'm sure the few things about my height that have had some bitterness associated would have been put off onto some other feature I couldn't help. It's all a trade off. There's always something. Learning to do the best I can with what I've got is all I could do, and accepting the unchangeable as either asset or not worth worrying about is the healthiest possible approach.

Give your girl a hug, check out some counseling resources, and breathe, breathe, breathe!
posted by batmonkey at 1:52 PM on December 28, 2012 [2 favorites]

I stopped growing in the seventh grade and topped out at 4' 11.75" - and I ate my vegetables! My parents (both sides of my family, really) are just short people.

But I feel such guilt about it.
I feel like it's my fault.
I feel like I should have been stronger.
I wake up feeling guilty everyday for not being stronger.
I worry that I've made her life hard.

Sure, there are things I don't like about being short - having to ask people to reach stuff on high shelves, pants are always too long, etc. - but I'm not sure I understand the level of guilt and shame you feel regarding your daughter's height.

How does your daughter feel about her height? You say she's "upset," but... are both you and your husband really tall and she's the odd man out? Does she get made fun of for her height? Or is it mostly a nonissue until she gets dragged to the doctor for more bloodwork to try to figure out why she turned out "wrong?"

I mean, I get that she might be upset... I've been there! And right now I will admit to thinking, "At least she hit five feet, because I didn't." TONS of people are shorter than she is and are doing just fine.

I think if I were in your position, I'd try to follow her lead with regards to her feelings about her height and try not project my own fears and anxieties onto her. Even if that meant seeking help from a professional to deal with my own feelings.

For instance, does she want to pretend she's taller? Have her pick out a pair of platform sneakers for everyday wear (I used to love Volatile shoes). Lots of short people like to wear heels; I'm not one of them, but maybe she'd like a pair to practice walking in? Maybe have her look at blogs like Alterations Needed or Extra Petite to learn how other people her same height can look professional and pulled together. Let your daughter show you what she needs to be supported.

Truly, life as a short person is not the terrible fate you seem to be imagining it to be. I say this with love: try not to make your daughter feel bad about the roll of the genetic dice that she's been given - if that means seeking help for yourself, please do it. For her sake.
posted by meggan at 1:53 PM on December 28, 2012

I'm 5'2.5", and my mom is 5', my aunt is 4'11". My mom and aunt eat tons of vegetables, in fact, my mom is one of the healthiest eaters I've ever encountered (I'm the one who is more of just a carbaholic who eats few veggies). So how'd I get a few inches taller than her? Well, my dad is significantly taller! That's all.

And by the way, my mom and I are both MDs. She was a more successful and hardworking student than I was, though. It had nothing to do with her being short - that's just the way she is and the way I am.

The only thing I have to add aside from my own anecdote is there is little chance this had anything to do with a vitamin deficiency and that clearly, you have let on to your daughter that you are upset about this and not kept it a secret, because you have taken her for blood work looking for some sort of nutritional problem related to shortness enough times that you can conclude "it was always normal".

There is no medical issue here. Essentially, you've been obsessing about treating her for something that's entirely cosmetic - imagine if you had been on her all this time about getting breast augmentation or a nose job because people find folks who have had those cosmetic procedures more attractive, which leads to greater success in life and love!).

I concur with the other posters who think you probably ought to make more of an effort to express directly that you love her just the way she is and don't think she should change her appearance at all.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 2:03 PM on December 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

I had a severe eating disorder just before and during puberty and ended up several inches shorter than the other female members of my family. If your daughter was eating solid food *at all* that's more than what I was doing at several points in time. And even I don't know if that is the reason I am shorter than my family members. It would be impossible to separate that out and say for sure, because there are too many other factors. I also don't believe another few inches would have any noticeable impact on my life. The only things I can't do are: be a supermodel, or join a collegiate rowing team. Two things I was not planning to do anyway. Also when there are studies about how tall people have advantages in the working world, they are usually talking about men. I was never going to be as tall as a man anyway even if I were the same height as the other women in my family, so I was never going to get those benefits anyway. And as people upthread have said, it often doesn't work the same way for tall women anyway.
posted by cairdeas at 2:04 PM on December 28, 2012

I'm sorry, but if she is in any way anxious about her height, she is getting that from you. I speak as someone who is five feet tall. It is only a disadvantage in basketball. My mother used to be delighted for me, and tell me that boys love petite girls, it never occurred to me to be unhappy about my height. Of course some people commented or made fun--because there are assholes in this world, and they are going to comment about something, even if it is your big toe. So yes, therapy for everyone, and the only thing you did or are doing wrong is worrying about absolutely nothing.
posted by uans at 2:18 PM on December 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

There is a lot of good advice here, but to add something my grandfather told me when I was younger - your daughter is not too short, the world is just built too tall.
posted by youngergirl44 at 2:21 PM on December 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

Please go out in public and take a decent look at the people around you. Seriously. How tall are they? You need some perspective. You're discussing your daughter's height as if she has an ear in the center of her forehead because you didn't give her enough zucchini.

I'm just a hair over 5 feet tall and... I just don't feel all that much shorter than most people. I'm definitely shorter than some, and there are many I'm even taller than. Also, so what? I sometimes need to use a wooden spoon to coax the bottle of olive oil off the topmost shelf in my kitchen. On the other hand, during cavern tours, I don't need to duck. There's a minor inconvenience and a minor boon. Whoo.
posted by houseofdanie at 2:41 PM on December 28, 2012 [5 favorites]

I know that taller people have it easier. Not always and in all cases, but the studies show that, all other things being equal, they get more respect and opportunity.

First of all, those effects are so small that you have to run sophisticated statistical analyses over samples of hundreds of thousands of people. Second, they don't apply to women at all.
posted by atrazine at 2:49 PM on December 28, 2012 [3 favorites]

Have you asked the doctor about what's behind the shortness? S/he would very likely reassure you that it has nothing to do with her nutrition.

It's also possible that forcing her to eat certain things (especially in opposition to your husband) likely would've harmed your relationship with her.
posted by vitabellosi at 3:02 PM on December 28, 2012

I'm the shortest one in my family. This traumatized me beyond belief.

I'm 5'-10".

The three facts above are true. Only two of them would have been if it weren't for my stepmother's opinions.

You've read this already, but your daughter's height is just fine. You do need help with your guilt, expectations and communication. Please seek for and find that guidance, okay?
posted by vers at 3:10 PM on December 28, 2012 [6 favorites]

Being 5' tall isn't weird. What is weird is when you're 5' tall and find yourself standing next to someone even shorter than you are. I'm 5'2" and whenever I encounter someone shorter than me I feel like a giant for the rest of the day, seriously, because how can that person be shorter than me?

If your daughter likes going to concerts, tell her that short people can make their all way the to the stage a lot easier than tall people. The tall people let you move in front of them because you won't block their view. I was always in the front row at every concert. Pretty awesome.
posted by wherever, whatever at 3:33 PM on December 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

5'0" here too. Good things come in small packages, dynamite, jewelry, and me! Just a small thing my dad taught me when I was younger (4.5 years old) and my 1 year old baby brother out -grew me. Get over it, get a mentally positive perspective, and enjoy your dainty daughter who will be forever happy with the amount of amazing clothes at bargain prices!
posted by Jayed at 3:35 PM on December 28, 2012 [3 favorites]

Others have spoken my piece. I'll add: Help her figure out how to dress and carry what she has to best effect. Take her to get fitted properly for a great bra. Help her figure out what proportions look best for her height and shape. If she's into makeup, help her decide what to buy and how to apply it. Keep telling her that she's a good person, and that you respect her and her work, and that you love her. Her height will be what it is. But helping her build confidence and know how to carry herself? That's going to stand her in good stead for many years.

I have a hell of a confident stride for my height, developed after years of walking alongside tall people. It's all in how you carry it. Help her learn to carry it proudly.
posted by MonkeyToes at 3:57 PM on December 28, 2012

I'm a happy 5'0" adult (married to a 6'2" man, which I'm pointing out just to reiterate, like others have, that nothing is – figuratively – out of reach for her). Your worry is utterly irrational.

That being said, you should teach her to use a sewing machine to hem her own pants, skirts and dresses since she's will be aging out of junior styles soon. Also, I really enjoyed traveling to countries where the population tends to be shorter than in the USA like Japan, Mexico and other Latin America, Eastern Europe (although I happily lived in Sweden where everyone was towering over me).
posted by halogen at 4:00 PM on December 28, 2012

The average American woman is 5'4" and a little. Most folks don't realize that because so many of us wear heels. But as others have said, she's not far from average. I agree that if you can help her feel special in good ways and also Normal in good ways (because she is!), she will grow up with a tremendous gift in this society that makes all women want to hate their bodies and selves.
posted by ldthomps at 4:03 PM on December 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

Something is up with your guilt-o-meter, and you should probably get that looked at.

Facts: Lots of interesting, dynamic, powerful women are 5'0". It's in the average range of heights for women in the US. Being on the short side of the average range is a plus, not a minus, for morbidity and mortality (the reason people with growth syndromes are a high-risk group is because of other physiological issues stemming from their syndromes--it's not like Jessica Alba is halfway between Julia Roberts and Linda Hunt in terms of morbidity/mortality risk). There is almost certainly nothing wrong with your daughter's nutritional status; her physician would have told you if she had had rickets or any of the other nutrition-deficit-related issues that can affect growth.

Now, my guess is that you have that information, but there's a loop somewhere in your brain that doesn't pay attention to it, but just gets caught up in the guilt cycle.

Get some help, maybe?
posted by Sidhedevil at 4:04 PM on December 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

Another 5' woman here. Never been a problem - married, 3 kids, good career. My kids - all short as well - both daughters are about 5'2" and my son is about 5'6". None of this has been a problem for any of us. There are far more petite clothing lines available now than there used to be. I keep a stool in the kitchen to reach stuff. In art school in the early 80s learning to weld was harder because there wasn't a lot of protective clothing in my size. Not true today.

I think this is your issue not your daughter's and you aren't doing her any favors with it so get some help and let it go. If she's healthy and small she's just fine.
posted by leslies at 4:12 PM on December 28, 2012

No guy ever once said, "You know, average height women really do it for me." Being 5' is cool and distinctive. She may get some hassle for it in high school, but they're all savages and animals.
posted by Slap*Happy at 4:32 PM on December 28, 2012

Yet another 5' woman here. Frankly, I often wish I was taller, but -- and this is going to sound silly -- but it's not ruined my life. It's annoying on a functional level, reaching things and finding clothes, but that's it.

Nthing the suggestion to find a good tailor. Not being able to fit into clothes properly is disproportionately frustrating -- if I had a tailor and knew I could just get something fitted, it would be so lovely.
posted by MeiraV at 5:12 PM on December 28, 2012

I'll MeMail you a longer answer but for clothing recommendations, try Asian brands/labels. My 5'2" friend is a Uniqlo size M. The cuts and sizing will fit a lot better, since they're made to bring out the best features of petite females.
posted by aielen at 5:49 PM on December 28, 2012 [4 favorites]

I'm 5'1, & as far as I'm concerned, this is the perfect height - because it's mine.

If you help your daughter to develop a great body image, she'll feel comfortable in her own skin, and won't even be able to imagine why anyone would want to be taller. Conversely, if you instill her with doubt and insecurity about her body, maybe she'll spend the rest of her life wishing for the unattainable heights of 5'10.

I know which one I'd pick.
posted by littlegreen at 6:05 PM on December 28, 2012

Three things:

1) I'm 5'3" and TOWER over several of my colleagues who are all dynamos. We've discussed this ad nauseam and the ONLY time they feel at a disadvantage re: height is at parades or concerts without stadium seating. My mother, who is a hair under 5'10" had experienced dismay regarding her height in things varying from socializing with boys (granted, in the 1950s) to buying clothes.

2) Everyone wants what they haven't got, but assuming your daughter is healthy and in proportion, her height will never hold her back. Unrealistic self-flagellation on your part and self-doubt on her part (brought on by self-esteem body issues projected on her) could do so, and seriously.

3) At the risk of seeming like I'm admonishing you (and I'm really trying not to), please consider, each time you bemoan issues regarding her height, which are unimportant, take a moment to be thankful that she is healthy, and do what you can to help her be strong and healthy, whatever her size. Good mental and physical health empowers; I encourage both of you to explore all possible options for feeling emotionally and physically stronger and more confident.

(And, for what it's worth, I couldn't swallow vitamins or pills until I was an adult. I've been taking Flintstones Chewables for over four decades; my Ob-GYN even instructed me to take them. So, there's that.)
posted by The Wrong Kind of Cheese at 6:24 PM on December 28, 2012

I am 5'0" and love it. I wouldn't trade it for anything. I work in an extremely male-dominated, physical line of work and I excel in it. Yep, it is pretty rare to see other short women doing what I do - but any kind of women are still unusual in my line of work. In addition to being physically fit - I am in a leadership role in my organization, I have a graduate degree, am quite well compensated. I'm also a good bit younger than my average peers in parallel positions. I'm certainly hardworking and passionate about what I do, but the point I'm trying to make is that my height has NEVER slowed me down.

I struggled with some self-esteem issues when I was younger, but I've got to tell you, it was never about my height. I think I'm the perfect height for me. Like previous posters, finding clothing that fits well off the rack can be a challenge, but honestly, 30-odd years in, I think that is true for all women, not just short women. Unless you fit a very narrow height/weight profile, I think most people struggle to find clothes off the rack that fit.

I love being my height. To be honest, I think of it as an advantage - my height often serves as an asset on certain physical tasks, and has been a significant advantage in the past in accomplishing physical tasks faster and more safely, particularly in a team.

I would gently suggest that perhaps her feelings about her height have something to do with your perceptible distress on the subject. If her Dad doesn't think it is ok for her to be short, it sure makes it tougher for her to be ok with it, particularly at 16.
posted by arnicae at 6:53 PM on December 28, 2012

Add me to the list of happy people under 5'. I am 4'11" and let me tell you, the benefits of my size FAR, FAR outbumber the inconveniences. And if anything people treat me in a more positive way because of my height. I get lots of attention from men and lots of compliments from girls.

However, there was a time in high school where my height got me down. I didn't feel womanly or beautiful. I was too small for fashionable clothes. This attitude lasted for a couple of years until I matured a bit and gained some self appreciation. So I do understand where you are coming from.

Being a teenager can suck. Help your daughter find her place in society, and don't let your opinions make it any harder for her.
posted by pintapicasso at 8:24 PM on December 28, 2012

I'm a 5' 1.5" tall woman. I am in no way malnourished or stunted. I have never thought for a minute that my parents failed me in some way due to my height.

As a child and teenager I did receive some teasing for being short. On one occasion, a largish jock-type boy decided it would be funny to use my head as an armrest while waiting in the high school cafeteria line. I stabbed him in the arm with a fork and felt just fine about myself.

As an adult, my height is a non-issue. For my own amusement, I sometimes like to consider the advantages of being small:

- easily able to hide in small spaces
- leg room in cars and planes much less of an issue
- it's easier to hem pants than make them longer
- possibly less likely to be struck by lightning
- in the post-apocalyptic world where we all scavenge for food and gasoline, I'll be able to survive on fewer calories

While my mother has made me self-conscious about my shyness, career choices, and personal fashion sense, she never once made me feel as though being short were a defect, being 5' 2" herself.

I am also the mother of a child who is very small for his age. I am working very hard not to obsess over it, because:

- what could I have done differently to make him larger? Probably nothing.
- is it really going to affect his quality of life if he's short? Maybe, maybe not, but he'll definitely be unhappier about it if he picks up from me that it's a problem.
- he could have been born with any number of serious birth defects -- a cleft palate, a genetic heart defect, or who knows what. He wasn't. Being short is not a birth defect.

He'll be the height that he'll be. Your daughter sounds like a wonderful child to have. Tell her to stab jerks with a fork. (kidding)
posted by daisystomper at 8:28 PM on December 28, 2012 [2 favorites]

My mother is under 5 feet tall. She's in her 80's now. I never thought of her as being short.
posted by rmmcclay at 8:37 PM on December 28, 2012

Hm, my amazing dynamic healthy beautiful successful mother is 5'1. It never occurred to me to see this as a defect. Nthing the suggestions for therapy, as you seem to know your feelings are irrational.
posted by walla at 8:37 PM on December 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

I wonder where you got the idea that a perfectly normal (and awesome) height is wrong. Nothing is wrong with being 5'. It's a totally normal height. This is like blaming yourself that your daughters eyes are green and not blue. I wouldn't ever want to be taller than my 5'1 3/4". I am adorable!

You mentioned you took your daughter to the doctor and he said she was done growing. Was that just a part of the conversation, or did you specifically go to the doctor to address her height because you thought it was wrong? If the latter, that might be where her anxiety started to develop because you projected your anxiety on to her in a way that was a 'big' deal.

Also, have you ever talked to your daughter in any other way besides telling her this is a fabulous height and totally normal? Any deviation from that can give her anxiety (well, except for looking at her as if she grew a third eye for mentioning something so nutty, if that's the way you roll in your house).

I agree with sorting this out for yourself with therapy or something might be a good idea, as it really is something that is a non issue and you are just having a bizarre glitch in your brain about it.
posted by Vaike at 9:19 PM on December 28, 2012

I'm well over six feet. Mrs. notreally is almost five feet.
Dec.10 was our 52nd anniversary. My advice: Count her arms and legs.
If they total four, consider your daughter and yourself a success.
posted by notreally at 9:34 PM on December 28, 2012 [8 favorites]

Most of the women in my family are under 5'3" tall. I am 5'2", and the biggest problems I have with my height are trying to reach things on high shelves, or when a very tall person sits in front of me at a show or sporting event. (although stadium seating helps with this!)

I agree with the rest, 5' is a totally normal height for a female.
posted by SisterHavana at 9:43 PM on December 28, 2012

Unless your daughter suffered long periods of actual starvation in her childhood, her diet was fine and there is nothing you could have done to make her taller. I offer you my family as a case study in diet and height...

My younger sister was a picky eater to the ultimate extreme. We would order pizza for dinner and my sister would refuse to eat anything but the crust. She wouldn't even touch a plain cheese and tomato sauce pizza. She refused to eat anything green. She was stubborn as a mule and often went hungry rather than eat what my mom had cooked for dinner. Meanwhile, I ate whatever my mom put on my plate, healthy portions of veggies and meat alike. I was quite active and as the hours of sports practice got longer and more intense, I began eating incredible amounts of food, especially protein. I even out ate my dad, who worked long hours at a manual labor job.

Yet when puberty hit, I didn't get much taller. Meanwhile my sister, who as a teenager still picked at her dinners and acted like spinach was poison, started shooting up and up. Within a few years I was as tall as I'd ever be at 5'3" and my sister had a good 4" on me. I turned out to be the shortest one in my family (our parents are both average height).

Being a short woman has never seriously bothered me. Like other short women above have explained, I get annoyed when my husband puts things on shelves I can't reach, and having to hem my pants is an inconvenince, but I've never felt that being small has held me back. I can curl up and go to sleep in a cramped airplane seat, I can put on killer platform heels and not worry that I'll tower over most of the men, and honestly, 5'3" feels tall sometimes because I have many (happy, successful) friends who are shorter.

I wonder, are you from a culture where extreme tallness is the norm? Are you Dutch? Scandinavian? I can't see why else you'd be so distressed about your daughter's height. There's nothing unusual about being 5' tall in the metropolitan Canadian city where I live.
posted by keep it under cover at 11:01 PM on December 28, 2012 [2 favorites]

Well, my wife is 5 foot one inch. I am six feet. I think she is absolutely perfect the way she is, and frankly I wonder what in the world makes you think that there is anything about being five feet tall that is less than perfect. Honestly, get some help with this so that you do not stain your daughters sense of self with your thoughts. She is perfect the way she is. Her height is not the problem for either one of you. I do not mean to seem harsh, but I LIKE my wife's height and am kind of shocked that anyone would think of height in the way you do.
posted by jcworth at 11:31 PM on December 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

Stop emphasizing the disadvantages of being short.

I discovered through playing sports that being short is not necessarily a bad thing. I was that person on the netball court who had low centre of gravity and able to play the area below the other players out of reach. I was fast and agile and could force gaps. I actually gave my marks on the court the shits by not being where they expected, quickly changing tack and always being in the way when they were after the ball. (That juddering stop they came to when they saw me suddenly *there* in their path, usually followed by involuntary cursing.) Sure I can't jump as high, or block by sheer physical presence, but that's why we have different position and skills in a team.

Life is like that too. You work the advantages. And sometimes you look at the really tall guy on the budget airline flight next to you and look at the gap between your own legs and the seat in front of you and you genuinely think "hey sucks to be you mate".
posted by BAKERSFIELD! at 12:57 AM on December 29, 2012

I think it is sweet that you are worried about your daughter's height, but can assure you that my height (I am 5 feet tall) has not impacted my life in any negative way at all. I have an awesome life, in fact. I love my job, something not everyone can say. I have an arsenal of jokes for when people realize how short I am (it isn't the first thing they notice about me, by a long shot, and sometimes people haven't noticed until they've known me for years).

My paternal grandmother was wicked short, and I kind of look like her and walk like her, so the family is pretty sure it is genetic. The rest of my family is taller, its just me and Granny in the short club. I drank tons of milk growing up and I don't remember disliking any vegetables but spinach, broccoli and olives. But growing up in the south, we thought corn was a vegetable. I loved fruit, especially pears and canned peaches, and apples from the back yard.

The real danger to your daughter's happiness, advantages and future opportunity might be from anxiety. My parents weren't as savvy (to put it very mildly and kindly) to my own anxiety as you are to your daughters, which I urge you to look at as a huge, huge gift. I wish someone had nipped my anxiety in the bud early.
posted by santaslittlehelper at 6:17 AM on December 29, 2012

I am five feet tall. Have a tall husband.Had three large babies.Natural childbirth. Nothing wrong with being short!
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 7:12 AM on December 29, 2012

My girlfriend is actually tiny, roundabout 4'7". AFAICT, the main difficulties it causes for her is that she needs a stepstool at work and has difficulty finding clothes in the right size. Neither of those should be issues at 5' though, which is in the range of heights the world expects and which tabletops and clothes are made for.

On the upside, she can fly in a center seat of a plane without agony, sleep on a couch without undue contortions, and won the squeezebox challenge at the last spelunkers' meeting she attended.
posted by jackbishop at 7:58 AM on December 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

It sounds like this might be one of the first real limitations your daughter has run up against in her life. She's just been told she won't grow anymore; that she basically can't have more of what she wants for herself. No wonder she's upset, especially since she's a teenager and having to learn how to deal with all kinds of messages about her body right now. To be honest, if she wasn't going to be insecure about her height, she would probably be anxious about something else. My height annoyed me when I was her age, but not nearly as much as my frustration over having thin hair. I think teaching her to accept herself without fear or bitterness would be a big gift. It's definitely not going to be the first time she has to deal with the world not being fair. Good on you for wanting this for her. So: focus on the positives and remind her that it's not a reason for her to let herself be treated badly or to treat others badly.

You can't protect her from people teasing her about it, or occasionally treating her like a child because she's small. You can, however, avoid validating their insults and help her find ways to make people take her seriously. Build up her self-confidence rather than undermining her by treating her as if she is somehow less than other people. Teach her to assert and maintain her boundaries. Teach her to how to be socially graceful, to listen, and to follow through on her promises. I'm not very tall either and people perceive me to be taller than I am when I am confident enough to make my presence known in company.

I would also like to mention that a five foot tall woman in California (and many other parts of the world) would not be considered remarkably short. If you live in an area where being five feet tall is unusual and you have the means to visit other places with your daughter, do. Show her that being tall is relative. I was pleasantly surprised at how everything seemed to be sized to me in Japan and Taiwan. I was even a little bit tall! If you'd like more anecdata: Most of my female friends are my height or shorter. I think the only really annoying thing about being this height is that we always have to hem our pants. It hasn't limited our choices in a noticeable way. We date, we travel, we've earned graduate degrees and live independently. I'm not entirely sure what else it is that your daughter thinks an extra five or six inches will give her--I guess she might not be a supermodel or in the WNBA, but then most other women don't have that opportunity either.
posted by rhythm and booze at 5:27 PM on December 29, 2012

My cousin is 5'1". Her brothers are 6' and 6'5". She can easily lay both of them out, probably with one hand tied behind her back. She has never expressed any desire to be any taller. She has a lovely husband who is about 5'8", and they are completely happy.

I am 5'9". I have often wished to be shorter.
posted by Lulu's Pink Converse at 8:54 PM on December 29, 2012

Seconding jackbishop – as a not particularly athletic 5' woman, I'm a rockstar at spelunking. Wish I'd started doing it at a younger age than 21, but that's how I fell for the 6'2" husband.
posted by halogen at 9:00 PM on December 29, 2012

I heartily ate everything as a child, and am now just a few inches taller than your daughter. My sister, who was incredibly picky, hardly ate fruits and vegetables, and couldn't be fooled by a crushed up vitamin hidden inside a cookie, is at most an inch shorter than me. I very much doubt your daughter's diet has caused her to be short.

Like all the responses above, I've never found being short to be a problem. The worst I can think of is tall people sitting or standing in front of me at shows, which is a minor and infrequent annoyance.
posted by loop at 10:57 PM on December 29, 2012

It is really not your fault. Like others here, I know a wonderful girl even shorter than that, and I (relatively tallish Asian girl at 5'7") never noticed until I actually had to spot her in a crowd. It really is in how you carry yourself; she's a confident debater, very bright and dresses well.

And yeah, height is relative! Being 5" is not freakishly short, especially not in Asia. It's just a thing. Tall people sometimes want to be short, short people sometimes want to be tall. But it's just a physical characteristic, it's okay.
posted by undue influence at 1:29 AM on December 30, 2012

I'm 5'7" and I've always wished I was shorter. I'm from a short family and am the tallest woman in my family and the 4th tallest person. My younger brother is only an inch or so taller than me. So, with the same nutrition and everything, I am a tall woman and my brother is a slightly-below-average-height man. Two of my uncles are over 6' and the other two are around 5'5". Genetics, man.
posted by Aquifer at 2:33 PM on December 30, 2012

You've read the Wikipedia article on human height, right - particularly the first bit about determinants? Because unless a doctor says her growth was stunted by malnutrition, it wasn't, and she isn't.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 12:15 AM on December 31, 2012

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