M, My Little Big Guy

I call M, my eldest son, “Big Guy.” That may ultimately become his “name” on this blog, but I have not decided.

M is “big” in many ways – he gives big hugs, he is a hugely loyal friend, he has a big voice, big ideas, and he has an enormous vocabulary. He knew several dinosaurs “types” (ex: Sauropods, Theropods) before he knew his alphabet. Indeed, before his 3rd birthday. In fact, he knows more about prehistoric animals than anyone else I know this side of a Ph.D. in Paleontology.

One way he is not big is in size. He slowly fell off the growth curve as he approached his 1st birthday and then stayed around 0 to 3% until he was 4. That’s when he leveled out. He weighed just under 30 pounds and just passed 36 inches tall at the time. After blood tests, including a 4+ hour stim test, and an MRI (he’s 4, you’ll recall), he was diagnosed with growth hormone deficiency (GHD) and now he gets a nightly shot. This will go on until he is a teen-ager or…the rest of his life.

He has definitely gotten heavier and a little taller, but he’d had a few “spurts” (not like the other kids in his class, but measurable) before this. Still holding my breath on this, as growth is the only way we know this is working without more blood tests. The poor kid will get plenty more blood tests, but his first blood test since starting the shots is not until July.

It’s tough to give a little kid a shot every night, even with nightly bubble gum prizes, matchbox car band-aids, weekly shark tooth or mosasaur tooth bribes, and monthly Transformer prizes from Dad.

Yes, we do the bribery thing. It’s a shot. And he’s scared. And we are mixing it up with the bribes as best as we can. Besides, a weekly trip to the fossil shop with Mom isn’t really something intend to drop until he doesn’t want to go anymore.

Ah, but I ramble. When the nurse was teaching me how to give the shots, she went on and on about how her niece’s parents (which I presume included her sibling) finally started her on the shots…because she was getting teased in school. This niece did not have GHD, just..the dreaded..shortness.

Now, I am 5 feet tall. And so, I am looking at the nurse. M is sitting in the corner pretending he’s not listening to how he is going to get picked on (no maybe in this woman’s mind). I take a deep breath and say, “You know, we are stressing that he needs this for bone and heart health, and I am not sure we’d be doing this if the only issue was height. To me, that seems like treating an individual for a social ill.”

Yes, I said all that to someone I knew would not receive it well, but it was said for M’s benefit. He needs to know we’re not trying to “fix” him. That’s my job – to be  sure he knows that.

“Well, that’s your choice,” she snapped. Then she looked at my son and said, “He looks like a child with GHD.”

I replied, “I don’t mean to be contrary, but he’s having a very hard time with this; could you just teach me how to give the shot?”

What I wanted to say was, “Well, you look like a woman who’s about to have my foot in your ass.”

Yes, I know some people bristle under the idea that our definition of “normal” is damned narrow, but really, I am not treating my kid for being short. I am treating him for a hormone deficiency. And unless there appears to be some undiagnosed problem, I am really not OK with treating “shortness” as a disease. I am not telling anyone else what to do, but trust me, being short is not an illness.

And I do, in fact, know several men around my height who are also just fine (people keep telling me it’s different for men, but it’s never actually short men telling me this).

Imagine. The only issues I have ever had to deal with involving my height were other people’s issues..and all of these men I know concur, so…make of that what you will.

The nurse did teach me, quite thoroughly, how to give the shot. She also spoke to me like I was very stupid for the duration of the session.

I do realize M’s life will be easier if he is 5′ something rather than 4′ something when he is grown, but that’s not because he’ll be better in any way at a greater height. And if that were the only issue, he would get a say in what (if anything) we did about it, but I would stress that it was his choice and that he did not need to be better.

After all, this is my Big Guy. He’s perfect to me just as he is, and I will do anything to keep him healthy, but “normal?” well, that’s over-rated.

p.s. This post is less diplomatic than I would normally try to be; I am very tired (see previous post:). And while I do have opinions, I am very skilled at not judging others. However, I am also very skilled at protecting my kids, as much as possible, from messages that they should let anyone but them define their personal normal. That doesn’t make me a jerk; it makes me a Mom.


19 thoughts on “M, My Little Big Guy

  1. Deborah

    Yes, indeed! I’m glad you spoke up to that prejudiced nurse and that you make it clear to M and everyone that there is nothing wrong with looking different.

    Height has never been an issue for me (I consider myself to be on the short side), but I do know short men who have found it to be a social burden at times. Beyond the issue of teasing, it can constrain dating options, since many women won’t date a man who is shorter than they are. I think, too, since men are supposed to be powerful and height is a cue for power, it can be difficult for men to manage the social dominance aspects of masculinity. (Don’t get me started on how problematic traditional masculinity is.) There is height-based prejudice out there (explicit and implicit), and I can understand the desire to protect one’s child from the challenges of facing that prejudice. But it also becomes a pressure for conformity that starts to look like that episode of Twilight Zone where everyone has one of three beautiful faces through cosmetic surgery — a frighteningly narrow vision of humanity.

    After all, there are plenty of short people who live happy and fulfilled lives (and plenty of tall ones who don’t!), and we all face social challenges of some sort or another. It seems to me that it is better to work to increase compassion and eliminate prejudice than have everyone conform to a narrow ideal. But it’s a hard thing to do as a parent.

    I’m sorry that M has GHD and has to endure nightly shots — that’s tough. Kisses to him and big hugs to you for standing up to that mouthy nurse.

    1. Height discrimination certainly abounds, but I would posit that we only think it is harder for men – that, in fact ,the loss of perceived power is as big an issue for women, but there is an underlying assumption that women don’t need to be perceived as powerful.
      I don’t have data, that’s just my thought on that..

      At work, a 6 foot woman seems more likely to get a promotion than an equally qualified 5 foot woman, but the 6 foot woman does not seem more likely to get that promotion than a moderately qualified man of any height. This, in any event, is what I have seen in my field.

      Additionally, the infantilization of women culturally gets coupled with the perception that a shorter person is less smart and younger than he or she actually is. I suggest that this creates more career loss of opportunity than what comes from being a short man.

      Socially, I think truly small females attract abusers and dominators, but maybe that’s just me.

      All that said, and as much as I want M to have as easy a time as possible, and as much as I agree these things are real, there are still social ills – not originating with the actual individual. (I know you don’t disagree with this). They are social problems – and it’s important to have a sense of that.

      As a parent, I feel my job is to give my children the skills to define themselves, and to be as protected as possible from inappropriate outside definitions of what it means to be…small (M, maybe – we’ll see), Korean (C, of course), or male…

      And of course any future woman who thinks my M is too short to date is totally unworthy of him!!!!!!! : )

      By the way – I have always thought of you as tall! And of course, wonderful as well.

      1. Deborah

        Well, you got me to go look for research data to answer the question of height influencing perceptions of women. And yes, at least one study had people judge pictures of women that were digitally altered for height and found that “tall women were rated as more intelligent, affluent, assertive and ambitious than shorter women. A perceiver-sex difference was found such that men rated short females more highly than tall females on expressive characteristics while women raters did not.”
        Chu, S. & Geary, K. (2005). Physical stature influences character perception in women. Personality & Individual Differences, 38(8), p1927-1934

        This doesn’t directly address the issue of promotion, and I’d like to see the study replicated, but it does support your belief that height can affect perceptions of women, just as it affects perceptions of men. Thanks for prompting me to go find the research! I love to learn new things.

        I still think there is a gender difference here, in two ways. First of all, we have ambivalent attitudes about powerful women in ways that we don’t about powerful men, so a tall woman would potentially have to navigate some negative perceptions that a tall man would not. And again, in the heterosexual dating scene, we typically expect men to be taller than the women they date, so some tall women might find it difficult to find male partners, either due to their own preferences or those of the men they date. That being said, I have dated men who were the same height or shorter than I, so it’s not a big issue for all women or men. And you are absolutely right that any woman who thinks M is too short is utterly unworthy of him. 🙂

        And again, I just want to totally agree with what you said:
        All that said, and as much as I want M to have as easy a time as possible, and as much as I agree these things are real, there are still social ills – not originating with the actual individual. (I know you don’t disagree with this). They are social problems – and it’s important to have a sense of that.

        Amen, sister. I mean, should we have children of color undergo treatments to make them appear white so that they can avoid racism? It seems to me that the solution is to reduce bias in the society, not make everyone look the same. But that being said, I understand the parental desire to shield their child from harm and struggle, and it’s a tough choice. I just think it was snotty of the nurse to cram her beliefs down your (and M’s) throat. But I know you agree with me on that.

        1. One day, in the distant future, you me, several cups of ? (coffee for me) and a long hearty discussion of social ills. Preaching to the choir can be unburdening.

        2. Um, wait: “A perceiver-sex difference was found such that men rated short females more highly than tall females on expressive characteristics while women raters did not.”

          Is this why so many men have thought I was a “spit-fire” because I am capable of speech? : )

  2. rjjs8878

    I just about fell off my chair lauging when I read what you wanted to say to the nurse. Of course this is no laughing matter. The media is constantly trying to tell us what is acceptable regarding height, weight, hair color and skin color. We should accept people for who they are and not what they look like.

  3. Tracy

    Well said! It is funny and surprising sometimes how that protective Mama instinct kicks in sometimes. I’ll never forget one of the first times it kicked in for me. My son was about M’s age (by the way, he sounds a lot like my son the way you describe him here). He was talking to another kid (about 7 years old-ish). Now, my son had BIG time speech difficulties. So, the other kid says to him, “It’s not ‘Stah Waws’, it’s Starrr Warrrs.” I smiled at the kid and said, “That’s what he said.” But I was thinking, “Why, you little…” And this was a little kid! I can just imagine how aggravated you must have been with that nurse. (btw, like rjjs8878, LOVE the foot in the ass thought) It really is disturbing to me how often adults treat kids as if their feelings are inconsequential.

    One of my daughters also had to do blood test and MRI at an extremely young age (she was 1 – 2). She wasn’t even on the growth chart yet, weight wise, but was 90 some percentile for head circumference. At 6 and 3/4 years old she’s still 35 – 40 pounds and head and shoulders smaller than many kids on her soccer team. She does get teased a little. But when it bugs her, I just try to point out the good things about it.

    And… I am so with you on normal is overrated!! M is very lucky to have you, being so supportive of him and stressing the health aspect, not the “different” aspect. And hey, a little “bribery” as you said is entirely appropriate here. There has to be SOMEthing to balance it out for him. 🙂

    1. What you said about kids and their feelings is so dead on – some adults seem to forget that little kids are, in fact, people.

      Is your little girl a little person (LP) or just growing at her own pace?

      I worry that one day it will be determined that these hormone measurements and growth charts don’t mean anything…

      1. Tracy

        I think my girl is just naturally small. I am pretty sure she was tested for GHD, but I really can’t remember for sure. But surely that’s what that blood test was for? I vaguely remember a discussion with the doctor on it. What they DID end up writing on her chart was FTT. Which I found out to be Failure To Thrive. This I bought a book for that was geared to physicians, and which was disturbing because they basically blamed it on the MOM. All my girls are small (not quite to her extent). I’ve always been on the short side.

        Oddly enough, my son seems to have gotten tall genes. And here’s a switch for you. My husband comes from a long line of shorter people 😉 . I have to keep reminding my husband not to play up being short too much, before he ends up giving my son a complex about being tall!

        Surely it wouldn’t happen that they would find out the hormones don’t mean anything? (Growth charts, maybe another story.) But they KNOW the actions of the hormones in the body, right? (Okay, and they KNEW the earth was flat, but they had no evidence in that case!)

        1. It’s always Mom’s fault because of those secret magic powers we are refusing to use! (kidding) – It’s just amazing to me that Mom’s are so often seen as holding keys to things that as people *just people* we can’t possibly…

          If they did a 4 hour test, they checked for GHD. If they “just” took blood, they were checking to see if general levels suggested more testing. If that’s the case, I assume they came back normal.

          If you ever feel that something more should be done, it’s worth knowing that, in general, physicians are far more aggressive in treating these things in boys and parents of girls sometime have to get really pushy.

          But then, you know that I fear that this isn’t going to turn out to be something that we know as much about as we THINK we do. And that a lot of these “treatments” are for nought. And though I would not assume I would know what another parent should do, treating a healthy child so they can be more “normal,” well, can’t say I understand that.

          There is actually a lot of data, but it’s impossible not to doubt each night when my Big Guy is screaming about the shot.

          1. Tracy

            A four hour test?? Geez. Poor M! No, they didn’t do that with mine, so I think it WAS that the short blood test came back normal. I finally had to just go back and look for some records, because I couldn’t help thinking, “what if they didn’t check, but should have, and she has bone and heart trouble left untreated??” Not acceptable. I didn’t find a lot, record-wise, but I did find that book I was talking about. In the back it has growth charts for low-birth-weight kids, which she fit the criteria for. And I found notes and calculations that I had done that showed that she was, in fact, growing at a good rate. But, I’m glad I double-checked.

            I can completely understand the doubts coming in. It’s a sucky position for a parent to be in, having to do something they’d rather not with their child for their own good, and even having to try to make it seem to the child as though they are doubt-free. It tears you up inside.

  4. Denise

    Good for you for standing up to that nurse. There is NOTHING wrong with M!!! We have some wonderful men in our family who many would think were “too short”, but that’s an opinion that I’ve never held. This is for his health bottom line, him getting taller is just a side benefit from the actual shots that he’s going to have to endure. He’s a very strong and intelligent Big Guy and he’s ours. That nurse is just kinda lucky that she only had his mom to deal with and not his mom and aunt both!!!! She may have gotten a foot and perhaps a shot both in her bootie. OK, perhaps not, but it’s a thought that I can have. You are a fantastic mom and doing what is great for your child. To heck with what ‘ANYONE’ (you know what I’m saying) else thinks about the things you do for him. You are my hero sis!!!!!!!!

    1. When can you come? If C isn’t a little more settled in within 2 weeks, we’ll be losing our minds and in need of relief, even if it would be better for him if we didn’t need that (still, sane Umma and Appa are better than crazy ones).

  5. Kathy

    My 8 year old daughter is also getting nightly shots for GHD. One thing that has helped is putting ice on the injection site for 5 -10 minutes prior to the shot. It has made all the difference in the world. I know what you mean about people making inappropriate comments in front of the kids. I have 5 year old twin girls and one is 5 inches taller that the other. I would like to kick people who go on and on about how one is ‘so much taller than the other” in from of them. Do they think they don’t know this? We know we will get her tested in the next year for GHD so we’re probably going to be giving two kids a shot each night. You can also get a prescription for a numbing cream to use with the injections. The only downside is that is takes 30 minutes to take effect.

    1. dianne

      Welcome Kathy! Thank you for commenting and for the note on the ice. I am not sure how much of the screaming is actual pain, but we’ll see if he’s willing to try it.

      And the comments; it’s tough. And though I do realize that parents of children who don’t show as GHD sometimes do, in fact, have valid reasons for choosing this treatment, I would dearly love to see less attention paid to height.

      As you doubtless know, there is no guarantee of a so-called “normal” height even with the treatment. And it seems to me that all the attention paid to height (both by the docs and folks in general) sets these kids up for a completely unnecessary hard time.

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