Parenting makes us protective from day one. When our kids are couch surfers and becoming teetering toddlers, we get expert at assessing risk from their perspective. Out go the pristine sharp-cornered glass-topped tables and the décor items that can be gummed, swallowed or face-planted on. We go to exhaustive and embarrassing lengths to prevent injury, anticipating the world from their vantage point. Who among us has not crawled on the floor on all fours looking for outlets and edges that could harm? Companioning them through growing up means putting ourselves in their place. I didn’t lose this instinct to consider the world from my son’s angle as he grew, and he kept growing, and growing.
In our house, trying to get my son Aaron to not grow, or more specifically to stop growing, is the prime directive. He is just a hair under 6’ 11”. I think. He won’t be cajoled into letting me mark his height on the kitchen wall anymore and he is way too big to wrestle into submission. (He can send me six feet across the room with a gentle hip nudge when I get too close to the cookies, afterall.) One of the last times Aaron consented to being measured, his 4’10” pediatrician perched on a cute little stepladder, pink plastic ruler extended over his head, to count the inches above 6 feet, which was the maximum of the office height chart. Nurses stood around “Ahhhing” as if he was a newborn.
Recently we went car shopping, both of us considering at a new car. Oddly enough, in a market that offers hundreds of models, we had concluded that the one car that would work for each of us—is the same car!! My needs involved room for my dogs, hatchback convenience, really nice interior features and tons of tech. His needs involved size. Just size. Most of the other features of cars were pretty much comparable. He doesn’t have the luxury of any car. He can only have a car where he fits. While he could never fully extend his legs in a car, it is essential that he be able to get his knees around the steering column to properly operate the puny little pedals.
When you are extremely tall, fit is everything. Because you don’t fit anywhere, pretty much. Whether we are finding seats at a ball game, or trying to buy a sleeping bag…size matters. There is a ton of comedy in this, which we maximize. When you get asked, “How’d you get so tall?” more than a dozen times a day, a person develops an irreverent, sarcastic sense of humor. (Some of his responses involve, “it’s in the water”, “I was breastfed” and “I was raised by wolves.”) For he and I, our size difference (I’m 5’6”) is adorable. My entire foot, (shoe included) can slide comfortably inside his shoe. Shoes are pretty sacred territory for Aaron, because finding them in his size is tough. If you want something other than high-cut sneakers, forget about it. His shoe size is only 15, whereas for his proportions it should be in the 20’s. Take Shaquille O’Neal who is 7’1” and wears a size 21 shoe. Aaron’s tee-shirts are the same size as my nightshirts. All of his clothes have X’s and L’s and T’s in the size. His coats would cover a single bed easily. His baseball caps could hold a bowling ball and his winter gloves are the size of oven mitts. Thanks to basketball players with their own fashion brands, he has many more clothing options and internet shopping is the only hope for gifts for him this season.
But as a parent, I still have the kneejerk reaction to check for fit in the places and spaces of our lives. It is second nature for me to judge whether Aaron will fit somewhere. I do this regardless of whether he is with me or not. I can only attribute it to the toddler days of scanning for hazards. There are risks for Aaron, in a world where too anything just isn’t considered. People in wheelchairs tell me that they cannot believe the location of switches, buttons and ramps specifically designed to accommodate their ambulatory needs are placed out of reach or access to them. Aaron has to bend or crouch or contort himself to do everything.
Hospitals make me giggle, when I’m not clenching my teeth in dismay. I get that he can’t safely clear the archways in your house. It’s your house. But public facilities, the very places that are supposed to keep us safe from harm, are like the courses of gladiator games for Aaron. Those dangling, red illuminated EXIT signs, the hydraulic boxes for automated doors and ceiling mounted signage, are all head injuries in the making for him. This is where his years of playing defense in hockey comes in, Aaron moves through the hallways of hospitals like a deking machine, weaving, ducking and awkwardly bending around the weaponry of architecture.
Growing up involves adjustment. The kids grow and the parents adjust. Think of my boy today, and be mindful for every child who grows differently because how to they fit means everything for the way they enjoy the world we have gifted them into.