Growth Tracking for the Not-So-Detail-Oriented

[originally appeared in “Scheir Madness” in The Dover Post, 1/21/09]

My poor children.     

They know the “all about me” basics—their birthdays, the correct spellings of their names, and which room in the house they’re supposed to be sleeping in. But as for other vital personal statistics, they’re pretty clueless, and they have me to blame.

I imagine that responsible, detail-oriented mothers probably have decoratively- archived records of every half-inch their children have put on since birth. They probably have regular weigh-ins to see how close their children are to graduating from their car seats. And I’ll bet each of them carries a laminated index card in her wallet with current clothing and shoe sizes, broken down by brand and store, because some of them do run small, you know.

But, alas, not me.

I’m the mother who makes her kids take off their shoes at the bowling alley counter so I can check what the sizes are. You’d think I’d at least have a ballpark idea, but the only thing I sort of remember on the shoe score is that neither of them is in the double digits anymore.

What I do know is that my fifth grader has been wearing the same boots since second grade. This perpetually good fit is only possible, I think, because (a) he removed the warm but very fat bootie inserts, gaining at least a shoe size right there and (b) if by some miracle we happen to get a good snow this year, then I guess anything is possible.

For my children, “too small” is kind of a grey area. My son (the fifth grader), who comes from a line of men who have nothing but a puff filling out the back of their pants, managed to wear size 4 shorts for about 5 years. And just the other night, my 8-year-old daughter went to bed wearing pants (size 2T) that can now best be described as knickers with a nightgown that has evolved into a shirt.

In my defense, I can say that while I have never marked off my kids’ growth milestones on a whimsical growth chart (like those available for $24.95—regular $49.95!—at beanstalkkids.com), there are a couple of penciled-in lines, names, and dates in the frame of our dining room doorway. But these, I’ll admit, were made only at the children’s insistence, and are in no way adjusted to reflect any added lift owing to tippy toes, chunky soles, or bed head.

My preferred approach to growth-tracking is casual, at best. If I do happen to notice that the children have grown, it’s only because I make obscure Sherlock Holmesian observations and deductions, like, “My daughter has never eaten 3 bowls of spaghetti before. And last night she slept for 15 hours. Plus all of her shirts have three-quarter length sleeves. What’s up with that?”

Add to these the pains in her legs and three straight mornings of emotional instability due to manufactured crises like Daddy leaving for work without saying good-bye and a favorite T-shirt going through the dryer with a crayon, and the conclusion is clear: she’s growing.

Look out.

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