When the Tween Has Outgrown the Teen (and everyone else)

24 Aug
Boy giant and his big sister

Boy giant and his big sister

We are now a household with a 12-year-old who is larger than the rest of us. No one else is bothered by it, but his 16-year-old sister is not in favor of this new development.

“Why couldn’t he just stay small?” she complains. “I liked him better when he was little and had those cute cheeks.” When he was a baby, she called him “Pillow Cheeks Cheeto Face.” I’m not sure why she added the “Cheeto Face” part, but it was his nickname for a long time.

Now, the cheeks are all but gone, having been stretched into a much longer, more grown-up-looking mug. He bears an alarmingly close resemblance to my dad circa his HS senior photo, including the super-sized eyebrows to match. And all of a sudden he has very particular fashion choices, only wanting to buy A&F jeans and athletic wear from a ridiculously expensive place called CHAMPS. He has entire color-coordinated ensembles by the famous designer Kobe Bryant in color-blocked schemes alarmingly reminiscent of the 90s men’s fashion that I have already once lived through.

Every time I come back from even an overnight trip he looks different. His legs are long and knobby-kneed, he wears a men’s size 11 shoe, and he’s in men’s medium shirts and young men’s jeans. There is a hint of facial hair. The doctor tells us that he will likely be 6 foot 5–a regular Jolly Green Giant compared to the rest of us. Good thing he plays basketball.

Curious onlookers have started asking: “Where does that height come from?” True enough, the gene for height clearly did not manifest for either of the boy’s parents. But our families both have it. My maternal grandmother’s father and her husband’s father were German (one of them living in Columbus’ German Village). For this reason, my mother is taller than my father, and my brother is 6 foot 5. My husband’s mother’s family is from Denmark and Poland three generations ago, with the result for his generation being that two of his sisters are taller than him.

This family history is a source of great disappointment to my 16-year-old girl, who bemoans her “fun size.” She complains, “Mom, it’s not fair. I’m not even as tall as you.” True, she is only 5 foot 2, but she won out in other ways as a result of heredity.

The lottery of genes has winners in different ways with both of them. In my daughter’s favor are a natural toughness and no-nonsense attitude, which serve her well in keeping her brother in his place. She hits hard, and my son knows it, so it’s quite amusing to see how she coerces him into doing what she wants. Even without the height. She can be very intimidating.

Often, my son will play the “I’m still the baby card,” and ask her to get him a glass of “ice-cold water.” This is pretty ridiculous coming from such a large person, as well as a 12-year-old, and she understandably laughs and tells him to “go get it yourself, dumbo.” At other times, she manipulates him by not letting him eat–an artful use of the carrot approach that works quite well with him at this stage (and probably for another 10 years at least). “No, you can’t have the donuts. I have them locked in the car,” she declares. Pretty good, especially when she hides the keys from him.

Ahhh, siblings. It’s fun as a parent to sit back and watch them work out their differences, being themselves, and growing up together–even if “up” no longer means height for the one.

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