ESSAYS


A Meter Tall

Naoko Miyaji

 

 

Translated from Miyaji, N., Mother is Born, Fukuinkan Shoten Publishers 2016

 When my children were still in preschool, my friend, who was still single at the time, came over to my house. She had mentioned that there were no small children in her neighborhood, nor in her extended family. The first thing that she said when she saw the kids were, “wow kids are so small!” I was surprised to hear that comment. I had been thinking to myself every day, “wow how much they’ve grown!” as I looked at my kids. 

 

From being around 50 cm (or about one and a half feet) tall when they are born, they grow to be around a meter (around 3 feet) tall by the time they are about four years old. They literally double in height in four years. When it comes to their weight, they go from around 3kilos to 15 kilos. That’s a fivefold increase in a matter of four years. The increase in solid weight when I pick them up, and the drastic decrease in the amount of time I can keep holding them take place much faster than you anticipate. 

 

I knew that things are all relative, but since our perceptions of the height of my children were quite opposite of one another, I tried to show their growth with my hands. “They went from this small to this big!” I explained earnestly but started to laugh at my own efforts. A meter from an adult’s perspective and from a baby’s perspective can be worlds apart. 

 

Since then, it’s been 10 years. Now, my children are teenagers, and every morning I feel the urge to say, “have you grown taller again?” It’s the period when they grow at a pace of about a centimeter a month. My daughter has stopped growing right before she was about to pass me, but my son has grown past me some time ago. He would stand next to me and gloat, “Mom, you’re so short!”

 

On occasions when we go out and see small children, I have to suppress the urge to say, “There was a time when you were that small.” On one occasion, I had actually said it, and I was scolded. “Can you stop saying things like that? It’s embarrassing.” Perhaps it made them feel like they were still under the control of their parent and disliked it. If I said something like, “It was so cute when you used to wobble and hold on to my hand for support,” they might actually refuse to go out in public with me ever again. I decided to enjoy the memory of holding their tiny hands by myself in private. 

 

I hear that the friend who was single back then is now married and in the midst of raising her own child. I’m not sure if she still remembers the conversation we had. I wonder if she’ll be surprised to hear her single friends call her child small as well. Watching your children grow is a fascinating experience, as you witness your perceptions of “small” and “big” change drastically.