How tall is Ilanna? "SOOOOOOOOOOOOO tall," we used to say to my friend's daughter when she was just a toddler.
That's one of the important things we measure as our children are growing up. Their height.
We draw little pencil lines on door jambs or walls and treasure them for years. (Well, some parents do. I was never good at that kind of stuff. I guess I was either too busy living in the moment or too busy trying to plan the next day's moments.)
I do know that Amanda was almost always in the fifth percentile in height and weight, that little peanut. And Leland was always in the 50th percentile for height and weight.
But just last month, at the age of 24, Leland has grown taller.
Oh, that's impossible; surely he finished growing several years ago, you're thinking.
Maybe so; but not in his head.
"I feel taller," he announced over dinner when visiting him in NYC last month.
Is it posture? Is it new shoes? Is it a short girlfriend?
It's what we try to instill in our children all along. It's why we say "good job!" - sometimes too often. (In fact, there's discussion now that a parents' constant praise may skew the way a child views herself in the world. We have to temper our "good jobs" with honesty.)
All kinds of things in life affect our children's confidence levels - outward influences, as well as inward.
A schoolmate, teacher or parent can say the wrong thing, and a kid's confidence level can be shot for days.
Sometimes it takes years to acquire a good level of self-confidence or it can simply take a compliment, an A+, a pat on the back or a series of successes to make a kid feel good about himself.
Well, whatever it is, I hope it sticks.
And next time I visit Leland, I'll have to mark his height on the wall.
I hope his landlord doesn't mind.
- Phyllis R. Sigal is design editor at The Intelligencer and Wheeling News-Register and designer of Ohio Valley Parent. She is the mom of Amanda, 26, and Leland, 24.