Pax is very small for his age. When he has his yearly physical, he just barely gets on the chart – usually, at about the 5% mark in height. I haven’t been too worried about this characteristic, because it’s exactly how I was. And while I was never a threat to play power forward in the NBA, I at least ended up almost exactly average (5’ 10” – give or take). My growth spurt really started in 9th grade; which is about a year away for Pax. But just to be safe, our pediatrician ordered a bone density scan over the summer. Sure enough, everything looked fine. Based on whatever they look at with his growth plates, it’s projected that he’ll end up (surprise, surprise) about 5’ 10”.
Being small is terrible for an 8th Grade boy. It’s such a competitive (and mean) age. Everything is compared – both consciously, and subconsciously. And people are constantly making comments. I talked with Pax about this a few years ago, and many times since. My advice has been to try and take something of a self-deprecating approach to it. Laugh with people, and they will find you endearing. Your perceived weakness will actually become your strength. I think it’s good advice, and it mostly works. But sometimes, it’s hard.
Friday, we went to the mall to get our family’s yearly picture taken with Santa. Before the picture, Lucy excitedly jumps on Santa’s lap, and breathlessly tells him all the things she feels she earned through her philanthropic activities for the year. When she’s done, Santa looks at Pax and tells him it’s his turn. Pax awkwardly walks over, and Santa pulls him down on his lap. Susan and I couldn’t help but chuckle at Pax’s body language. He wanted it to be over before it started – I don’t think he had any intention of even doing it this year. What made it even funnier was what Santa said. “Let me see, young man. I am usually pretty good at guessing what people want. I bet that this year, you would like a nice set of Legos!” Pax’s face turned flush with embarrassment – he hasn’t been interested in Legos in at least five years. He forced a chuckle, and kindly said, “Um, sure. That would be cool.”
Ah, that’s my boy!
A few similar incidents over the years have become the kind of stories every family has – family folklore that gets tossed around on a regular basis. A few years ago, a woman came up to Susan and Pax in a store, and commented on how handsome and well-mannered Pax was. (“Nice job, buddy – it’s good she didn’t see you five minutes earlier!”) She told Susan that her oldest son was about the same age, and then she said the words that will live in infamy in our family lore: “Can I ask you? Is he able to bathe himself?” It turns out that her son that was “about the same age” as Pax was actually about five years younger. Pax was eleven. He had entered the brave, scary world of self-bathing several years earlier. Pax was a great sport about it, though – he made me proud. Now, it’s an inside joke. When people ask us, in Pax’s presence, how old he is, we say, “He’s thirteen! He totally bathes himself, too!”