Posted by jdg | Thursday, May 21, 2009

It's so strange having a normal-sized child. I pull a shirt over his head and can't believe he's outgrown it. Your sister was still wearing this shirt last November, I tell him. Soon I'm going to start giving her your hand-me-downs. My wife breastfeeds him in the morning and at night, and we still go through three gallons of whole milk each week.

I see my daughter among her colleagues at the playground and kids a year younger tower over her. I toss her half a mile towards the sky and catch her with ease. One of her playmates will beg for the same treatment and I have to say, "Sorry bud, I'm not sure I can." When I pick up other children I am sure they are made of fruitcake.

For dinner I roast asparagus and reduce two pounds of kale, turnip and mustard greens to a few scattered, soggy lumps and scoop one onto her plate. Even her mother just twirls hers around with her fork. I eat my own with feigned gusto, pretending to be a rabbit who can suddenly hear all her neighborhood friends eating their own dinners. She takes a bite and claims to hear the same, then smartly refuses another. I take another huge bite and I am Popeye. I can move mountains. I can hold up the sky.

But I can't budge her lips open for another bite. I am five seconds away from telling her there are children starving five blocks down the road.

This is food that makes you grow, I say to a tiny girl who very much believes in magic. She takes a bite and her mother and I fall off our chairs in shock. You grew! Her brother watches and reaches for her fork, which she wrests back and uses to scoop up another bite. The whole scene repeats until her plate is nearly clean.

She makes me measure her up against the back of the closet door, and after all that pretending, the shock is real when I see she has grown more than three inches this year. I look deep into my daughter's eyes, certain that I see the desperate longing to measure up to her classmates, the poignant melancholy of being The Short Kid.

So will I be able to go on the good rides this summer, or not? She asks.