Karen Anderson, 43, shares her home in Surbiton with her two daughters Amber, 17, and Molly, 10, both of whom are “normal” height.
My parents were average height, though not tall, but as I grew older it was clear I wasn’t getting very big. The hospital did loads of tests but they couldn’t find anything – I was completely in proportion and I had no genetic problems, I was just small. I can’t remember it ever bothering me: from a young age everyone knew me as Little Karen and that’s just who I was.
The only time I can really remember getting upset was when, at 16, the consultant told me, ‘That’s it, you won’t grow any bigger.’ I was four foot three and a part of me had hoped that there might be a growth spurt. I thought, ‘How will I ever get a boyfriend?’
In the event it’s never been a problem – I’ve not been short of male attention from men of all shapes and sizes. Amber’s father was six foot, and although I knew people stared when we walked down the street I couldn’t give a hoot. When you’re in love you’re in love, simple as that.
When I fell pregnant I was thrilled. It suited me, I didn’t put on any extra weight and just had this lovely bump – it was the shape of things to come really, as I took to motherhood like a duck to water.
I knew Amber would outgrow me quite quickly – as there was nothing genetic about my height there was every chance she would grow to average height, which she is set to do. She’s five foot one these days and has towered over me for a long time. But my height has never really been an issue between us: we had a conversation about it when she went to nursery but that’s it.
I sat her down and said, ‘Your mummy’s a little bit smaller than the other mummies, but she loves you and that’s just the way it is.’ Kids are very accepting at that age, and although she got teased at school she knew how to handle it. We’re very close – obviously she’s a teenager and she has her moments, but we’re as much best friends as mum and daughter.
Amber says: It didn’t matter if she was tall, small, fat or thin; mum’s just mum, and I love her. Of course, you realise as you get older that not everyone sees it that way, and I had to deal with the odd kid making fun. They’d say, ‘Your mum’s really small’ and I’d say, ‘Yes she is.’ It took the wind out of their sails.
Now I’m older it’s easier to ignore people – sometimes when we’re out shopping together we get teenagers making stupid comments but the way I see it, it’s their problem, not ours.
I don’t see it as my job to protect her – she’s very outgoing and she can look after herself. But I am very proud of her. She’s worked really hard to get where she is and compared to a lot of people I know she has a really interesting life. She holds down a job as a nursery assistant but she has all her acting work on top, too — last year she starred as a witch in Macbeth at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in London.
She often takes me with her and it means I get to see a slice of life I wouldn’t normally experience, which is fantastic. I’ve obviously inherited her love of performance, too, because I’m now studying dance at the Brit School. My friends all love her, they think she’s huge fun and a bit crazy, too. They’re probably right.