My niece gleefully poured a tall glass of milk much to the dismay of my mother’s glare.

“You’re already too tall for a 13 years old. If you keep drinking milk, you’ll be a giant,” she warned.

A quick glance at my niece and I could feel the perplexed anxiety from her eyes. I waved off my mom and gave the nod for my niece to continue drinking her milk. Poor girl… she loves milk but I bet she is harassed every time she tries to drink some.

“Mom, there’s nothing wrong with being tall. She’ll make a great volleyball player one day,” I snapped back at her.

My mom is everything, and I owe much of my success to her. I could not fault this woman if I tried, but sometimes her old thinking rears its ugly head and I have to remind myself of her upbringing.

In Vietnam, a prized woman is one who is petite and demure. Her fear is that her granddaughter would be undesirable due to her height. Moments like these remind me that though so much progress has been made in the last 50 years, there is much to go.

And if this is a taste of the old times, I can only imagine the pressures my mother faced when she was growing up.

I’m hopeful for what the future holds. One day, little girls will be empowered to grow up and become whoever they wish to be, free from limiting thoughts and pressures from society to be someone else. One day, those thoughts that have, for so long, suppressed half the world will be eradicated, much like the diseases that used to ravage civilizations all over – such as polio. And I bet that the pioneers who discover the next wave of lifesaving cures will be women.

Be tall, my niece.