I had this revelation today about the kid-previously-known-as-a-three-year-old. Since turning four, L has been a very different creature. The kid who was afraid to climb anything higher than a footstool now wants to get on top of the table, the checkout stand, the back of the couch, the bicycle, the tree. The kid who wasn’t terribly loud has become deafening, letting loose random squawks and shouts. The kid who had words in his vocabulary like “foundation,” “extremely,” “predator,” and “nocturnal” has started obsessing over “poop,” “diaper,” and “stupid.” (He also calls me “Mummy Doodle Pants,” “Little Baby Mama,” “Dumb Head,” and other terms of
derision endearment.) And the kid who had a sweet head of babyish blond curls very calmly requested a mohawk a couple of weeks ago.
Yup, I’ve been thinking, it’s the fucking fours.
Part of me has been finding this new, intrepid, interesting kid really cool. He’s pretty fun, with his verbal ticks and his wily ways. But some days I mean to be playing along with his wildness and everything is going great and then he hits me out of the blue and I yell, or he throws edamame pods all over the kitchen for no reason at all and I punish and he cackles and storms off and I think, what’s happening here? Why can’t we connect?
So I’ve been trying to slow down a little. It’s hard when he’s moving like a freight train all the time, but I’m trying. I’m secondhandedly learning some “hand-in-hand” parenting strategies from a friend. The philosophy emphasizes connection and being more authentic, present, on his level. I’m also just trying to observe what’s going on. He’s experiencing a lot of tiredness, I think, and probably some confusion since one of his dearest-friends-from-out-of-school is now going to his school. And they say there are hormones raging when they’re four, but who knows.
But back to the revelation. Today at the store things were spinning right on the edge of control. L was grabbing at pears and shouting at me about bananas! And strawberries! And mangoes! And grapes! (Kid likes fruit) and I realized I was reaching my edge. So I calmly told him he had to sit in the cart and point at things he wanted instead of grabbing and yelling, and he actually obliged. Then when we got to the leafy greens aisle he really wanted to use the tongs to pick up a few grabbers of loose spinach for the bag and–revelation coming–I LET HIM…and then he wanted to get out and push the cart and I LET HIM…and then he wanted to help take everything out of the cart at checkout and I LET HIM…and then after containing him from ramming everyone and pillaging the bulk bins I asked him to carry the lightest bag to the car and HE DID…and into the house from the car, too…and before dinner he set the table…and then he ate two bowls of cauliflower soup and decided he liked tomatoes after all. And I thought to myself, we may be in the presence of greatness here.
It turns out the kid is growing up. The kid wants more responsibility. He wants more autonomy. And part of our difficulty has been that I’ve still been treating him like the three-year-old who needed all my love and support. I said to Marc after dinner, I think we need to harness this powerful, complex energy and turn it into something positive. Because this is actually a really exciting time.
Four is not going to be easy, I can tell you that, but I’m feeling kind of excited by the difficulty it presents. I can practically see his brain cells multiplying as he navigates the back yard at school with confidence and excitement.
One foot in preschool, one foot pushing the cart through the big wide world.