Saturday, November 11, 2006

"It's so hard being four."

JJ had his fourth birthday the day after Halloween, and the House of Crazy has been in an uproar ever since.

I’m not sure why four is such a big deal for kids. Maybe it’s just that they’ve become increasingly aware of what age means with respect to their place in the world. A few months ago, JJ’s friend Q was waking up in the middle of the night screaming, “I’m not four yet! I’m not four!” Another friend recently announced that she wouldn’t be turning four, period. Four is serious business.

JJ was very, very excited about turning four. One of his closest friends is four and a half, and he idolizes her. “When will I be four and a half, Mommy?” He must ask me that at least 20 times a day.

Four is…interesting. Suddenly, the child who used to insist on being carried everywhere throws a screaming fit if he doesn’t get to open the car door and climb into his carseat. God help you if you flush the toilet for him or clear his dinner dishes. JJ is all about independence—as long as it’s on his terms, of course.

For JJ’s preschool’s parent education class, we were assigned reading from Liberated Parents, Liberated Children by Faber and Mazlish. Much of this book has resonated with me, but I was especially struck by the chapter dealing with nurturing a child’s sense of autonomy. “We help most by not helping,” write the authors, and if that’s true, then I’ve been doing a JJ a big disservice for a while now.

So this morning I decided to give him the opportunity to struggle. “I’d like you to pick out your clothes and get dressed yourself,” I said cheerfully. I expected some resistance, but I must confess I was unprepared for the full-fledged freakout that ensued. After about 20 minutes of hysteria, JJ launched himself into my arms and sobbed, “Mommy, it’s so hard being four.”

It's true. Growing up is hard. And he is only four, after all. So I’ll tell you what: if I’m still wiping his ass by the time we attend MotherBoy XXX, then we’ll revisit this whole independence thing.


Anonymous said...

You can pretty much count on not knowing what mood to expect at any given moment for up to six months.

It's such a confusing age, four. "I'm too big to be a little kid because everyone's telling me what a big boy I am, but I'm scared to be a big boy because I still like things like Mom holding my hand, being read to, and (shhhhh, don't tell anyone...) Sesame Street."

Hang in there with this. Most days I thought four was such a fun age, and I miss it.

Alisyn said...

Liberated Parents, Liberated Children is hands down THE BEST, most helpful and meaningful parenting book I've ever read. I find that things go so much more smoothly with Hazel, if I read a little bit, everyday. (May I also recommend Siblings Without Rivalry, and How To Talk So Kids Will Listen, and Listen So Kids Will Talk -- I love these books. I've been "borrowing" them from Patti for like, a year and a half now.)

I found three to be so hard, so excrutiating. Hazel's only been four for a couple of week... but I'm hoping it will be less... dramatic.

Anonymous said...

As a similar experiment, today I asked Lucy to take off her drenched Snow White dress, put it in the hamper, and bring me her Belle shirt.

I didn't see her for 20 minutes. I think I've discovered the key to self-directed play: ask them to complete a task for you.

Thanks for the book rec, too.

bomas said...

oh JJ!!!
I want to hug him!