My son is four years old. Right now he is very four and all boy. This means he like to wrestle until someone gets hurt (usually me). He likes to play hard until he is suddenly too tired to obey. He is constantly arguing with me about things that are happening, about things that I have told him and how things really work. He challenges me in the car whether I know where I am going or if I took the wrong way to get somewhere. When I make a plan for us to go on an adventure or have a fun family day, he has to make at least one change to it. His reasoning for getting toys or going somewhere fun is typically because “we never did it before” or “I never had one of those” when he almost always has.
|Like this only he is 4|
On one hand, I am really proud of him for having his own likes and dislikes. The fact that he can argue my own words against me is a sign of great memory development and strategy implementation. Everything he does is done with one hundred percent effort. He is really strong and he uses his strength to get work done. He has, for the last several months, been helping me bring the trash cans in from the street. When we bring in the groceries from the car, he always grabs the bags with the cans or juice and lately his new thing is to take at least two bags in at a time. He doesn’t make excuses to avoid playing hard, working hard, and he is constantly absorbing lessons from school and friends.
He is learning and expressing his thoughts at an alarming rate. Last week, when I picked him up from Sunday school, he said he knew his memory verse. “Yeah, right,” I thought. So I asked him to tell me what it was. Word for word, reference included. He nailed it. He said it so matter of factly, I had to look it up myself. He was dead right. Consider me super impressed.
The issue really is though at the other end of the pride spectrum is the “I am tired of you right now” side. I think the more he has grown, either I have become easier to annoy (totally possible) or he has become more annoying (also likely). His arguments are making more sense so it takes more brain power to work things out with him. At the end of the day, my body and my brain are worn out from the constant barrage of 4-year-old logic and play. It’s the constant question asking and him continually trying to get me to see this or that while I am trying to clean the house or do my other dozen or so daily “daddy chores”. Seriously, you need to sit still and be quiet for two minutes and let me regroup. There are never two minutes.
Parenting has not been easy for me from the beginning. Mostly because I confess I have always had a short temper. I can take one or two hits but I will explode eventually. As a smart kid often does by this age, he is still finding the line and often crossing it. Lately, our getting out of the bath routine has been regularly a tear-filled occasion. Either he is too tired to get out, too cold to get out, not done playing yet or the other day he was “too wet” to listen because there was “water on his ears”. I told you this kid is clever. But seriously, if you get out now, we still have time for a toon before bedtime but you have to get out now. The struggle is real.
Yesterday, we were getting ready for school. He had fussed a little already not wanting to be cold while getting dressed and wanting a different breakfast bar. Flopping and squirming on the floor is not my favorite thing to deal with in the morning but I’m trying to keep it together. He complains about having to go to school again and I remind him of all the things he likes at school. After each one is mentioned, I get a negative reply about how that kid isn’t really my friend anymore or I don’t like to play on the playground, etc. I pause and tell him I have had enough of the bad attitude. We are going to school and you will have fun. I will pick you up and we will have some more fun together later.
He takes a deep breath and a defiant sigh. He crosses his arms and sits on the couch. I put his shoes on (he was too tired to do it himself) and I held up his jacket for him to put on. He then worm-slides off the couch and I tell him again we need to hurry. Please listen and obey. He stands up and puts his arms in each sleeve. I ask him if he needs help to zip up. A hesitant “I guess so” barely escapes his tightening lips.
I do not claim to be a good parent. I know I’m at the bottom of the list of good ones partly because I cannot zip a kids coat from the front. I always have to lean over and zip it like I do my own. This time a thought occurs to me; I am in this close position with my arms around my son and I never take the time to look him in the eye. I zip him up and leaning over I look into his little face to see the most content of smiles directed right at me. I was just a split second, but at that moment we both understood, we’re still good.
Sure, we argue. We bicker even sometimes. We (accidentally) hurt one another when playing. The more time that passes, the less it seems we see eye to eye but that’s because he is becoming his own person. Regardless of all of that, we are family. We love each other even when we’re bad at showing it. We care about the other one even when we don’t agree with them. We want to be with them even when we are tired of being around them. I love that guy even when I don’t like him.
Later that morning, walking into the daycare, he grabs my hand and holds it tight. We stroll in and after hanging up his stuff he tells me, “I love you, Daddy. I will be good and when you come get me, we can wrestle and have fun.” Of course, we will. Because it doesn’t matter how we may have felt about each other earlier, when we take the time out to look to each other for reassurance we can know we’re good.