Living with a 4 year old is crazy. It is equal measures fun, entertaining and wonderful as it is insane, tiring and stressful. They are loud, demanding and narcissistic and constantly want want want, RIGHT NOW, with no regard or thought for what you may be doing.
From the moment of waking, life with the 4 year old is a full speed roller coaster of love, rage, attention, hunger and bodily functions.
The 4yo likes to wake at the crack of dawn and bound into the room like a bulldozer and straight on to your chest. In childlike joy at the beginning of a new day they bellow “wake up its MORNING” and proceeds to give you chest compressions and prod at your eyeballs with their jabby little fingers until you get up.
The 4yo constantly grazes and will plague you with comments of “I’m hungry”, “I’m still hungry’ and “can I have a snack”. ALL DAY LONG. Eating has become easier and they now eat a wide variety of foods but for some inexplicable reason there are some food items they point blank refuse to eat for no discernible reason and often foods they have previously liked or indeed never ever tried this is based on the basis that they do not like the colour, the look or the shape of said food item.
Ravey refuses to eat things that are runny….dips, condiments, soup, hummus, custard, yoghurt etc., BUT will eat ice cream and gravy!? And there be the illogical mind of the 4yo!
Despite much of the time needing to prompt constantly for please and thank you’s, the 4yo will make you so happy when they unprompted do say “Thank you mummy” or super sweet gestures like “mummy that’s so kind of you” and “thank you for doing that mummy that was a very good kind thing”. Super cute.
But then you have the other side. The one that is moody and stroppy and like a tiny teenager. First there is the mimicking. You tell them to “put away the cars” and they look straight at you and say in a pissy voice “Put away the cars“. Every comment you make echoed back at you in a highly irritating, anger producing, toddler mocking voice.
Then there is the answering back. “No, you do it!”, “how about I don’t do it?” or in my opinion, the best response ever “mummy I am very busy watching Bing at the moment so you will need to do it for me!” (curse your perfect parenting Flop!!!)
The 4 year old is hilariously funny, both intentionally and incidentally, when you are laughing more at them than with them. The 4yo doesn’t like being laughed at though! It makes them PISSED! Sulking ensues and a preschool sulk is a sight to behold. The evil eyes and stuck out lip. Ravey pulls a face that is best described as like that of a platypus (cant tell him that though, he roared at me like a dragon the last time I did!).
The 4yo is a natural clown and sees the joy in everything but to balance this joy they are also the worlds biggest emo’s who fall apart and into despair at the most random and seemingly mundane issues. You can be having a fab time laughing away and then something will happen and the 4yo will lose it. “Oh no my crisp got wet…. and now everything is ruined forever and I will never ever get another crisp!”. It is one of the hardest things to not laugh right in their faces but for them this is truly a complete catastrophe beyond which we can comprehend.
The 4yo constantly gives you a running commentary of life and expects the same of you. Beware the watching of films or TV with the 4yo. You will be expected to answer a constant stream of questions about every single aspect of it, justify any decisions made by the characters and foresee the whole future plot whether you have seen it before or not.
Do not expect to ever watch a new film and take any of it in!
The commentating takes place even when you aren’t with them. You may think you have a moments peace and quiet whilst the 4yo is momentarily distracted and busy at play, only to discover you can still hear their little voices narrating every aspect of their game.
My 4yo talks incessantly and when he isn’t talking he is making some other noise with his mouth hole. Humming, buzzing, screeching or making raspberries, the tirade never ends. And when it does you know they are quiet as they are up to no good.
The challenge of surviving the constant verbal diarrhoea is further challenged by the repetitive phrases adopted by the 4yo. Phrases they like to say over and over. Like “why?”, “but why?”. My 4yo gets stuck in the repetitive loop of “is that right/ is that true/ is that right though?” or “is that a funny one?” in response to every single thing he does. DRIVES ME MAD!
The 4yo has quite a way with words and along with their ever expanding vocabulary from time to time they like to play with words and create their own. My 4 year old has a particular skill at ‘inventing’ words that already exist and are totally inappropriate (great excuse if I swore like a trooper around the kids hey, but I’m genuinely telling the truth!) My personal favourite being his shouts of “daddy, daddy look at my cunt”…….. “look its a machine that I made. Its called a cunt”. From experience I have learnt to say nothing. No reinforcement be it positive or negative. The last time I intervened and told him not to use a word he couldn’t stop saying it!!! Thankfully the ‘cunt machine’ must have been crap because we didn’t hear about it again!.
Its totally cringe when you recognise your own, less ideal words coming out of the mouth of your 4 year old. I was in the kitchen and could hear my son shouting at someone. I came in the living room to witness him hanging out into the garden and shouting up to the balcony opposite to a younger child “will you stop that ridiculous noise, you are giving me a headache”. Shameface.
The genius of the 4yo is their blatant vanity and sense of self righteousness. My 4yo will regularly proclaim “I am a legend aren’t I?” or just a simple “I’m a ledge”. Just the other day my son said to me “mummy do you know that superhero’s aren’t really real? That they are pretend but I am the only real superhero.” I cracked up in his little face, I had not be prepared for that brilliant line.
The 4yo is just beginning to understand about themselves, what makes us different and how our bodies work. The 4yo boy is rather fascinated with their penis and bottom and takes every opportunity to touch them. When asked what they are doing the 4yo has no sense of insecurity and will tell you plainly without inhibition that they do it “because it feels good”. The 4yo is beginning to master playground banter and the first level insults they develop all relate to poo. Be prepared for all comments and disagreements to be met with chants of “poo poo head”, “bum head”, “smelly bum face” or any other bum/face combination.
Actually going to the toilet is like a day out for the 4yo. They can spend ages sat there on the toilet. All you’ll hear is chatter and singing and general gibberish. Queries as to whether they have finished is met with replies of “not finished yet!”. The toilet break is the secret parent time to do all the housework whilst your little sprite is merrily occupied by his own bodily functions. Eventually the 4yo realises you are not in fact waiting on them and rather the tables have been turned to your own priorities, and at this the 4yo will bellow in a constant stream “I’ve finished now mummy!…. mummy I’m FINNISHED!!!!!”. They will attempt at making you feel bad that you tricked them out of your time but hey, gotta utilise any time you can with the ever demanding 4yo! In the unlikely event you aren’t using this time to put away washing, shove a biscuit in your mouth without being rumbled or some such then any early entry into the bathroom before being summoned will be met with the 4yo bent into full downwards dog yoga pose, with their A hole in the air, legs spread, singing along to some kind of chant! The 4yo has no real explanation for such actions when you naturally enquire as to WTAF they are up to but often look a little sheepish…. they are up to something I’m sure, just not figured out what yet!
And then there is the bum wiping. I’m not sure where between turning 4 and starting school one should teach the 4yo to wipe their own bum but any attempts thus far have resulted in far from ideal results.
As well as trying to understand their own bodies, the 4yo is also grappling with gender body differences and what makes men and women different. The 4yo feels no shame in exclaiming in the toiletries isle at Tesco that “you don’t have a penis like me and daddy, you have two bums!”. Or when you are breast feeding their sibling the 4yo feels no way to come over and squeeze your breasts and shout “these are your pom poms!” laughing hysterically.
The 4yo is starting to understand relationships and has formed their own separate relationships with friends and family. They adore their sibling as well as fight with them. They say the most adorable things like “awww you are so cute”, and “I love you forever mummy”. The rule is they can have relationships, you can have a relationship with the sibling too, and so can daddy. But mummy and daddy are not allowed to have anything separate from them. No love shall be shared by the parental couple on the 4 year olds watch. Hugs and affection between mummy and daddy is promptly usurped by the 4yo bounding over and wedging themselves between you.
The 4yo has some strange Ideas about grown ups. My son told me whilst having a pee about 2:30am that he wanted to come and sleep in “mummy and daddies bed, because it’s cosy”. I said he would need to start sleeping in his own bed all night and he proclaimed with confidence that “no mummy, I will always sleep in your bed with you forever”. I explained that when he is a grown up he will have his own house and his own bed like mummy and daddy do. At 2:30am, whilst having a wee my son broke down in a full on sob wailing “I never want to have my own house I want to live with you for always.”
You are in a conundrum here. You want to comfort your distressed child and get them to stop making such a racket and go back to sleep but you don’t want to sow the seeds for a 40 year old living at home by telling him at the ripe age of 4 not to cry its ok you can live with us forever.
The 4yo says and does lots of really cute, but slightly weird stuff like that, like saying “l love you forever” whilst simultaneously kissing you on the lips just that little bit too long. When you are feeding their sister he wants to give her lots of kisses and cuddles and shows fascination in watching her feed. He will exclaim “aw she’s feeding isn’t she?” then suddenly grab your boob and squeeze it, and say “I’m helping her to get the milk aren’t I?
The 4 year olds concept of relationships is complicated and enmeshed. Last night I had my 4yo crying in bed about 5 different things at different points.
1) That I needed to tell him how babies get into mummies bellys
2) That boys cannot have babies in their bellies (“But I want to have the baby in my belly!!!)
3) That babies have their umbilical cord cut (“why did you cut me? Did it hurt?”)
4) That when he is a grown up his sister cannot be the mummy to his children and because of this revelation
5) that he “would never ever have any babies now and I will be sad”.
Lesson I’ve learned here is despite wanting to be open and honest with the kids and answer questions as best you can for their age, that it is not a good idea to discuss pregnancy, babies and anything about the process with your 4yo at bedtime. No matter how much they ask!
The play of the 4yo is awesome to behold, full of amazing and unique ideas and just sitting and watching is a good window into their own thought processes of the events around them. In playing families with his sister I overhear classic lines like “I am the daddy and you are the mummy and the babies will sleep in bed with us…. come in with us babies, because mummy and daddies bed is the best bed”
There is so much to learn and take from the genius life of the 4 year old, never is there a dull moment and the world is full of questions and curiosities we fail to see as adults. They are joyful, funny and affectionate as well as stubborn, defiant and annoying. A 4 year old is hard work. They always want you and have zero attention span so require constant entertainment. It can be a challenge to not lose your shit with them and at times they have you hidden behind doors whispering obscenities, wanting to scream, but once those little buggers go to sleep you’ll always find yourself looking at them and being like “Awwwww he may be a little shit bag but he is awesome”…… The genius of the 4 year old!