Most of the time, four is pretty supreme.
Everything about the world is almost accessible when you’re four. You can walk, you can climb and run. Nearly everything you say is intelligible to other children and most adults. No one holds you down to change your diaper. You can see on the counters in the kitchen. You can eat food and sometimes the food tastes amazing. You are sometimes tall enough to ride the roller coaster and your parents don’t hover over you at the playground. You love the books on your shelf and the toys in your room, and periodically, playing with toys and books by yourself is totally fun. You get dressed yourself and even match your shoes. The world is opening itself up to you.
Yet, four is also a turning point, a fever pitch.
When you are four, you suffer intolerable injustices. No one appreciates how fast you can run….or how far away you can run, either. Sometimes, grown up people nod and smile when you talk or they ignore you even though you’re telling them just what you want (loudly). Someone is constantly dragging you to the restroom (just in case) and you are sure you don’t have to use it. Grown-ups keep giving you so many foods that taste like vegetables and vegetables are not as delicious as ice cream. Sometimes, you have to be taller to ride the roller coaster, and when you get to the tippy top of the playground castle, it’s actually really scary to ride the slide down to the bottom. You have to share your books and toys, especially with your sister or brother or friend or cousin, and no one seems to understand that it doesn’t matter if you only play with that toy once a year, it is still your favorite toy in the entire universe. You do not prefer any item of clothing other than your favorite shirt which happens to be dirty. And shoes? WHO NEEDS THEM.
I have always loved four. Four is an age of opportunity.
But in our house, four is tempestuous. Our vivacious, spunky four year old is putting us through the paces. We have encouraged independence and she asserts herself to a fault. Her wide smile crumbles into tears at the slightest frustration. She reverts to a baby voice when she doesn’t get her way even though she can go toe to toe with any adult in conversation. And when all else fails, she’ll go boneless on the floor to get her way.
In those tough moments, all I see are dimples. I could disappear in her dimples.
I look at her, and I am lost in how grown up she is. The way she gets lost in play time, setting up her figurines or coloring or putting together a puzzle, she is super independent. Yet the minute I think she’s so grown, there she is in my lap to cuddle close.
Every morning, she wakes up, her nest of curls totally wild, and she is ready to take on the day. Those curls took years to grow–four years to be precise. As a little baby, we had no idea she would have this wild mane four years later. In my mind, she’s still a little person with no hair. But when she sits with me, I run my fingers through her tight curls. I wind them around my fingers until she wiggles away in protest.
Those curls are deceptive–they hide her face. They’re so tight that it’s impossible to tell that her shoulder length crown of curls stretches past her shoulder blades. It is long enough for a ponytail. I resist the ponytail, though, because with her hair pulled back, you can see that she’s not a baby anymore.
Four and a half years have slipped past us.
It is impossible to believe she is four. Soon we will send her off to kindergarten. She asks me sometimes about “before she was born” and she wonders about the wildest things. She does not simply wonder “why” and will not settle until she understands everything that raises suspicion. She’ll ask a tough question, I’ll give her an honest answer, and she’ll string together her version of the truth. It’s the truth she’s after and she is relentless.
It is impossible to imagine “before she was born.” Why?
The world is too delicious with her in it.