I want my kids to stay little. I want them to enjoy their childhood and not rush into growing up. But lately I’ve realized that my actions say just the opposite. Today I have a parenting confession.
What’s my confession?
Sometimes I forget my daughter is only 4.
When her little brother comes home with a new little tractor, she says she wants one, too. I forget how hard that is when you’re the child without a new toy. I remind her of all the new dresses she just got from Mamaw, and the new trinket she got just a few days ago, and I get frustrated when she is crying because she wants a toy tractor, too. I mean, it’s not a princess doll or My Little Pony, so what’s the big deal?
When she is in her room for quiet time and I hear “THUMP!” followed by another “THUMP!” after she’s been in there for 20 minutes, I get angry that she is jumping from her bed during quiet time. Doesn’t she know her brother is trying to sleep in the next room?
When we go to play date and the cat won’t come out of hiding, and she is upset and crying in the car as we drive home, I just don’t get why it is suddenly so important. After all, it’s just a cat, right?
And when she decides to wait until the very last minute to run to the bathroom, dancing as she tries to pull down her pants, and then has an accident, I forget that it is just that, an accident. I get caught up in the question, “Why do you keep waiting to the last second?”
Then I see her sleeping, thumb in her mouth, curled up with her butt in the air, surrounded by her stuffed animals, and I remember.
She is just 4.
She isn’t trying to be difficult. She isn’t doing all of this to drive me crazy.
While she is no longer an infant, she is far from being an adult.
When she sees someone with a new toy, she wants one, too. It has nothing to do with being selfish or coveting what others have. At 4 it is hard to remember and appreciate the things you have and not want all the new things someone else might have.
When she is alone in her room, all that energy has to eventually go somewhere. There is only so long a 4 year old can sit still and play quietly. And 20 minutes probably feels like a lifetime to her.
When she goes to play date she looks forward to seeing her friend’s cat; she talks about having a cat all the time. We even have an invisible cat that visits sometimes. And she knows she will never get to have one of her own in the house because her daddy is severely allergic. So even though “it’s just a cat,” it is more to her in her 4 year old world. It’s a taste of something she would love to have, but can’t right now.
And finally, when she races to the potty and doesn’t make it, it really is just an accident. All kids go through this “how long can I hold it phase,” and I have to remember that is all it is, a phase. The more I make a big deal about it, the longer that phase is going to last.
I keep saying I want to keep my little girl a little girl for as long as possible. Yet, here I am, frustrated and often angry with her for being just that – a little girl.
It’s time to embrace all those little quirks that make her, her. Time to find a way to ease the hurt when things don’t go the way she hopes. Time to help her get all those wiggles out through out the day. And time to make sure she realizes I love her, accidents and all, no matter what.