The Unbearable Lightness of Being Four

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We had a meltdown yesterday.   It came after a slew of birthday festivities, both for himself and for various classmates, and hosting house guests, and then more house guests, and a doctor’s visit, and. and. and. and.   All of these things (well, almost all of them) he actively embraced and enjoyed, but even fun things can get to be too much.  This fact is true even for grown-ups, but we are not as good at knowing when it is happening to us.  Getting dramatic reminders of what the human condition is really all about is one of the most profound parts of parenting, if we pay attention and learn to read the messages.

This particular meltdown might have looked to some people like a reaction to spilling something on his shirt before preschool.  My guy began by calmly announcing that he needed help getting a fresh shirt.  And then the lip started to quiver.  Then too, too many grown ups rushed to tell him that it was okay.  The dam broke. He tried to explain: “It’s my favorite shirt.”  Not actually true — but intended to underscore that this was not to be taken lightly.  More grownups doing what grownups do, which is to offer solutions — “We’ll wash it and you can wear it tomorrow.” “What about your XYZ shirt that you love?” and. and. and. and.  Oh, and we could not find the object he wished to bring for show and tell.  Therefore, according to my tiny Bear, “we must have donated it.” Not actually true, and we did find the object.  But we had recently donated many of his beloved clothes (because, in my defense, he was getting that street urchin look from holey pants that are three inches too short). So replying that Of Course we would not have donated this toy really missed the point.  My barely four year old Bear began to hit me, with real intention.  I said I couldn’t let him hit me, and I would have to move into the other room.  He begged me to stay but also continued to hit.   I chose to stay and to hold his arms still and let him scream his head off for a few minutes (or was it hours?) with the occasional kiss and move to hug him, of which many but not all were rejected, until the storm finally passed.

These were very important tears.  They were tears over loved ones coming and going, over getting a shot not just in one leg but in BOTH at the doctor’s visit, over losing his possessions even if he had agreed to give them up, over the burden of needing to be dressed and packed for school and to remember that it was show and tell day and to choose a lunch, and. and. and. and.

Being four is terrific but it is also no picnic.  Just like being forty-two.


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One Response to “The Unbearable Lightness of Being Four”

  1. I remember says:

    So sweet and beautiful


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