My four-year-old is unhinged. He is irrational, demanding, stubborn, and has zero awareness of danger. Imagine an explosive device, but with legs—that’s him. He is a free-thinker, and by that, I mean, he doesn’t give a shit what you have to say unless it aligns with his own ideas. Good times, right?
Is he an asshole? Well, no, not really, he’s just four. He’s trapped in a little body, with big ideas, and an underdeveloped frontal lobe, so rational thinking and impulse control aren’t really his strong suits.
The other morning, he woke up angry. This is a thing he does—sometimes when his eyes are open he is inexplicability pissed. This particular morning, he was upset that my tummy was “big,” but there wasn’t a baby in there. (Further evidence that 4-year-olds don’t give a f*ck about your feelings.) We spent a few minutes talking about names for his new sibling, because being bloated wasn’t an explanation he was willing to accept. There was no reasoning with him, so faking a pregnancy seemed like the only way I would make it to work on time.
A four-year-old will either forget what you say immediately, or etch it in their mind permanently; there is no in-between. I was really rolling the dice on this pregnancy thing, but pre-coffee shit-storms are my least favorite kind, so I just sort of went along with the insanity. I thought after all that, I’d avoided an early morning disaster, but I was wrong, because unbeknownst to me, I selected the most offensive and uncomfortable t-shirt from his wardrobe, and then suggested he wear it. I didn’t know he hated this particular shirt, because the night before it had been his favorite.
Following the t-shirt fiasco, I offered to help him brush his teeth, once again sending him into some kind of 4-year-old episode, because clearly he can do that shit by himself. I returned to my room to finish getting ready, while he covered the bathroom and most of the hallway in toothpaste. Before we left the house, he picked three fights with his sister, watched the Daddy Finger video 46 times at max volume, and let the dog out into the muddy back yard. When we finally left the house, he cried most of the way to preschool because he didn’t have time to pack for the vacation we would be taking 3 months from now.
All four-year-olds should come with an instruction manual and a therapist for their mother. And don’t come at me with, “that’s just bad parenting.” Because no, Brenda, it’s not. If your four-year-old doesn’t act like this, you’re just a lucky asshole with an easy child. (Who I hope grows into a shit teenager, so you’re forced to eat all your judge-y words.)
The truth is, this is a pretty normal behavior for a four-year-old. They are emotional, irrational, impulsive, and illogical, because the part of their brain that controls all of that is still developing. But, they are observant, constantly collecting information, making observations and processing information to the best of their ability.
It’s just that the “best of their ability” still falls a little short of rational, and often leads to some form of emotional fallout. Normally in a public place, like a restaurant or somewhere with an audience. They have very little chill, because emotion drives everything they do, because again, logic lives in part of their mind that is under construction.
So, it may seem like 4-year-olds want to watch the world burn, but I’m choosing to believe this is just a stage, and this too shall pass. Mostly because I can’t face the thought that this is my life for the next 14 years, and also science. Either way, to the mamas and the papas living with, or having survived a 4-year-old, I feel you—solidarity.