I awake to her little hand on my back, her face inches from mine. She is fully dressed, usually in a bold, mismatched ensemble including some kind of eccentric accessory or sparkle (or both). She says good morning, kisses my head, and marches downstairs. After grabbing herself a snack from the cabinet she nestles into the corner of the couch. Sitting cross-legged, she navigates two television remotes to find her favorite episode of “My Little Pony,” which she watches until the rest of the house descends for the day. It’s magical, incredible, and perfectly adorable — quintessential age four.
Having now parented three four-year-olds (with one more to go) I feel confident in my qualifications to rank the different ages and phases of these early years. Newborns will always take the gold, but my silver medal undoubtedly goes to age four. It’s a perfectly incredible in-between of toddler and kid, a little slice of parenting heaven, and I am going to miss it so much when it’s over.
My adoration for this age started with my first, a little boy then obsessed with the mailman and the color red. And then my second, another boy, who spent the entire year performing goofy dances in exchange for his favorite egg sandwiches. They were both so full of personality and life with such amazing senses of humor. And now, I am living through it with my first daughter.
Old enough to be self-sufficient but young enough to still need me, it is the perfect mix of motherhood bliss. She can communicate her needs and fetch her own snacks. She is potty trained and sleeps through the night. But she still wants to hold my hand when she’s nervous, have me tag along during her round-the-block adventure, and snuggle during a movie. I am allowed space from the sometimes suffocating needs of a toddler, but can enjoy the special moments of comforting and calming that allow me to still feel needed and relevant.
My seven and nine-year-olds find my antics embarrassing and weird, but she still thinks I am the coolest. Calling me her “best friend” and “favorite girl,” she galavants around the house in my headbands and shoes. When I try to escape quietly to my room for a moment of solace, she quickly finds me, maneuvering herself onto my lap facing me, tilting her head saying, “so, what should we talk about?” She is so genuinely excited to spend time with me, no matter our plan. And on adventures, her excitement and curiosity radiate, making it near impossible to be in a bad mood in her company.
And with her naivety and age comes a level of confidence and self-love that is unparalleled. Parading around the house in tulle and sparkles she marches up to the mirror and announces her adoration for herself at a volume loud enough for everyone to hear. Her fashion sense is all her own, and she’s unafraid of judgment or criticism. And she looks at me the same way, unable to see all of the flaws that weigh me down. In special moments she can force me to pause, allowing me to see myself through her eyes — and for a moment, I am a superhero.
I try my best to find moments each day where I can be completely present with her. It doesn’t always happen, as life gets upside down and crazy, but when it does, I realize that she is pure magic. Because while she can be feisty, sometimes fresh, and demanding, the evolution of her personality is simply extraordinary. Once an unaware, mimicking toddler, she now moves and speaks with such purpose, conjuring up ideas that are totally her own. But she still has the most amazing wonder and carefree excitement that I know will become more muted, and jaded with age.
I know that I have so many wonderful things to look forward to with her as she matures and grows. I am excited for elementary school, organized activities, and mother-daughter trips. But I know I will forever miss the wonderful world of four. Thank God I will have one more go-around.
Samm D. is an ex-lawyer and mom of four who swears a lot.