The fourth birthday brings with it a whole new set of challenges to parenting. Raising a four-year-old is tiring business in motherhood.
The tantrums and meltdowns have returned, but unlike those tantrums that we’ve seen and heard during the Terrible Twos – they are now “emo” tantrums, which are much much more easily triggered by small, insignificant things.
Ben has become the resident “emo” guy in the house. When things don’t go his way, when he perceived that he’s being bullied, when he feels a sense of unfairness – he goes to a corner of the house, folds his arms, and sulks. Sometimes in his sulking, he mumbles gibberish to himself. When I check on him and ask what he’s saying, he tells me with resentment in his face, “Nothing.”
When he is disciplined – and usually for disobedience and bullying his siblings – he becomes ten times more “emo”. I hardly use the cane to discipline him; usually a time-out would suffice. And while at time-out, he does the you-don’t-love-me-anymore and pulls the wailing nobody-cares-about-me stunt on me. He whimpers and sobs in his most pathetic, and I have to admit, it sounds so pitiful that it breaks my heart. For him, the physical separation of needing to sit apart from everyone in solitude drives him nuts and he gets very emotional about it.
I have a very sensitive firstborn, I tell you.
Then there’s the incessant questioning and the unwillingness to listen. Every minute he’s thinking of questions to ask and he’s asking even while you’re answering the first question. He’s not listening to your answers; he just wants to keep asking all the questions popping in his head. I sometimes get very annoyed because he keeps asking questions for the sake of asking, and I turn Tiger Mom on him and make him repeat all my answers to all his questions just so that he would listen and not irritate the hell of out me for questioning for questioning’s sake. There are also days when I go “I don’t know” on him, and unfortunately for me, I’m now reaping what I sowed because lately, he’s been using “I don’t know” on me whenever I quiz him about what he learned in school, how he slept the night before, and all the other questions parked under the mothering-my-child category.
Four years old is an age of contradictions.
He waffles between insecurity and wanting to exert his independence. He talks about conquering the world, yet, shies away socially and loses that bravado at times. He makes up lots of stories, and stubbornly refuses to acknowledge the difference between fact and fiction – which becomes really tricky when I’m trying to teach him academically. I find it very hard to teach him Science stuff cos’ he’ll insist what he imagines to be right – and this again frustrates me a lot. He can be very demanding (how come you don’t know all the answers, Mama?) but also eagerly cooperative and helpful, rude one moment but also very sorry and sweet the next , and incredibly selfish, yet sensitive and sympathetic at times.
I’ve been very much a ferocious Tiger Mom these days when it comes to my four-year-old. He seems to have this innate ability to push me to the outer edge of my patience. I turn into a growling and critical mother who over-reacts every time he does what he does best – being a four-year-old. I’m frustrated, angry and drained almost every day.
But I didn’t write this post to only detail the challenges of raising a four-year-old. More than that, I’m writing to remind myself to look beyond the challenges that come with raising children at every stage that I am blessed with a four-year-old who’s curious about the world, enthusiastic about life, brimming with energy and experiencing all sorts of emotions that’s part of growing up. I’m writing to remind myself that beyond wishing that this too shall pass, to remember the now – the now that I may never get to see after the fifth birthday is celebrated and the candles are blown out – and not get too caught up in the daily grind and seeing mothering my four-year-old as a big task to accomplish.
I’m writing this to remind myself because Ben feels that I don’t love him anymore. He just told me that on the bus on our way to kindergarten. He says,”I don’t know” when I asked him if he knew that I loved him very much. That broke my heart. What he feels matter, and I have, in a bid to parent him with all the challenges that come, managed to work him like a big task to accomplish and forgotten that this boy has feelings too. When I blow it, holler at him and overreact, I push him away; I forget that he’s just being four.
I have busied myself with trying to cope with him being four (and his sister being three, and the impending Terrible Two that’s approaching with Nat) for too long that I’ve forgotten to love. To love him for who he is. Just like I’ve done when he was one year old, two, and three. And to roll with life’s punches and adapt as motherhood presents new challenges. Not react all the time and alienate the ones I wish to be firmly attached to for the rest of our lives.
Six more months before he blows out five candles. Six more month to love him while he is still four.