September 15, 2011

The Problem with Four-Year-Olds

The problem with four-year-olds is that they are so breathtakingly cute one moment. 
And the next moment, one might feel they belong in a kennel. 
In a straight-jacket.

One moment they might squish your cheeks and tell you what a good mom you are, how beautiful you are and how they never want to leave home. And the next moment, they might take advantage of your time in the shower to take a basketfull of your poor woman's no-bake cookies, crumble them to pieces, and then blissfully run through the house throwing those chocolaty crumbs of goodness into the air shouting, "Happy Birthday! You are married now! Happy Birthday and wedding day!" And, even though you vacuum like a mad woman, threaten their very life and pull out your own hair in penance...a fine, strong line of sugar ants will greet you the next morning to remind you of how thoroughly those crumbs were disbursed.

One moment, while walking into the grocery store for a late night milk run, they might comment on how beautiful the moon is. The next moment they might be lying on the floor screaming that it was their turn to sit in the grocery kart and that they never get anything they want. You will once again be the crazy lady with five kids in the grocery store, and why are you out so late anyway? And, are those all your kids? And, *ah* you poor thing...

One moment they will adoringly watch you put those groceries away, jabbering on and on about how thankful they are for the food in their house. The next moment, you might be gathering a search party for said four-year-old because they mysteriously vanished. You will panic. Then you will discover a locked bedroom door, with seemingly no inhabitant. After unlocking the door you might discover that the flattery from before was all a ruse. For all that time they were really planning on sneaking off with a chocolate bar, locking themselves in a bedroom, hiding under a bed and devouring the melting candy in minutes. If only they had thought to rid themselves of incriminating evidence such as the smears of chocolate on their face, hands and carpet beneath their belly. The candy wrapper clutched in their hands...

One moment you won't be able to stop looking at their impish grin and unabashed joy while they, "help" you wash dishes by hand. Cloaked in the apron of honor, bubbles up to their elbows, water haloed around their feet on the floor, absolute happiness radiating from their fingertips and ears, heart-shaped clouds filled with rainbows, butterflies and unicorns hanging over their head. They will assure you that they won't leave until every dish is washed. They will see rainbows in the bubbles and lose their concentration for minutes at a time. "O! There's another one! I see a rainbow!!" They will talk about how happy they are now that they are big enough to help wash dishes. You might laugh to yourself, knowing how long this joy in doing chores will last. But, even you will have to acknowledge  the wonderfulness of a child like yours. And then, the next moment they might fill every cup in a cupcake pan with dish soap, also engaging their younger sister in the experiment. They will tell you slowly  and seriously that they were pretending to be assassin spies, and the soap was poison for their cupcakes. You won't know what bothers you more; the soapy mess on hands, counter and pans or the toddler assassin spies.

And then, one morning you will wake up to the usual chaos and run a load of dishes into the dishwasher.

You might hear an unusual, muted sound. Like water spraying a wet blanket.

Something won't be right.

You will look and see that there are most definitely bubbles coming out of that dishwasher.

You will know how they got there.

You will see the bottle of dish soap. Hear the confession. Hope that it doesn't ruin your semi-new dishwasher.

Maybe stomp your feet.

Maybe laugh.

You will know that this time is short.

And, as much as you rail, "train," "discipline," dole out consequences, and take away *gasp* t.v. for the day.

You will know that this child is some of the best days of your life.

You will know that when this time is over, the moon might never look the same.

That the quiet, empty house with no messes will break you heart.

You will know that going to the grocery store without tantrums will be heaven.


Okay, so not everything will lose its luster in life.

You will know that depression, deployments, moves, messes, chaos, sadness, uncertainty. All those things were made worthwhile with the reality of living for something, someone, or someones bigger than yourself.

The problem with four-year-olds is that they trick you into enjoying  life.

They make you see the moon, share your love of chocolate, imagine cupcake assassins,  look for rainbows in bubbles, see washing dishes as an adventure, and view the dishwasher as a machine of wonder.

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