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The Best (and Worst) Things About the F*cking Fours

Photograph by Twenty20

As mom to a spunky 4-year-old, I’ve come to realize that every age and stage has been marked by some pretty intense personality shifts for my daughter. Each year, I get to know who she’s going to become a little bit more, and I really do love seeing her learn and grow into her own personality. But I’ve also found that every birthday seems to come with a whole new set of parenting challenges.

I know everyone loves talking about threenagers, but for us the terrible twos really were far worse. Three was mostly a breeze. And now?

We’re deep in the f*cking fours.

Worst: The Stubbornness

My little girl has always been a bit strong-willed, but lately she has mastered the art of stomping her feet in protest. She’s also got a lower lip she doesn’t hesitate to push out and an eye roll you would think came straight from a little tween. She has opinions on everything these days, from what I’m serving for breakfast to what route I take to drop her off at school (yes, really.) And she’s not afraid to voice those opinions, or to stage her own revolt if she thinks I’m in the wrong.

Unfortunately for her, she also has a stubborn mama. And while I don’t have any intention of breaking that spirit of hers, I do find myself wishing daily that she wasn’t so intent on using that will of hers against me.

Best: The Conversations

Still, one of my favorite things about this stage is the conversations we have been having lately. Suddenly my little girl is this little person with thoughts and feelings all her own. And she’s actually capable of articulating those thoughts and feelings!

We have conversations about everything from superheroes to the homeless man she wanted to give her banana to. She talks to me about Jesus, and her favorite movie, and what the other kids were saying at school that day. And at bedtime, we take turns telling each other bedtime stories, which is something she’s actually gotten pretty good at!

Worst: The Offensive Observations

On the other hand, all her new words and articulate responses have also morphed into horrifically embarrassing moments over the last few months. She has, on more than one occasion, loudly pointed out the physical attributes of strangers in public—commenting on “big tummies” and amputated limbs without hesitation or any attempt to quiet her voice.

I get that this is a pretty normal thing for kids her age, and I’ve worked to turn those instances into teaching moments. But I feel awful every time. And I kind of find myself wishing I had a muzzle for my f*cking 4-year-old.

Best: The Affection

For as sharp as my daughter’s tongue has suddenly become, she has also started vocalizing her love on a much more regular basis. Whereas my 2 and 3-year-old would tell me she loved me only in response to me first saying the same, my 4-year-old will now crawl into my lap completely unprompted, wrap her arms around my neck, kiss my cheek and whisper “I love you,” out of nowhere.

And yeah, it melts me every time.

She’s always been pretty big on wanting to do things herself, but it has grown to an epic level this year.

Worst: The Feral Nature

My kid has always been a little wild, but lately that wildness is out of control. She stomps through puddles, climbs anything she can get near, insists on yanking out any ponytail or braid I try to give her, and rushes towards open bodies of water, stray animals, and total strangers like it’s her job to forever be precariously teetering on the edge of danger.

This kid of mine seriously gives zero f*cks. Which is fitting, because… f*cking fours.

Best: The Personality

Still… I can’t help but admit I love seeing that wildness in her. I love how fearless my little girl is becoming, and the underlying personality I’m starting to see so much more of. This kid of mine is sassy and funny and outspoken and bold. And for every extra struggle those personality characteristics create for me as her mother, the number of times I otherwise just find myself watching her in awe make it all worthwhile.

Worst: “I do it myself!”

The f*cking fours have also ushered in the stage of independence for my little girl. She’s always been pretty big on wanting to do things herself, but it has grown to an epic level this year. She doesn’t care if we’re in a rush, she is dressing herself. And choosing her own shoes. And how dare I even think of putting her in the cart at the store. She’s walking. Duh.

To say that all this “I do it myself!” tends to slow us down would be an understatement. If we’re late somewhere, it’s because my kid no longer wants to be a kid.

Best: “I do it myself!”

You want to know a secret, though? All that independence is kind of working for me! I love that I can now tell her to get dressed, and she’ll go handle that situation herself. I love that she’s actually mastered getting in and out of her car seat, and that she’s taken over wiping her own butt. Suddenly, at 4, my kid is pretty darn adept at taking care of herself.

I joke about the f* cking fours a lot, mostly because my little girl has become extra good at testing my patience lately. But the truth is, this is my favorite stage so far. She’s funny, and smart, and fiercely independent in this way I just can’t help but admire. The person my little girl is becoming is a person I would actually want to be friends with.

And that is maybe my favorite thing of all!

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