The Willingness of a Four-Year-Old

It is just me and my four-year-old barnacle most days, as my six-year-old goes to first grade now.  That’s a long, long day of just staring at each other.  For two years, now, while my son does a full day of school, I have scrambled to find stuff that gets my daughter and I out of the mausoleum house.  Storytimes, arts and crafts time, gymnastics, yoga for kiddos, ballet, nature class, hikes, grocery shopping, oil changes, playdates, um, trips to Costco, and even trips to the gym.  These things are for both of us, you understand.  If I am at home, I just clean, or think about cleaning, or give in to the unending tide of requests to watch cartoons.  It used to be that we had to be busy for her, too, to lessen the time when she was missing her daddy and big brother.  She still misses them during the day, but she’s adapted and knows they’ll come back.

Except that we’re both tired of all the running around.  I don’t blame her.  Driving across town to nature class seems to suck the energy right out of both of us.  And we just can not buy one more thing from Target.  We literally have every last toy, storage system, decorative wreath, craft supply, t-shirt and holiday knee-socks Target has to offer. First-world problems, I know.

My kids are mostly compliant, and believe me when I say 1. Thank God, and 2. That has nothing to do with me.  What I should say is “my kids are mostly compliant….until they are not.”   They go with the flow, and then they don’t.  And they stand their ground and will not waver at all.  They know their own minds, and I suppose everyone should be so lucky.  I’ve always tried to respect their voices and choices, except when their choice is to lay on the floor and say they are “too tired to put on a jacket.”  A child has legitimate wants and needs which shouldn’t be ignored just because of their age.

However, now my child is turning into a homebody and it is dragging me down.  We went through this with my son.  He almost always wants to stay at home, but his sister had a sense of adventure that got us out of the house, and now that he’s been exposed to some really amazing things (think natural museums, aquariums, birthday parties at bowling alleys…) he’s a bit more willing to venture out.  His sister, however has now given up on that.  Every time we leave the house it comes with foot-dragging and slow-motion oozing and now, griping.  She doesn’t like sitting for so long in nature class, or sitting criss-cross-applesauce in ballet, or being cold, or going outside, or putting on pants, or any of a number of other uncomfortable things.

I am most certainly NOT the Tiger Mom.  You don’t want to practice violin, the violin I rented for you and found an incredible instructor for?  Fine.  I don’t care.  Less work for me.

But this, with my youngest, I can’t handle.  For my mental health, you must do this.  You must get dressed and leave the house with me.  In the face of her extreme whining, I let her run the schedule yesterday, where we went to the big park in the snow instead of directly to school to drop off registration forms.  Then we went to the STEAM class for little kids at the library that she wanted to go to, on a whim, but only stayed for a third of the class.  Then, instead of finally dropping off the papers, we needed to go home to get a dry pair of clothes after she wanted to puddle jump in the parking lot.  As it was, we never made it to school yesterday because it started to snow hard and I knew if we went down the hill in the van, we wouldn’t make it back up until the plow came by sometime after midnight.

I caved again this morning when she said she just didn’t want to go to her beloved nature class because she just doesn’t like any of it except the snack.  I caved because I’m tired of it too.  So we’re sitting here watching Justin Time, her still in pajamas.  Except it isn’t the best solution.  I’m already stir-crazy and we’re both getting crabbier by the minute.

You heard it here, first.  After this episode, I’m dropping the hammer.  We’re getting dressed, we’re driving to school and dropping off the (late) registration forms, then we’re going to Target and buying more pants.  Whining or not,

Just look at us go!!  This will be so much fun!
Just look at us go!! This will be so much fun!

life outside this house must go on.


5 thoughts on “The Willingness of a Four-Year-Old

  1. When I was four, I had friends in the neighborhood who were my age. When I was five, we moved to a new neighborhood with more kids my age. There were fewer cars then — less traffic, fewer parked cars on the street — and we lived in a dead-end street (now called a “cul-de-sac”). We played kickball in the street, drew hopscotch and four-square blocks in our driveways. We played in yards. We went to the woods and looked for frogs and box turtles. We went into each other’s houses and played games or house. There was never anything on TV to tempt us, just Art Linkletter and The Edge of Night..

    When one of us wanted to play with another one, we went to their house and stood outside the door and sang “Oh Betty!” When the streetlights came on, or when a parent came out onto the porch and hollered our name, it was time to come home. There were more moms at home during the day back then, and they had each other’s backs. The Corwins lived across the street, and my little sister doted on Mrs. Corwin, who was like a grandmother to her. Jenny would pop over to her house, stand on the porch and sing “Oh Mrs. Corwin!” and Mrs. Corwin would invite her in and hang a big picture of Snoopy on the front door so my parents would know that Jenny was there. My mom worked full-time, but she worked second shift so often it was my dad who was the front-porch hollerer in the afternoon and evening. It was rare that we had any “planned play” except for birthday parties, trips to the library, piano lessons, and our annual visit to the zoo. We were often bored. I was profoundly lonely, but I think it had less to do with the availability of kids my age to play with than it did my own temperament.

    What strikes me about this post is its loneliness. No neighborhood filled with surrogate parents. No impromptu anything with other kids. No support for either of you except each other. I think you could both use half-day pre-kindergarten.

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