Parents are led to believe that the baby and toddler years are the hardest, but the pre-schooler era has its challenging moments, too. Most 4-year-olds have developed enough annoying habits to drive any parent to hide behind a cupboard door and eat chocolate at least once a day. As a parent, you'll probably never sigh to yourself as much, until perhaps the dreaded teenage years. Here are 15 things that nobody tells you about raising a pre-schooler. Cheers to all the parents of 4-year-olds. You deserve that bar of chocolate (or glass of wine) at the end of a challenging day.
- They're still picky about food
You expect fussiness with a toddler. But by the time they reach 4, you assume they'll have worked out this whole eating thing. They've had over 3 years of practice at it, after all. Oh how wrong you are. They will eat cheese. They will eat bread. But don't even think of offering them a cheese sandwich. And if the day has a 'y' in it, then they're going to insist on having fish fingers.
- They obsess over TV
Thanks to catch up TV and Sky+/V+, your child can watch the same episode of their favourite TV show over and over again. And they will. To the point where you could recite every. Single. Word.
- They're scarily tech savvy
It's terrifying how easily a 4-year-old can navigate their way around an iPhone or iPad. They're more tech savvy than their grandparents, which isn't necessarily saying much, but still. They can't even write yet. But they know how to play every game on the CBeebies website.
- Their favourites change on a daily basis
Your 4-year-old decides they will only consume food and drinks from things that are blue. In order to avoid a starvation situation, you buy them blue everything. The next day, you present their breakfast on the requested blue tableware. You are met with the death stare. "I hate blue. Why haven't you given me green? I won't eat anything on a blue plate." *parent hits head against fridge*
- They refuse to go to the toilet
Going to the toilet takes about 30 seconds. But to a 4-year-old this is a life-altering amount of time to take out of playing. By the time they've finally stopped arguing and agreed to go, they could have used the toilet six times.
- They insist on getting themselves dressed
Particularly on those occasions when you're running late (which, let's face it, is pretty much every occasion you have to leave the house with them). You have to physically restrain yourself from ripping their socks out of their hands and doing it yourself.
- They have no clue when choosing their own clothes
Not only will they want to dress themselves, but they'll also want to choose what they wear, too. And they have no concept of appropriate attire. On a freezing cold Winter's day, they'll pick a t-shirt, shorts, and sandals. Or they'll insist on wearing a tutu/Spiderman costume to nursery.
- They'll resist the bath, and then refuse to get out
A 4-year-old's response to be told it's bath time: "I'm not having a bath tonight. I don't need a bath. I had one yesterday. I'm not even dirty. I hate the bath." You eventually get them in the bath, probably with the bribe that they can watch Paw Patrol afterwards. You then tell them it's time to get out of the bath. "I'm never getting out of this bath. I love the bath. I want to sleep in the bath."
- Dancing = jumping
It doesn't really matter what music is on, a 4-year-old has one favourite dance move and that's jumping up and down. God help you when their mates come round. They sound like a herd of elephants and you worry your floor is going to cave in.
- They have specific party expectations
There are three things every 4-year-old expects at a friend's birthday party. 1. Pass the parcel. 2. Cake. 3. Party bags. And if any of these are missing, they'll make their displeasure known. Loudly.
- They tell the strangest jokes
Which only make sense to other 4-year-olds. They'll come up with all kinds of knock knock jokes, but not one will actually resemble a knock knock joke. Like knock knock. Who's there? Hair. Hair who? Hair hair. Cue fits of giggles from them and their friends. And a confused look on the face of any adult in the vicinity.
- They talk. All. The. Time.
It's great when your child has a full vocabulary and can express themselves. What's not so great is when they talk every minute of every day. The only times they stop for breath is when they're eating or watching TV, although they'll often start asking dozens of questions about what's going on in that episode. Without leaving space for you to answer.
- They create the most elaborate games
And you're required to voice several different parts. They, of course, only have to be one character. And then they get seriously cross with you if you mess up your line or say the wrong thing. That is, if they allow you to come up with your own words. Usually, they just tell you what to say.
- They think they're the boss of you
As if you don't already do plenty for your 4-year-old, they'll delight in constantly telling you what to do. They want to be in charge of what you wear, what your hair looks like, what you eat, and they won't be backwards in coming forwards when they're not impressed by what you've chosen for yourself.
- They refuse to go anywhere, and then refuse to leave
It's a sunny day so you want to get them outside to the park. But they don't want to leave the house. They only like the house. They hate the park. You finally get them out, probably with the bribe of a biscuit. Within seconds of arriving they're running across the grass screaming: "This is the best day of my entire life". Eventually it's time to go home. They don't want to leave. The park is now the only place they love. *parent bangs head against nearest tree*
But then, they snuggle up into your lap and just want to be with you, cuddling, and their world is complete and happy in that one moment. They tell you they love you frequently, unprompted, and with sincerity. They overflow with unabashed enthusiasm for the world around them. They adore their friends and family. They show great empathy when someone else is in pain. They laugh with gay abandon. They show you all the wonders of the world that you forgot about because you have to focus on work now, or making lunch, or the thousand other things adults have to fill their daily lives with. Like the wonder of a flower growing out of a crack in the pavement, or how toes can wiggle. They live in the moment. They don't hold grudges. Yes, 4-year-olds have their annoying moments. But they're also pretty awesome. And they'll be off at school full-time too soon. Just think about how much you'll miss them the next time they're telling you your hair looks awful.
Product Credit: Left - Everlane t-shirt / Right - Tommy Hilfiger sweatshirt, Crewcuts shorts