My husband and I are fairly new to the parenting thing. Our oldest son is 4 years old and our youngest is 7 months. The past four years have been a roller coaster of emotions and experiences. One day our confidence in our ability to parent is strong, the next day it might be non-existent. Just when we think we might know what we are doing, something happens that makes us question our ability to be the parents we want to be. Parenting a 4-year-old is really testing our patience lately.
Through the years, I have been fascinated by the distinct differences in my oldest son’s behavior from year to year. The terrible twos didn’t seem too bad. Three was tough but manageable. Four has been a different story. My son is very smart cognitively but emotionally, he is very much four. This has been the most difficult age so far (and we’re not even two months into his fourth year!).
I know each new age comes with new challenges. When I mention our recent struggles to other parents with older children, they laugh them off and remind me that he is not dating or driving and we do not yet have to worry about grades. I get that, but this is where we are now. How quickly they forget the times when they were less experienced and might have just needed a little support.
I recently heard the saying, “the days are long but the years are short.” I had never heard it before but I have heard it many times since. At first I dismissed it, thinking it was another way for parents to make other parents feel guilty about not enjoying every moment with their children. After I thought about it, though, I started to reflect on what it means to me.
When I am struggling the most, I try to picture my son as an adult. I think about the things he does now that will serve him well in the future. We currently get frustrated because he is strong-willed. Some day that will help him to be successful and accomplish great things. That thought helps keep things in perspective and allows me to think of all the positives.
My son is a loving, free spirit. He sees the beauty in all things and does not care what people think of him. He has fun wherever we are and loves being silly. Just this morning during a thunderstorm he told me, “Lighting is one of the most beautiful parts of nature.” He stops to smell flowers and appreciate the sunset. He tells me multiple times a day how much he loves me. He is a wonderful big brother. He tries new things and does not give up. He is always eager to learn.
After thinking about the countless wonderful traits my son has, I am able to refocus and remember that he is four and needs me to help him deal with the emotions and experiences each new day brings.
When I am able to stay calm and react to my son appropriately and in a way that helps him learn from a potentially frustrating situation, my confidence level goes up too. We all benefit.
The next time you talk to a parent who is frustrated, please do not tell them why there are greater challenges to come or try to make your struggles seem worse. Just listen to them. If you are frustrated or lacking confidence one day, stop to think about what your child might be successful at in the future and remember that those qualities are there because you are a great and loving parent.