11 wonderful things my four-year-old has taught me

Photo: Shutterstock
Photo: Shutterstock 

Babies, terrible twos, threenagers - there are no platitudes for kids after the age of four.

Here's a glimpse of a four-year-old's wonderful, yet insane, way of providing you with life lessons.

1. Persistence

"We can't give up mama," my four-year-old son Jesse said yesterday when we were trudging through a shopping centre at 4pm looking for the play area. He'd been here before with his Dad, but I hadn't and honestly, I just wanted to go home. It was getting late, it was raining sideways outside, and I was tired. I casually suggested that we could just find it the next time we came and get going, but his little face when he said those words changed something in me.

He's right! I thought. We can't give up, we're here now and he REALLY wants to find this play area. So we trudged about a bit more, eventually asked someone and we found it, and look, it really was quite a crappy play area when viewed through the eyes of a knackered mum, but to my son it was like he'd just opened the door to Narnia. He was so overjoyed, running towards it in his little gumboots and it tired him and his sister out in the way that all parents enjoy.

I don't know where he learned this winning attitude, probably from Daniel Tiger, but I salute it.

2. How to make a gun out of almost anything

Empty kitchen paper roll? Gun. Stick from park? Gun to shoot baby sister. Stale cracker found in the car? Pew pew.

3. Bill Murray is still a childhood hero

A four-year-old has lofty ambitions. My son wants to be a tree surgeon, he wants to drive… it changes every week, but ultimately he wants to be Venkman in Ghostbusters.

I recently poked my head into the bathroom and found him brushing his wet hair in front of the mirror with the grace of a pre-schooler. "I'm making it look like Bill Murray," he shrugged, without glancing over.

4. The world doesn't end if you wear your shoes on the wrong feet

Having to get dressed each morning is always a real shock to my kids. There's a lot flailing and general wildcat behaviour, and if I don't inhale deeply into a paper bag I will reach peak parenting before it's even 7.30am. So I deal with it by being the gentle disciplinarian parent I am (shouting) and by letting my four-year-old dress his way.

Shorts in winter? OK, as long as they're underneath something warm. Ugly shirt? Damn I must hide that. Shoes on the wrong feet? Agh. Look, this one does irk me (wrong footed thongs look RIDICULOUS) but I accept that since my son definitely knows which feet are the wrong feet, he must also know which are right. It's not a battle I have time for, plus I figure he'll reach an age where he won't want to look ridiculous at the shops and adjust things accordingly.

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5. Burst mode is life

Why take one photo of the carpet on your mum's phone when you can take 189?

6. Fearlessness

While four is known to be an age where childhood fears often develop (being scared of the dark, for instance) there's also an utter fearlessness in the way the four-year-olds go about their business.

7. Be prepared for anything

Four-year-old imaginations are WILD. The black blanket suddenly becomes the ocean with sharks in it, without a moment's notice. The old pile of towels you use to mop the floor is a 'magic spot for secret things' (like a beanie and a piece of pipe).

Someone mentions getting a haircut on TV? Whoosh – you're in a game of 'hairdressers' where your four-year-old attempts to style your hair and you try not cry out in agony. You'd better be ready.  

8. Family rituals are more than birthdays and Christmas

When the windows bit of Playschool comes on in the mornings, my son will yell: "WINDOOOOOOOWS! WINDOOOOOOWS MAMA WINDOWWWS" and I have to drop whatever I am doing and run to the TV while we both pick a shape to be, and I assign one to his 18-month-old sister who can't yet talk but can definitely jump up and down on the spot shouting "INDOWS".

Whoever 'wins' gets their name cheered out and we all dance around and shout for a bit more. I've come to love this part of our morning ritual. It takes the edge off after dressing the wildcats.

9. The art of listening

You know those articles that explain about listening skills and how you must not just be waiting around for your own turn to talk? They were written by four-year-olds.

At this age, children will bluntly tell you to stop talking, or just march over and physically move your head in their direction with their little Play-Doh-and dirt scented fingers if they catch you only half-listening to their never-ending story.

10. Four is still so little

They may be able to buckle themselves into the car seat now, but you will frequently be reminded of how small four-year-olds really are when they ask you to do stuff like pretend to be a T-Rex mum cooing while they act like a T-Rex baby being born.  

11. How to really spook someone

"Mama, I met a woman. She was an alien." Only after a lot of conversation prodding and going off on tangents did my son get around to telling me that he was talking about Leela from Futurama.