When we had completed the 'Threenager' stage back in November, I had an overwhelming feeling of dread. Leo had now turned four and I knew full well what was about to happen.
Not only have I gone through this stage as a parent once before, I have also spent over 20 years watching from the outside in my job and as much as I had the feelings of dread, I was also grateful for my insider information.
Here's an overview of what to expect at four:
Four year olds become fiercely independent. We spend the preceding years encouraging them to do things for themselves but they don't really fully get onboard until they turn four. This is brilliant but it does mean that your child is likely to leave the house in an interesting outfit choice - think Timmy Mallet (see photo below) or shoes on the wrong feet and your opinion on the matter will not be welcome.
Being fiercely independent also means that they want it all their own way. If you ask them to do anything, you can guarantee that you will end up negotiating with them, bribing them or giving in to them.
It is definitely a stage where you should choose your battles wisely. You will find that all the new found vocabulary and levels of understanding that they have acquired means they really try to push the boundaries. Their emotions will be all over the place too and it may seem as though they are regressing back to the Terrible Two's.
With new found independence comes a slight cockiness. They can do anything. This means that some of their actions may be well intended but they will need to be watched.
I vividly remember catching Ella attempting to change Leo's dirty nappy. She thought she was being helpful bless her. Thankfully, I was there just before the nappy was taken off and the Sudocrem had been opened!
All of a sudden, at four, children develop a bladder of steal. Hurrah! you might think but this actually means that even though they are adamant they do not need the toilet, there will be the odd 'accident' where that cockiness I mentioned has got the better of them.
And, speaking of them being adamant about things, the little white lies they began telling at three now become more often and more thought out.
They will no longer blame the cat for taking a bite out of all the apples in the fruit bowl until they found the juiciest one and will simply just state that they have no idea how it happened. The fact you might have caught them in the act won't seem to make any difference.
During the 'Threenager' stage, children enjoy asking "why?" but seldom actually want to know why. At four this escalates hugely.
Curiosity may have killed the cat but it is an important trait to be had. The questions can be quite taxing, it may feel like you're a participant on Mastermind but as much as it seems like they don't pay attention or listen a lot of the time, their brains are gigantic sponges, absorbing a heck of a lot and getting ready for their first year at school.
As I have already mentioned, choosing your battles wisely is err, wise! Keeping consistent boundaries and realistic expectations in place and letting your four year old have controlled (by you) choices will hugely help prevent you from muttering "For Four's Sake!" under your breath several times a day.
The phrase "this too shall pass" is handy to keep in mind during the trickier times but with the bad there is always the good.
No one will tell you that they love you more than your four year old. You will have some pretty cool conversations, often them showcasing their joke telling talents.
They will be so unbelievably proud of teaching you all the things that their spongey brain has been absorbing too. The things that they can find out and remember is phenomenal when their 'looking eyes' rarely find what is front of them or they 'forget' to go to the toilet!
I said that I felt dread at Leo reaching four. That isn't because it is hard work, it is no harder than most years in my opinion but my dread comes from him heading off to school.
For me, this signifies the end of the early years. There will be nobody following him and while I am immensely proud of him and I am very excited about the next chapter of our lives, I know that I am going to miss these years massively.
I really must remember that when we are needing to leave the house in five minutes and he has failed to get himself dressed or when he comes for a morning snuggle in our bed, tells me he loves me and then promptly farts.
Timmy Mallett for those not old enough to remember!