When the 4 year old Turns 13

I didn’t think it would happen to MY daughter.

Not because I didn’t think she had it in her. I tend to think I can avoid natural evolution, sometimes. I remember being around 9 and disgusted with teenagers and promising myself that I would NEVER become an adolescent – I would never think I was going to live forever, I was never going to think I knew more than my parents, I was never going to be sullen and a pain and overwrought.

I figured I had been duly warned by novels, TV shows, and by my dad – and this knowledge was my suit of armor against hormones and cultural conditioning. No problem.

Ha ha ha.

So, anyway, in the last year or so I’ve watched my friends’ daughters in the 4 to 6 year range suddenly adopt the kind of attitude one only expects from a teen. I’ve also watched them pass through it- or it to pass through them – successfully. One minute cute kids; the next minute, whining selfish ferocious monsters, then back to cute kid again. And then last week, as if coming down with a virus, Josephine hit the patch.

Stomping up the stairs, yelling: “You are NOT the best mommy in the world!”

And: “I’m NEVER coming downstairs AGAIN, EVER!”


Wailing, crying: “I want a donut I WANT A DONUT I WANT a Do-NUT NOW NOW NOW” etc.

What the heck? This is mild Josephine, sweet-tempered Josephine, go-with-the-flow Jo we’re talking about. Her ‘terrible twos’ hardly registered. Her three was breezy. Her four – well, here we are, and she’s deliberately going against the rules, pushing all the boundaries, leaping off the dinner table, running out the front door, testing me, poking me, driving me insane.

On the good side? I know this will pass. I’ve seen it happen. I know it’s what they do.

On the down side? I know it will come back, and worse, when she’s older. I’ve seen that happen, too. And no amount of knowledge can prevent it.

But, there are things we have to go through, and it’s not about avoiding or skipping them, but remembering the larger picture, that we are waves part of an ocean, and that everything passes. We can’t get around pain and growth, but we can have some humor and wisdom and awareness as we pass through it. And compassion.

This phase of Jo’s is not only about her growth, but mine as well. It’s good practice for me to stand my ground, and also to love her even when she’s acting bratty and spoiled and rotten. Her desires for independence and love, her frustrations, need to be treated with kindness. This is my work – later, hers. To teach her about kindness – and to teach her that, no matter how awful she is, I will love her. Which is something I can only do if she acts awful. So – good thing!  Great opportunity.

Although, I will admit – I look forward to my 13-year-old turning 5.


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