4 ½ is hard. There are a lot of things that are good about 4 ½, a lot. Things like they can keep themselves relatively entertained long enough for me to get a decent shower in on my days off with them. Things like on most days they can feed themselves without requiring a shop-vac and the dogs for cleanup duty. Things like they are quite capable of telling us what they want and why, or what hurts, or who did what.
But 4 ½ is hard. They are emotional, willful, and mischievous. In my house I have an instigator and a follower. Basically they are their own little military unit, with J as the drill sergeant and N as the willing foot soldier. Now, often, the foot soldier turns on the sergeant and the sergeant ends up in trouble for the coloring on the wall/water all over the bathroom/breaking toys. Recently, though, N is onto us. His ability to cover for both of them is becoming more sophisticated. We sent him up to find out what J was doing one night and he reported back that she wasn’t doing anything. Meanwhile she was very busy in the laundry room. Suffice it to say there is now a lock on the laundry room door. And now we know we can’t count on N to sell J out on a regular basis. There goes his career as a spy.
4 ½ is hard. Some of our ideas of what the twins’ personalities are like seem to be going by the wayside. J has become oddly emotional recently, going so far last night as to burst into tears over a wallet sized photograph of H (which she calls her “card”) and saying she just loves the card so so so much. Afterwards she stood on her bed and leaned into me for a hug and rubbed my back with her head on my chest for a lot longer than she normally does. N, normally our mild-mannered, laid-back kid, seems to spend his days on the edge of a total meltdown at all times. Which has got to be exhausting for him, so the new emotions coupled with his attempts to keep himself in check at all times means he’s always one “no” away from a really difficult evening.
4 ½ is hard. They are pushing the limits of their independence but frustrated by the things they aren’t yet big enough to do. N can’t reach the pedals on the car game at the arcade in the pizza place and it’s devastating. J’s demeanor is often more of a 15 year old teenager than a 4 year old little girl, and learning to find a place to teach her acceptable ways of relating to adults is proving harder than I imagined. She’s smart, and stubborn, and she knows what she wants.
4 ½ is hard. They are still very routine-oriented but are starting to break out of that, which has thrown me for a loop. They will now trade book time for more time in the bath, or more time playing, and book time has always been my time with them. But I recognize that certain battles aren’t worth fighting, so if 10 more minutes of play time makes for an easier bedtime I will make the trade, even if I do it with a bit of sadness. And they are teaching me that sometimes the extra 10 minutes of playtime is ok even if we still read a book. Somebody recently told me that letting them have their way (of course not ALL the time) teaches them to be confident in their choices and teaches them they have some autonomy over their environment. Both good things. So sometimes it’s peanut butter and jelly for dinner, or 10 more minutes of playtime. Or two books instead of one. But finding the dividing line between teaching autonomy and teaching them that mommy’s a pushover – is hard.
But 4 ½ is beautiful. Watching my daughter light up on stage after conquering her fears at her first dance recital brought instant tears to my eyes. Watching my son raise his fists in celebration as he ran across the court after making a basket against defenders in his last basketball game filled me with joy. Sitting on the couch and having J say she wants to snuggle in the mornings fills my heart. Seeing N discover the joys of reading fills my heart. Watching J run over to N on our way out the door to dance class to give him a hug and have them each say they will miss each other for the brief hour we will be gone lights my soul.
4 ½ is beautiful. They are becoming kids. They aren’t babies anymore. And as hard as it is to not have babies anymore, it is a joy to see the children they are becoming. In a little less than a year, they will start school. They will be 5. But for now. 4 ½ is hard. But 4 ½ is beautiful, and if I could freeze 4 ½ in time for a little longer, I would in a heartbeat.