This is Me: Surviving the %#&!ing Fours.

Via Lynn Shattuck
on Oct 13, 2013
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tantrum child boy crying

This is me: doing the best I can. With my head in my hands. With my voice rising, higher and higher, like I swore I’d never do.

So much gets left out of the parenting books. So much doesn’t get posted on Facebook. The nuances of child-rearing, the flickers and darts, the quirks and crannies.

All the vows I made before children: I will never feed them sugar. They will not watch TV until they’re five. I will only purchase wooden toys. I will never yell.

Sometimes, I think of that when my little ones huddle on the couch, watching Madagascar for the 53rd time. This week. And the couch is a sticky tapestry of spilt milk and Cheerio crumbs. A stray piece of pepperoni peeks out from between the cushions.

There is a vast, vast chasm between the parent I thought I would be and the parent I am.

Right now, it feels like I spend most of my time helping my four-year old son look for the mask and gloves to the ninja suit he insists on wearing constantly. I found him a small, navy plastic bin to put the gloves and mask in, so he wouldn’t constantly lose them. He keeps losing them anyway, and I keep looking for them, over and over like Groundhog Day.

I think: This is my life? Searching for these small, missing pieces?

This isn’t like the reveries I had of life with children. The dreams of round bellies and sweet faces and they will be so loved and sweet and amazing and I will be such a good parent.

And the time spent not ninja-suit hunting is spent hauling my son into time-outs, after he spits at me, growls at me, slaps at me. And I think this is the most abusive relationship I’ve ever had. This is not what I imagined.

There was nothing to prepare me for the intensity, the insanity, the way my buttons would be pushed so many times that they felt worn to nubs, my nerves raw and exposed, dangling like live wires.

This is me: at the end of the day, finally letting my own tears out. Because I think maybe I’ve broken him. I see myself, hunting for his gloves and mask, over and over again. Like how I’m searching for those pieces of my life before children: time, freedom, peace. Or the pieces of the parent I thought I’d be: patient, accepting, fun.

And this is me.

Just when I am ready to sell them to the gypsies. Just when I text my best mama friend to say Hey, do you know any gypsies? How does one find a gypsy these days?  

There it is.

With no warning, my son hugs on to me. He presses his face up to mine real close, the way only a handful of people in this crazy life can do. And so close like that, his eyes are a blur, but I feel them, I feel him.

I feel the electric blue cord of love that pulses between us, stronger than anything. So strong I know it will survive death, and I wonder where was it? before he was born. Because that cord is so strong and true that I can’t imagine it having not been here before.

And he feels it too, I can tell from the way he says ‘Mama,’ singsong but sturdy, like the word holds his whole universe, like the word itself is wide enough to carry him. To carry us.

The feel of his shoulders, surprisingly solid, against my forearms. Wasn’t he a tiny baby, just a breath ago? How can time be so fast and slow at the same time?

And I try to take the moment and tuck it into a pocket, or grip it between my fingernails and the fleshy skin of my palm. Because I will need it. Tomorrow, in an hour, in a minute.

This is me: Forgiving myself, over and over again.

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Ed: Sara Crolick



About Lynn Shattuck

Lynn Shattuck lives in Portland, Maine with her husband and two young children. She blogs about parenting, imperfection, spirit and truth telling—you can connect with her through her website or find her on Facebook.


21 Responses to “This is Me: Surviving the %#&!ing Fours.”

  1. Rhona says:

    You are not alone. Beautiful piece.

  2. Kai says:

    OMG! This is sooo true! My son brings out something in all of us (he's number 4 and I swear was sent to terrorize the rest of us). He can make me so angry, frustrated…looking for wine at 9am kinda angry and frustrated, then in an instant come to me, hug and pucker his little lips to give me the sweetest kisses and for a moment I forget the frustration. Yes, we will all survive the %&*!ing Fours. I somehow survived it 3 times already but this one is taking me over the top it seems.

  3. Ellen says:

    Beautiful and honest. I still claim that the weight I have gained since having children is due to all the words I had to eat after becoming a mom. And 4 is hard. When my first turned 4 he changed overnite into an unbearable (most of the time) monster, who wanted to wear Superman, Batman, or Robin outfits instead of Ninja. I called a friend with 7 children to ask what was going on and her response was to laugh and say "4 is practice for 14 altho 4 is more mature than 14" – so you have been given fair warning! Remember the sweet hugs – you will really need the memory in 10 years! That "monster" is 32 now. He, his two siblings, and I all survived even tho there were days where survival was iffy. They are wonderful people.

  4. Ashley says:

    Thank you for your candor. My son is 3 1/2and I have another son on the way. I know just how you feel, nice to know I am not alone in my imperfection, chaos, and yet total undying adoration if this little army of crazy.

  5. Beautiful and sweet and took me right bakc to when mine were hat age. They are 30, 28 and 21 now. And I still remember how they drove me batshit crazy and gave me the best hugs and the sweetest kisses. And now I miss them like mad.

  6. scoochdaily says:

    You have hit the mark once again, Lynn! "Hey! Do you know any gypsies? How does one find a gypsy these days"? Perfection. Many a text I have written in a similar vain… Just when the breaking point arrives – these littles know just when to switch gears and the reset button is once again engaged.

    Well done!


  7. Mike K says:

    I often tell my four year old that I will sell her to the gypsies if she doesn't behave herself. I'm a single dad raising my daughter on my own. Don't get me wrong, I have help (mostly my mother), and it really does help that she is around to help while I work full time and go to school to finish my Bachelors.

    I wouldn't want my life any other way. When my daughter came to live with me full time at the tender age of 14 months, I was scared to death that I would screw her up some how. What I have learned, I should really say, what she has taught me. Love no matter what, try to have patience and above all, learn how to count to 10 before you open your mouth. OK, the last one I learned on my own.

    Even in the middle of the night when she crawls in my bed and tells me she is scared of the dark, I can't help but melt a little as she snuggles up to me, pushing me out of my bed.

    Thank you for the wonderful article.


  8. @amydcushing says:

    You spoke the words I feel day to day as I trudge through the f*%#@$g fours too. Thank you! Just beautiful!

  9. Caroline says:

    I so needed this. Beautifully written, thank you for writing it!

  10. lynnola says:

    Thank you, Rhona.

  11. lynnola says:

    Thanks, Kai! My best to you and your four!

  12. lynnola says:

    Thank you for your comment, Ellen. I love hearing the perspective from a mom with grown children, and thank you for still remembering how hard four was.

  13. lynnola says:

    You are SO not alone. Take good care.

  14. lynnola says:

    Love your comment, Caitlin. Thank you.

  15. lynnola says:

    Thanks, Licia! Yes, thank goodness for that reset button!

  16. lynnola says:

    Thank you, Mike. I love hearing from dads. My best to you.

  17. lynnola says:

    Thank you, Amy! Hang in there.

  18. lynnola says:

    Thank you, Caroline! Take good care.

  19. Tara Johnson says:

    Yes! But, know this, the end of the 4th year for my son was very different than the beginning. My son turned 5 in late August and has grown up so quickly. Fewer tantrums, more in control, etc. He is such a big boy now. It's Awful 😉 I feel like there is a big difference from 4-5.

  20. lynnola says:

    Good to know!! The changes can be so bittersweet!

  21. Miranda Hope says:

    I'm just reading this now. It is my exact experience, so beautifully told. Thank you, Lynn.