Four is the new terrible twos


Her little voice pierced my eardrums and grated on my nerves like fingernails on a chalkboard.

Papers, pencils, and crayons scattered across the floor with a swift move of her fierce little hand. Next, she took aim at the battery for my camera and the charger it was connected to sent that to the floor with a bang.

DSC_3479For the last week, I had been laying my hand against her forehead to see if she was coming down with something, anything, looking for any reason for her Horrid Henry-like behavior. Since no fever was detected next on the list was to call the local Catholic Church to see if they still perform exorcisms in between press conferences to defend their innocence in abuse cases.

She was sitting with her head down on the table, her little feet dangling off the bench, kicking them back and forth as she revved up for her tantrum.

She was wearing the same outfit she’d had on for three days – a long sleeved dress and long pants with a brown leopard pattern. On Saturday she’d fallen asleep before I could negotiate a peaceful ending to the outfit change. On Sunday I knew we’d never make it to church if we stopped to let her pick the ten outfits she normally does before she gets dressed.  I promised myself I’d begin a peaceful settlement when we returned. Negotiations failed and I somehow let it go an extra day. So there she sat, her clothes probably caked to her now, while she started her new tactic of whining instead of verbalizing.

“Your brother is in the bathroom, I can’t make him sit next to you,” I told her, throwing up my hands in exasperation.

“I won’t do work ever, ever again if he doesn’t sit with me!”

I ignored her and went to the kitchen to start cleaning the pan for lunch.

Her brother came down and I asked him to sit with her but now she had worked herself up to a wail, the same wail she’d been sounding for almost a week now – anytime she didn’t get what she wanted, when she wanted, even though half the time she never said what she wanted, but simply cried and whined and kicked her feet.

I burned my hand in the hot water trying to clean out the cast iron pan to make lunch. It made me even grumpier.

“I DON’T KNOW WHAT YOU WANT!” my screams were now matching her own and for good measure, I tossed a fork, which bounced off the counter and shattered the McDonald’s collection Garfield class I’d bought for my husband to replace the one he’d had as a child.

Now I was mad at her and myself. It was a standoff of uncontrolled emotions and suddenly I realized I had dropped my emotional maturity to the level of a 4-year old. A 4-year old who was still trying to figure out how to navigate her emotions, while I was 41 and supposed to already have it all figured out. I shouldn’t have a fuse as short as a preschooler and I knew it.


“Let me hold you,” I told her finally, no longer caring what her original breakdown had been about. She climbed into my lap and leaned into me her little body warm and heavy against me. Tears were still rolling down her cheeks as I rubbed her back and absentmindedly patted her bottom as  I rocked her.

It grew quiet and she sniffed.


“Yes, sweetie?”

“Are you patting my butt?”

“Hmm….um..yeah, I guess I was. I thought it was your lower back.”

She pulled away and looked sideways at me.

“Okay. That was disturbing.”

She climbed off my lap with her finger in her nose and shook her head.

She’s been skipping naps of late so when she passed out against my chest early in the afternoon, an hour or so after this. I texted my husband and said, with much relief, though a bit of regret, “she’s asleep and I have to pee.”

I held that pee in until my bladder almost burst because I had a plan to enjoy the last chapter of my book in blissful silence.  That hour free of preschool manipulation was certainly welcome.

And then my preteen began to extol the virtues of his latest video game discovery and the silence was broken, but, hey, that’s life.


10 thoughts on “Four is the new terrible twos

  1. The title alone made me cringe, because I have been holding out for four, telling myself it would get better. My son had a raging case of the Terrible Twos and it never seemed to end. He will be four next month. The constant negotiations and whining are emotionally exhausting. We are trying to work through it. I try to stay calm and not flip out. But I’m pretty sure he’s giving me angry mom wrinkles LOL

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    • Now, don’t panic. It’s not the same for everyone! With my son three was a bit of a nightmare and dour was fairly good and five was even better. Five was just awesome except he was sick all the time from school. My daughter is a force to be reckoned with some days and she’s completely different than him. His disobedience was quiet – hers is like a perfect storm. I have discovered that the more her sleep schedule is off, the worse it gets. So this week when she actually announced she needed a nap, I went with it and found she was a bit easier to deal with the rest of the week. But who knows – it’s Thursday. By the end of the day I might be picking out more gray hairs!

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  2. Oh yes, oh yes, lol! We never hit the terrible two’s either….it was three and four, depending on the child 🙂 Cute kids are the hardest (And they are all cute, lol!!)…they are just so adorable and so good at pushing buttons sometimes! Here’s to hoping you soon are able to navigate the fours without as many tantrums! God Bless!

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  3. “Okay that was disturbing”.

    Bwaaaa haaaa haaa!!!!

    Awww look at her! What a cute little girl.

    I remember babysitting for a family with 7 kids 8 and under and the 4 year olds were definitely the most volatile. I’d always heard about terrible twos but every two year old I’ve met was a little sweetheart… but those 3 and 4 year olds!!!! My goodness!

    Good luck!!!!

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  4. Oh I remember those days! I waited all through the second year for the craziness to happen and when my daughter turned 3 I was relieved that we had missed those terrible 2’s I kept hearing about. But then she turned 4. And Oh. My. WORD! Now she’s about to turn 12 and I’m going through it all over again! Sending many prayers up for you!! (At least she’s adorable!)

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