Every tiny baby grows up. It's a fact of life that is both comforting and heart-wrenching. The passing of time is a strange thing. Perhaps author Gretchen Rubin put it best in her book, The Happiness Project. In Rubin's opinion, when it comes to raising children, "The days are long, but the years are short." Ask any parent how they feel about a child growing up, and the reaction is likely to be mixed.
It's good to know that Baby will someday out-grow diapers, and at some point will no longer awaken in the middle of the night looking for a snack (hopefully). However, this knowledge pulls at a mother's tender soul. It's rough to realize that her baby will not forever fit in the crook of her arm, that the new-baby smell, and the coos of delight only an infant can produce, will soon be things that exist only in Mom's memories.
Along the road to adulthood, children go through many changes. Some good. Some...not so good. The terrible twos are the time of life when a tot turns from a wobbly baby to a full-on toddling child. Two-year-olds can be the cutest of cute, but can also pack a mean punch to a parent's patience. Next comes the year of the threenagers, another fun and challenging time, after which the fantastic (effing) fours arrive.
Read on for 7 facts about the terrible twos and 7 facts about the effing fours. Yes, these years may be challenging, but parents are apt to look back on them as the best and brightest of their lives. Enjoy the hard days, embrace the wonderful ones. Your little one will be hashing it out with children of his or her own before you know it.
14 Two-Year-Olds Are Opinionated
Two-year-olds get a bad wrap for their bossy behavior. They often insist on getting what they want, when they want it. Sure, they may seem a bit demanding, but, when you really think about it, who doesn't have opinions? Everyone has likes and dislikes, preferences and things they abhor.
The problem with two-year-olds is they are still learning how to communicate, and how to process strong emotions. If a little one wants something, she may be doing the only thing she knows how to do to get what she wants.
The best thing to do when a toddler is screaming and crying because she doesn't want to wear a shirt is to hug her, hold her, remain calm, commiserate, and pick your battles. If she wants an apple an hour before dinner, it may be worth it to give it to her to save you from dealing with a melt-down. If she wants 20 cookies before dinner, might need to put your foot down and let her wail it out.
The good news? At least she knows what she wants and isn't afraid to let you know. It might be a bit more difficult to decipher her desires when she's a moody teenager. Just saying.
13 Two-Year-Olds Are Fearless
Two-year-olds have energy to spare, and don't quite grasp the concept of danger. This can be a potent combination that will likely give Mom and Dad a run for their money. These little monkeys may launch themselves off of couches, into swimming pools and out in front of oncoming traffic without hesitation. And, they're quick! Parents need to be constantly vigilant now that their little one is always on the move, but not really aware that some things can be down-right deadly.
You may be exhausted and exasperated after chasing a two-year-old hither and yon from dawn until dusk, but take comfort in the fact that you are getting a great work-out and that your little one loves to explore. He's learning, absorbing and getting a sense of the world around him with ever step he takes.
Allow him a wide berth when he decides to wander, as long as he's out of harm's way. Deep breaths. This too shall pass. Soon enough you'll be nagging him to stop playing video games and go outside for a breath of fresh air.
12 Two-Year-Olds Possess Flawed Reasoning Skills
Some two-year-olds communicate better than others. At this age, some are speaking in full-on sentences while others are just starting to experiment with words and phrases. This can make things a bit frustrating for both parent and child.
When a little one is upset, it may be difficult for Mom or Dad to figure out why. Even two-year-olds who speak impeccably may scream hysterically when they don't get their way instead of calmly and rationally explaining what is wrong. Because...they're two.
The good news? Parents have size and wisdom on their side. Sure, you may have no idea what in the heck your child wants or why she wants it, but you are the master of distraction, and she's easily distracted. Sing a song she likes, direct her attention to a fun new activity, or, if all else fails, pick her up and remove her from the situation. You won't be able to do this one forever, so enjoy it while it lasts.
11 Two-Year-Olds Have All The Time In The World
Telling a two-year-old to cooperate with getting dressed because you're running late makes about as much sense to him as a Shakespeare sonnet read in pig Latin. He has all of the time in the world. He doesn't comprehend deadlines or dates or why he has to hurry. This is often frustrating for the both of you.
He doesn't want to hurry and change, he wants to stay in his cozy pajamas and lounge for awhile. We can all relate to that feeling, but, when we get older, we realize that sometimes we have to keep our obligations and commitments. Two-year-olds who aren't cooperating with a morning routine or hurried grocery store run aren't trying to be terrible; it may just be that they don't realize what all the fuss is about.
The more consistent a two-year-old's schedule is, the more likely he'll be to comply with your wishes. If he knows he wakes up, gets dressed, eats, then goes to the babysitter most days, he won't have quite as many meltdowns as he might if he's being carted somewhere different every day and parents never follow any sort of routine. Two-year-olds do best when they have an idea about what to expect and what comes next. Having a schedule may help them be a bit less apt to freak out.
10 Two-Year-Olds Are Moody
When a two-year-old gets tired or hungry, or both, things can get ugly. Quickly. We all get a bit grumpy when we haven't gotten enough rest, or our tummies are rumbling, but toddlers haven't yet mastered the art of dealing with discomfort.
This one can be combatted by parents who are prepared for the inevitable melt-down. Carry snacks to feed a hangry babe when things go longer than expected. Save errands and big events until after nap-time, or try to do activities first thing in the morning, so your two-year-old is rested, fresh and ready to mingle.
There will be times when, despite your best efforts, your child gets hungry or tired and throws a major fit. Get her some food, find a quiet place for her to take a quick cat nap, or distract her with one of her favorite toys or objects like a blanket or stuffed animal.
9 Two-Year-Olds Change Every Day
One of the most fascinating, exciting and difficult things about two-year-olds is how quickly they are learning, growing and changing. A child this age may add up to 20 new words to his vocabulary daily. His brain is making connections all over the place. This process can be exhausting, and cause him to get slightly cranky ever now and again.
It's also difficult for parents and caregivers to figure out what a two-year-old wants, because he's constantly changing his mind. He may prefer his red car one day, then want nothing to do with it the next and be all about the yellow bus. Yep, he's totally playing the field of toys. This can be just as confusing for a parent as dating a fickle fellow.
Be patient, be ready for constant changes and plan for days when his brain just needs a break. Schedule some quiet time for your child every day at some time other than his nap to allow him to just breath, be and process all of the information he's absorbing at the speed of light.
8 The Terrible Twos Can Strike At Any Time
A child does not magically transform into a monster on her second birthday. In fact, the terrible twos may strike early, or late. Parents may notice a child exerting her will as early as 18 months, and as late as 34 months. Like every other developmental milestone, the terrible twos are subjective.
Parents who are prepared, patient and make sure to savor all of the wonderful moments the terrific twos have to offer, will look back on this stage in their child's life with fondness despite some less-than-stellar moments.
Each and every child is different. Some may breeze right through this stage and never be anything but a little angel, while others may have Mom and Dad doing all they can to keep from pulling their hair out. Most kids will fall somewhere in between. One thing is sure: all two-year-olds have wonderful qualities that counteract their terrible moments. Focus on those and life will be bearable, if not down-right lovely...at least until the next tantrum.
7 Four-Year-Olds Are Curious
Four-year-olds have realized they don't know it all, and they possess a passion for learning that drives them in everything they do. This is the age your child will benefit from learning experiences. Visits to the zoo, art galleries and museums are great for children of this age.
They are becoming aware of sexuality and may begin to ask question about the birds and the bees. You've been warned. Four-year-olds are beginning to understand the concept of fantasy versus reality, and may look to you for answers. Parents are the ones who get to decide if it's time to come clean about things like Santa Clause and the Tooth Fairy, or if they want their child to experience the magic for a bit longer.
Curiosity will drive your four-year-old to explore the world whenever possible. She loves being outside and observing the world around her. Remind her of safety rules such as looking both ways before crossing the street and always letting a parent or guardian know where she will be will help her to learn and grow safely.
6 Four-Year-Olds Are Active
Four-year-olds are finally feeling as steady as can be on their own two feet. They are physically ready to accomplish anything they can dream up. Most four-year-olds are able to hop forward on one foot, throw a small ball underhand, pedal a tricycle, use a fork and a spoon, go up and down stairs safely without assistance and draw simple shapes like squares and circles.
Children of this age love to swing, climb, somersault and skip. They also enjoy modeling clay, painting, cutting and pasting, writing and building things with blocks or Legos. Phew. It's exhausting just thinking about being a four-year-old. Rest assured, kids in this age group also love down time.
Reading books with pictures about historical events or scientific concepts may be a great way to feed their curiosity, and make sure they rest every once in awhile. A four-year-old may be constantly on-the-go, but he always has time to pause and give his mom, dad or caregiver a great big squeeze.
5 Four-Year-Olds Are Imaginative
Children of this age may adore making up stories or telling "tall tales." They have grasped the concept that some things are real, while others are fantastical. Despite this discovery, imaginative play is one of their favorite pastimes.
They love it when parents or caregivers join in on the fun. Get down on the floor with your four-year-old and pretend to be crawling through the tall grass of the Sahara desert, or slice up some sandwiches for a tea party with the dolls. Your four-year-old will feel like the coolest and luckiest kid around.
Four-year-olds love to make believe. This is a normal and healthy part of a child's development. This may be the age that an imaginary friend joins the family. Don't be alarmed if your child is suddenly talking to thin air, he's just having fun and growing up in his own special way. Before you know it, he'll be spending more time talking to his real-life girlfriend, who might not be your first choice, so enjoy the imaginary friend thing while it lasts.
4 Four-Year-Olds Are Independent
Usually, four-year-olds are able to do things like getting dressed and brushing their teeth all on their own. They are also eager to be helpful. Sure, they may make more of a mess than anything when trying to assist in household duties, but finding small tasks for them to do like taking out the trash or feeding the dog can help teach them responsibility.
At this age, children understand the concept of many different every-day things like money, time, appliances and food. Four-year-olds love to do things all by themselves, and allowing them the freedom to do so, within reason, will help them to flourish and thrive.
While this age group has a new-found sense of freedom, they still don't have the best reasoning skills. They still need to be watched closely, despite what they may think, especially when close to busy roads or sources of water. Allow four-year-olds the space they crave, but remember that they aren't quite ready to go it alone. Thank goodness.
3 Four-Year-Olds Are Social
Most four-year-olds adore the company of others, especially other children. Of course, some kids will be more extroverted than others. A child at this age may have many acquaintances, or just one or two very close friends. Allowing your child the opportunities to build friendships with others her own age will serve her well throughout her life.
Four-year-olds have a desire to be accepted and to please their friends. This is a good age to talk to children about what is and isn't appropriate behavior, especially if they begin spending time at friend's houses without you present.
They are beginning to love their friends, but at this age, Mom and Dad still take the cake. They look up to you. They adore you. They long to emulate you in every way. Remember you have the ability to be their very best friend for life. Spend time with your four-year-old playing and reading, singing and exploring, and you'll build a bond and friendship that will last a lifetime.
2 Four-Year-Olds Are Hilarious
The things kids say are often comedy gold, and four-year-olds might be the most hilarious of all. Why? They have pretty much mastered the art of stringing words together to create sentences, and are able to tell you what they want and why.
They can make up stories and explain to you exactly what is going on up there in their silly heads. While kids this age are able to communicate, they are still very much in the process learning and understanding how in the heck the world works. They may have misconceptions or make honest observations that will will have you rolling.
Enjoy your silly little guy. He may be a little passionate about pirates or dinosaurs, but he's one funny tot. Listen when he has a story to tell. It's likely you won't regret it. It may be a good idea to record a few of the things he says to keep you laughing the first time he crashes the car into a mailbox.
1 The Fantastic (Effing) Fours Will Be Over Too Soon
While four-year-olds often present a few new challenges, they also love you like never before. Now that your child is more aware of the world around her, she realizes how amazing you are, and will start to notice the things you do for her.
Four may be the age of back-talking and too many "Why's" to count, but it's also the age when your child will give you spontaneous hugs and kisses just because, leave little notes of appreciation on your pillow, and laugh at your super hilarious jokes, that sometimes she actually gets.
It won't be long until your child is grown, and you no longer have to watch her every second, scold her seemingly ever minute and pray every day that nothing gets broken or permanently stained. On these future days, when you sit in a quiet house, and your no-longer-little child is out in the world being awesome, you'll miss the difficult ages of days-gone-by. We know the two's and four's, and all the time in between, are a challenge. Get through the messy days by cherishing the sweet giggles, snuggles, small hands and messy kisses while you still can.