There are the “terrible twos” (aka the tantrum phase of the two-year-old). There is also the “Threenager,” a play on preschoolers having the stubborn attitude of a teenager. I am proposing that there is also the “Fourlosopher” (pronounced: Four-la-so-fer), meaning a deeply thoughtful and curious phase of childhood. This proposition is not something that is based on the latest research in child development. It is simply my observation of my kid.
Lately, my son has been getting heavy on me. He is getting deep into thought. He has been asking some pretty serious life questions that at my age I still struggle to answer and appreciate.
I also struggle with the best way to respond to him. I want to hear his question and not blow him off. I want to offer him a simple, age-appropriate, and not overly complicated answer. I also want to offer a response that doesn’t crush his creative, inquisitive nature. I have heard so many times adults say things in conversation like, “I used to have this dream…”, “I used to think I could…”, “…but somewhere along the way I realized I couldn’t.” I am not saying that there won’t be barriers for my kid to face. I know that some things he will just have to figure out the hard way. What I want to say behind my responses to his questions is a message that encourages more questions or encourages him to “try it and see what IS possible.”
I love it when he asks me “Why?” Even after he asks me why twenty times, I treat each one as a Zen exercise in parenthood patience.
Here are some of the questions that he has asked and a few of my explanations to him:
One night at bedtime he asked me, “What are regrets?” Instead of guilting him, I simply said, “Sometimes people make bad choices and later wish they had done it differently.” A few days later, he asked me the question again while we were in the car. I just told him a story about how once I got a vanilla ice cream and really wished I had a chocolate one. When he asks me again, which I am sure he will, I plan to tell him a story that involves characters and ask him what they could do differently.
He has asked me about ancestors, which is a super hard one for me since most of my maternal family is no longer living. I say things like ancestors are the people in our family who were born before us and are no longer alive. I struggle with the best stories to tell him of their hard life—not the parts that involve honky-tonking. Instead, I tell him about their travels, most creative moments, or silly stories.
His new question is, “What are arguments?” I tell him that they sometimes happen when people don’t like the same things or when they can’t share. I then ask him if he can think about times when people argue. If he can’t give me an answer, I tell him about times I have arguments with people. If he does answer or seems interested in my story, I will ask him how the argument could end peacefully or not even start at all.
Some of his observations are also pretty on-point and seem much wiser than his age.
The last few weeks have been very busy in our lives. We have moved three times (and are now settled in a new home)! Last night, he declared, “Mom, you seem pretty stressed. Are you ok?” I tried not to cry at the stress or the moment and said, “Yes honey, mamma has been really stressed getting everything organized for our new awesome home.” He said, “I thought so.” Later, I heard him clunking up the stairs. When I peeked around the corner, I saw him tugging a box up the stairs. When I asked him, “What are you doing, hon?” He simply replied with his sweet, serious face, “I am working hard like you and dad. I am unpacking my toys.” It was total tearjerker and heart-warming moment.