This article first appeared on The Good Men Project and has been republished with permission.
When my older daughters were four we did not have the luxury of navel gazing to truly appreciate their wonderful humanity. Sure we reveled in their daily brilliance, discoveries, and cuteness, but Finley and Avery both had little siblings to dilute part of their experience.
Our life was diaper blowouts, lost lovies, wet dishrags, infinite laundry and laughing to keep from crying. With our third and final child Declan being in the middle of his fourth year I’ve been ruminating on how really incredible four-year-olds are.
We spend so much energy teaching our children, not realizing that they are the ones teaching us.
Here are four reasons why four-year-olds are peak human.
1. Default Mode is Happy
Like the frequent colds they acquire from their suspect hygiene practices, giggles are also contagious for four-year-olds. They don’t understand war, taxes, poverty, genocide, politics or depression; they understand play. Play keeps them is a constant state of learning and therefore in a constant state of joy.
These fun junkies see the potential in all as a springboard for more smiles. A discarded pop bottle is a rocket ship, cherry juice is vampire blood, chasing a bubble dancing in the breeze is Valhalla. Their wonder is only limited by their stamina, which they are not afraid to squeeze every last drop from as they leave the park contented with having left it all on the field.
2. They Take Their Time
While it can be maddening seeing our Declan meandering at the back of our pack, he is right not to hurry. Usually he has picked up a stick or leaf and mumbles to it as the sun or rain gently hits his face. He is studying, the shapes, the sound, the smells, the colors and the feels of things.
With our daily diet of satellite connected devices, we forget to slow down and be present and get connected to the small miracles of existence. Four-year-olds treat this as a second nature. Although illiterate with books they have wisdom and full literacy on matters of the simple and divine. The sparkle in their eye and laugh is a potent reminder to enjoy the process more than the result, let the juice of life run down your chin and not care if it stains your shirt.
3. They are Prejudice Free
With the exception of leafy green vegetables and naps, four-year-olds are pretty free from bias. They don’t care about fashion brands, body image, and automobile hierarchy. From a homeless person to fancy businessman everyone is afforded the same level of compassion, understanding, and love. They don’t see differences or limits; they just see other kids and possibilities.
4. They Still Want to be a Cuddle Buddy
For the most part, the four-year-old population is incredibly kind, benevolent, and compassionate. Their antenna is highly tuned to pick up when an animal or human is in some discomfort. They study faces and vibes and are expert in empathy. A four-year-old is love, pure uncut love.
While it’s amazing to witness their growing independence, I can’t help by be warmed by their dependence. I’ll miss those long hugs with their skinned knee slightly bleeding into you newly pressed shirt as you rub their back tell them it will be OK.
When Declan has a bad dream and shows up bedside at four in the morning we gladly take him into the bed. We find comfort in our ability to comfort him. For that night we hide from the meanness, injustice, and fear of the world. Under the warmth of the comforter, Declan feels protected by the blanket of love that only Mom and Dad can provide and we feel warmed by the hope, joy, optimism and love that can only be provided by a four-year-old.
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