Letting It All Hang Out
Henry turned four on August third and I'm a bad Mommy blogger for not writing about this earlier. I'm not sure why my blogging has slowed to a virtual crawl, but it might have something to do with Facebook. Or with Henry being four.
He's changed a lot in the last six months or so. Remember the little boy who wouldn't talk to strangers? Somehow, this past summer, he morphed into a little boy who WILL NOT STOP TALKING TO STRANGERS. Seriously. I can't tell you how many times I've caught him stopping people on the sidewalk, asking who they are and where they're going. When we go to stores he wants to tell the cashiers all about his trains. He walks up to other parents at the park to tell them God-knows-what. He babbles. He prattles. HE WON'T STOP TALKING.
And this is good, mostly. It's nice to see him reaching out to others. I worry that he's bothering people, but for the most part people seem amused by Henry's exuberance. Or possibly they're just being polite.
Henry has also become more independent when he's playing outside. He likes to run around the perimeter of our house and our neighbors' houses, either with or without the neighbor kids. I'll often go in the house to get dinner started and come out a few minutes later to find Henry two doors down talking to our neighbor Don.
And speaking of my going in the house and leaving Henry outside -- last year I could not have conceived of letting him out of my sight. And I still wouldn't, say, go take a nap and leave him alone. But now if he's outside with the neighbor kids I'll sometimes stay inside and keep an ear and an eye out for him every few minutes. It scares me a little, to be honest. But his appetite for being outside is insatiable and sometimes I've got to get a few things done.
Another change this year has brought...aggression. Hoo boy. I read recently that boys have a surge of testosterone in utero that drops way down when they're a few months old. Then boys and girls are at about the same level until boys turn four, when they have a huge surge of testosterone again. I guess it drops again when they turn five and it stays low until they're about eleven.
And right on cue, a few days or a week before his fourth birthday, Henry started hitting. HITTING. My sweet baby boy, the one I always shielded from other children, was hitting. It was (and continues to be) mostly directed at me and his father, though he does have a tendency to grab things out of other kids' hands and do things like push other kids with his feet. But my husband and I have borne the brunt of Henry's aggressive behavior. One day it was so bad that I locked myself in the bathroom and cried because I didn't want to have a little boy who behaved like this.
Henry is still aggressive, but things aren't as bad as they were around his birthday. Now he's more apt to say, "If you don't get me the paints, I'll HIT you!" I hate hearing this from my baby boy. But I'm trying (though not always succeeding) to be aware of a few things. First of all, he could be dealing with a surge of testosterone. I do think that's real, judging from my conversations with other mothers of four-year old boys.
But also, I think this is such an age of changes. He sees his friends going off to kindergarten and he's more aware that the neighbor kids are at school all day, too. He's started riding a two-wheeler with training wheels (though he still mostly rides his tricycle). He's not potty-trained (yeah, I know) but he's aware that this is unusual and he's done some talking about it. He's separating from me but probably scared to be separating, at the same time. His brain is processing an incredible amount of information...he's constantly questioning and putting things together and just amazing me with his complex thinking skills.
So I'm guessing that he 1) has a lot of pent-up fears and frustrations that he's not sure how to handle and 2) wants to make sure we're still going to be there for him, no matter what changes he may undergo.
This is not to say I haven't done my share of screaming at him. I'm not proud of the way I've responded to some of his aggression. It's hard when someone is demanding your immediate attention and physically assaulting you and you're so tired that all you want to do is sit and flip though a catalog for FIVE MINUTES to be empathetic and react calmly. But I'm working on it.
In more positive news, Henry's personality is really shining through lately. He's taken to wearing one red Croc and one orange Croc, sometimes on the wrong feet, just because he can. He won't let us cut his hair because he wants to grow it long. He raids my jewelry box for necklaces to wear. He comes up with random scenarios to act out ("I'm a yellow-jacket and I'm nice but sometimes I accidentally sting. So when I sting you can go to the snake and he'll spit medicine in your mouth.") that must somehow help him process some information, though I can't always figure out what that might be. He used to say that he wanted to work for Walsh Piano Movers when he grew up, but now he says he'd like to be a train engineer -- "But don't worry, Mom, I'll come home again in time for dinner."
And although he almost always wipes off our kisses he lets me hug him many, many times a day. And the occasional kiss he allows is that much sweeter.