Saturday, March 5, 2011

You can't always get what you want...

Augie turned four last weekend.

Four is a great age, at least if you're a parent or caregiver. Kids are developing their personalities and their passions, they still have most of their innocence, and they are (mostly) getting past the tantrum stage so they can be reasoned with.

Augie had once told me, "Grandma, it's hard to be three." And it was. Suddenly he had to be thinking constantly about getting to the potty on time, no matter where he was or how much fun he was having. Also, his little sister, just 15 months younger, was graduating from baby toys to whatever he had at the moment. He had to learn to share, and to "Be nice to your sister."

This week, just after his birthday, I asked whether it was better being four, and he said, "Sure," which sometimes means, "I'm not wasting time thinking about that."

I'm no expert in psychology, but I know that at some point - and for me it was as a four-year-old - we realize that our parents cannot meet all our needs and wants, that the world is not perfect, that we are not guaranteed perfect love and success. How and when this hits us determines what our issues will be in later life. For example, some of us will crave unconditional love (love me for being who I am) while others will crave approval (love me for doing what I do). I don't know all the theory behind this, but I believe it. Peter says the trick is to help children come to grips with these realities without totally crushing their spirits.

Yesterday we were watching a few short videos on YouTube with Augie and Vi. As usual, Augie wanted more. We said no, it was time to go and play, and we started naming possibilities - play the drums, do some tap dancing, play with Legos, color, make sticker pictures, pound some nails, and on and on. He wasn't having any of it. He cried and carried on and buried his head in his hands. Then he looked up.

"Pa," he wailed, "Why can't we have whatever we want in life?"

There it was. The Question. Not just, "Why can't I do what I want to"? but "Why can't I have whatever I want in life?"

I gathered him into my lap and said that sometimes we want things that aren't good for us, and sometimes we want things that just aren't possible. I was on the verge of telling him the secret is finding happiness with what you  have. And yes, we and his parents will all tell (and show) him that.

But I stopped talking, and for the next half-hour we just sat and cuddled. Eventually he got interested in something his sister was doing and went off to play.

Later, during quiet time, I heard him singing softly to himself. "It's hard to be three. It's hard to be four...five, six, seven...." He counted up to twenty-something before he trailed off. He didn't sound especially upset, just interested and processing a new idea.

I don't want it to be hard to be four. But we can't always get everything we want.

So we'll have to set about being happy with what we have. And that's a lot.

22 comments:

Teresa Evangeline said...

What a beautiful post, Nancy. Augie is so blessed to have you and Pa to help him through his days, his life. He seems to have an understanding spirit. What a great trait to take him through life.

Linda Myers said...

How wonderful to stop talking and cuddle without words!

DJan said...

I have asked that same question many times in my life. It seems that there are no good answers. Perhaps just cuddling with Gram is the best answer of all...

Grandmother said...

Yep, cuddling gets us through some tough times. This might be a good time to teach him the song "You Don't Always Get What You Want" and really belt it out!

400 Wakeups said...

What is really sort of amazing is that some kids never actually learn this lesson. They *always* get what they want and then they learn the hard way later that the real world is not like that. Like me, for instance. I didn't have that realization when I was 4...I was closer to 14. And wow. That will hit you like a ton of bricks. Suddenly, you are starting high school and your whole world turns upside down. So BIG kudos to you for giving him a cuddle and a little advice and a plan to keep doing so in the future. It really is the best way to love a child. And I agree with "Grandmother"...it may be time to teach him all about the Rolling Stones.

Retired English Teacher said...

I loved this post. I've spent the weekend with my 12 and 8 year old grandchildren so we could celebrate their mom's birthday. We had a special meeting today to re-focus on just whose day it was today because some wanted what they wanted for today. in the end, we all were very happy with the day and how it went. This is a very hard lesson in life to learn and to teach. It seems you are doing a great job at it.

Midlife Jobhunter said...

Nope, we don't always get what we want. But I always knew when my kids were four. I had read this and decided my kids would never succumb. But it happened. If they were four, they were lying. Such a shock to those of us who want them to remain innocent.

Hope all is well in your world.
Julie

Kat said...

I really enjoyed reading this post. Thanks for sharing your life with us other grandmothers! I love the mind of a 4 year old.

Marion Williams-Bennett said...

Oh, 4! How wonderful!

It can be hard to be 4 and 5 and 6...but then there are the great moments.

Enjoy each and every one!

Jeanie said...

What a bright little guy Augie is. He seems to be learning things at 4that some people never learn. He is lucky to have grandma hugs to help him through figuring it all out.

Jeanne said...

He's a thoughtful little guy, isn't he?

WhisperingWriter said...

Great post.

My daughter is about to turn 4.

Deb Shucka said...

One of my favorite of your posts! So much poignant wisdom here. Augie's such a lucky little guy. And awfully cute, too.

gayle said...

Your little grandson sounds so smart! Bryson likes to play games on the computer and it's so hard for me to tell him no. I do try to make them educational. When he gets upset he doesn't like to cuddle.

Paul C said...

We read about all the princes and princesses that parents are raising. It's good to read a post which provides a counterbalance to this perspective.

Far Side of Fifty said...

He is learning about boundaries too..loving boundaries..you are a good Grandma:)

Lisa @ Grandma's Briefs said...

This is such a heartwarming post. So great that you were fortunate to see him working his way through the idea of it all, coming to terms thanks to your cuddling. Truly loved this. (And that's one fine tower of Legos/Duplos, too! Great photo!)

grammy said...

Great post.
I love the little song he was singing...it is hard to be 'lots' of different ages and not understand WHY you can't have it. My 25 year old son was heart broken...smashed actually, he broke up with the love of his life and he was 'Broken' for awhile. WHY, why why??? he wanted to know. I am so glad he is recovering..but it was hard.
By the way... I am glad you limit the screen time. So many young Moms just see no problem with the endless screen time....bet they never thought of letting a little one hammer a nail (o:

Kristy said...

What a wonderful post! Thank goodness for Grandparents for knowing what to say and giving cuddles. What a thoughtful little boy! My boy turns three TOMORROW! I have heard from others that four is really better. Not that things are terrible right now, but he certainly is starting to try and push buttons!

Nezzy said...

Awwwww! There are just those time as 'rockin' grandmas' ya gotta set some pixel free time!!!

That's when the 'special' moments happen. Thanks for sharin' your!
I so enjoyed this sweetie.

God bless and enjoy your day! :o)

Jenny said...

I love this. I recently had a very similar conversation with our four year old Granddaughter. It must be the age when they're finding out they aren't the center of the Universe.

But, oh, wouldn't it be wonderful to be able to protect them always?

Susan Adcox said...

It's so tempting to assuage the pain, but it's a lesson better learned early than late: No, you can't always get what you want.

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