One of the great things about having a four-year-old is finally getting past the tantrum phase. Now that we’re past the terrible twos and the thankless threes, she’s very good with her words, clear on what she’s feeling and why, and willing to talk about it. These are good things. Amazing milestones, really. The way she can turn to me and, instead of launching into an over-the-edge outburst, say, “Mommy, I’m just feeling a little frustrated because I can’t get this dress back on the doll. Can you help me?” When she handles such moments with that level of grace I grab her and kiss her until she pushes me away. Finally, a reasonable person is emerging from that feisty little body of hers!
But with the fabulous fours there comes a new phase. The bossy phase. She doesn’t just boss her sister around, she goes after me, her father, her grandparents, her friends. She puts on her best authoritative voice and says, “No! You don’t do it like that. That’s the wrong way. You have to do it like this.” I hear this all day long, and to say it drives me crazy is putting it mildly. I did my best to cut her off whenever I saw Miss Bossy Pants emerging at play dates, not wanting the sweet younger children there to be subjected to her newfound domination streak. But after a few slips, and apologies to the other mothers, I learned that all of the four-year-olds in our play group are going through the same phase.
I get it, something about using your words and your will together to achieve a desired outcome. In that way it’s a pretty impressive development. But at home, when I’ve just heard her yell at her baby sister for feeding the imaginary crocodile an imaginary fish in their imaginary game, when Miss Bossy Pants only wants the croc fed chicken, I have to step in. It doesn’t seem to drive my husband as crazy as it makes me. Either because he’s not home all day to hear it over and over, or because, unlike me, he doesn’t instantly sympathize with the unfazed toddler who’s just been scolded. You see, he’s a big brother, and doesn’t know what it’s like to be bossed around your whole life by an older sibling. But I’m the baby sister in my family, and I know all too well how that feels. So, as much as I appreciate the self-confidence evident in her bossy voice, as glad as I am that she’s able to articulate herself in a way that gets what she wants, I’m not letting Miss Bossy Pants get away with it. It’s time for Miss Temperate Pants to emerge.