10 Things I’ve Learned From My 4 Year Old


Two weekends ago Dominic and Max took off on a boy’s weekend to visit his parents and Jem and I stayed home to work on some projects and celebrate an impromptu girl’s weekend. It included her first ever viewing of Anne of Green Gables … priceless! The two days just us was 10x better than I could have expected and I find myself thinking about our solo time together a lot. It helps that she brings it up almost daily, reminding me of her favorite parts … gnocchi soup at Olive Garden, buying the illustrious Puppy Surprise she has been wanting and my wearing an outfit she picked out just for me. And while I loved all those things too (her mama dog had 3 puppies who were promptly named Wendy, Lullaby and Reuben!) I find myself reflecting on 1) how freaking lucky I am to call her mine and 2) all that she has taught me over the last 4 years.  This little girl, my brilliant, bold and beautiful daughter, has taught me so much and to her I’m forever grateful for these little lessons. She is a window into God’s grace and mercy and a kind heart that I get to spend each day with.

This list could easily be 20 long, but for now, 10 things Jemma has taught me lately …

Embrace today for what it is. Every morning Jemma greets me with “Is today a home day or an errand day?” No matter my answer her reply is “Yay! I’m so super happy!” She embraces each day no matter how menial and I love that.

Regular things are special. Strawberry jam on her toast – delicious! Snuggles on the couch in our pajamas – the best! Folding the laundry together – let’s put on music! I adore how the regular ol’ daily things of life are special to her. She views life with an extra sparkle and it rubs off on me often. 

It’s ok to have big emotions. Happiness and sadness come in waves. She lets them fly, do their bidding and then, is easily comforted. Sometimes feeling the good and the bad, rather than stuffing them is best for all. I’m learning from her to be ok with how I feel so I can process it, truly experience it and then move on.

Resting is crucial to sanity. We’ve started to view our days in two shifts … morning and evening. Rest happens in between and it acts as a reset for us all. It’s like we get two days in one, every day!

Say “I love you” just because. Jem is the best at saying (and signing) “I love you” frequently and for no obvious reason. She does the same with hugs. She pours out love and appreciation and it makes everyone around her feel extra special. 

How to be brave. At the young age of 4 I’m already astounded at Jemma’s bravery. She jumps into the pool (something I still don’t do!), is always willing to try new things and has just started raising her voice above a whisper to speak to waiters when we’re out. I can literally watch her muster courage from inside. It’s displayed across her face … first worry and fear, then a stamp of determination as she sets out on whatever task or conversation. It’s admirable.

Carrying another’s burden. Jemma is quick to come to Max’s aid and does so daily. He is her biggest tormenter and yet, when he is frustrated, angry or sad she is usually the first one by his side asking him questions, rubbing his back and shushing him into a sisterly hug. She feels for him and often times is the one who remedies his problem.

Age appropriate means nothing. Physical age is just a number, it really is. Soul age is something much deeper and more real. Jem has old friends and baby friends. She colors in 8+ coloring books and still likes to be worn in a ring sling. She watches Call the Midwife and Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood. I feel like I’ve become Jemma’s friend, despite being decades older and it has made me watch for other friends to appear in my life, regardless of their age.

Creating order. Perfect little lines and exact routines make my little one thrive. She colors like a perfectionist, remembers the smallest details and follows the rules to a tee. She creates order in her life and it suits her well. I stoke it up all I can, because Lord knows I could use some more orderliness.

It’s ok to have your own “thing”. Sometimes I laugh at Jemma’s “weirdness”. But you know what, weird is really great – it makes us exactly who we are. In Jemma’s case … she loves Barry Manilow and listens to his “Best Of” CD at least once a day. She won’t allow her hair to be in a bun because “it’s just too crazy” (which leads you to wonder what she thinks about my hair most days”. She prefers just peanut butter sandwiches (God forbid the jelly!) and daily requires a dose of elderberry “to stay extra healthy”. Her favorite animal is an armadillo and most of her sentences include a very descriptive adverb – lately, “extremely” finds its way into all our conversations. She’s weird but she doesn’t know it, because to her, being weird is just owning who she is and I think we could all use a dose of weirdness acceptance, right?

What’s something your children have taught you lately? Isn’t it kinda crazy and awe inspiring all that these little people teach us? I’m honestly floored and so grateful that Jesus has blessed me with these little teachers. Motherhood is by far my most noteworthy education; nothing can quite compare.

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  1. says

    What a sweet post! My almost 3 year-old is into order too (when he feels like it): he tells us to put on shoes, and to brush our teeth, and to not step on his toys. What I learn from him is persistence. Sometimes he keeps doing the wrong things (like touching the remote controls) but other times it’s building a Lego tower, or finding a beat on his toy drums. He is an amazing kid. Thanks for reminding me to look for the lessons!

    • Gretchen says

      Yes! They’re so persistent! It’s amazing to watch them learn.