Four and the journey is just starting

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Mummy Musings is a fortnightly column where Elisabeth Lee navigates the ups and downs of bringing up her daughter.

So, I finally have a four-year-old! It has been a magical week filled with cake, games, sleepovers, playdates and more. Little A’s daycare even baked her a cake, so she enjoyed quite a few birthday songs and celebrations. I don’t think she’s laughed as loudly or as long ever. All in all, I’d say birthday week was a success.

And now, the hangover sets in. After a week of no-holds-barred sugar, coming down off a birthday high has been tricky to say the least. Birthday week was a “yes” week, where we made a few pretty lenient parenting decisions. Sure, have more cake. Yes, you may wear pajamas to daycare today. Okay, you can go outside in the freezing rain to chase a few balloons around. And so on.

But this week has been more of a festival of “no”. No, there is no more cake. No, we need to stick to our routine. No, it isn’t your birthday anymore – you are going to have wait another 365 days for the next one. There have been tears and sulks – and like the progression from two to three, three to four has been very similar. Little A is the same A inside, except now she has more words at her disposal, and she can do more – so much more.

As her mother, I’m struggling to keep up with this rapid pace of development. Turning four means A has shed the last vestiges of babyhood. Kids lose their baby smell at around the age of one, then they lose baby talk at the age of two, and then – for A – three marked a new level of independence. She gave up daytime diapers, and began to dress herself, brush her teeth and more.

This year, we’re marking turning four with a whole slew of new skills. Skiing, confidently riding her bike, shampooing her own hair, cooking, vacuuming, mopping, washing dishes and so much more. It’s hard to remember that despite this newly competent appearance, she is still a child – a very young child – at heart.

There’s a quote from a book I’ve been reading called Hold On To Your Kids that has really resonated with me as a parent:

“What to us looks like independence is really just dependence transferred. We are in such a hurry for our children to be able to do things themselves that we do not see just how dependent they really are. Like power, dependence has become a dirty word. We want our children to be self-directing, self-motivated, self-controlled, self-orienting, self-reliant, and self-assured. We have put such a premium on independence that we lose sight of what childhood is about. Parents.” 

So, happy birthday little A. I’m so proud of how far you’ve come but at the same time, I want you to remember that it’s okay for you to lean on me. Lean on me as much as you want – I will always be here for you, I promise.


Elisabeth Lee is proof that it is never too late to consider a second, third or even fourth career, having come to both motherhood and writing late in life. She occasionally freelances and can be reached at

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