We said goodbye to our four-year-old nephew today. We’d kept him for a few days because his parents were out of town. It’s amazing how much having a little one changes the dynamic in a family. With two teenagers in the house (and one who’s almost there) things are different for us than they were an eyeblink ago.
These days our lives are marked by large swaths of the predictable. There’s lots of quiet and a fair bit of angsty journal writing. But four-year-olds need to yell, to jump straight up in the air, to be reminded to go potty. They need eye contact and physical touch and snacks. They need sleep.
As we re-arranged our lives to provide those things for our nephew I realized that my teens need a lot of the same things he does–still, after all this time. I watched them hunker down and watch kid cartoons with the pre-schooler, wrestle till they were sweating, play hide-and-seek, and evil robots. I watched them grab books and blankets during the little guy’s nap, giving in to the old relief of a time-out. I watched them be kids, and also, I saw their rapidly approaching adulthood as they helped meet the needs of someone smaller. Someone they used to be.
And I remembered: deep down, we are all four-year-olds.