Reflections on Four

Around the time of Everett’s fourth birthday we watched some old videos of him and remarked on how he has changed over the last year in size and abilities. Here are a few recent thoughts and observations.

According to a recent story on NPR, children are cute only until they are around four and a half years old. This was based on a recent journal article that subsequently was picked up by several news outlets. The researchers set out to determine perceptions of children from infancy to age six in terms of likability and attractiveness. The actually data appears pretty weak (though amazingly did reach statistical significance) but reinforces something that many of us openly acknowledge: babies are cute; teenagers generally aren’t; sometime in between the cuteness wears off. Interestingly, these articles do not explain what comes after being cute, but it appears that we will find out in about six months.

Chris had just become accustomed to reasoning with a three year old when he was introduced to four year old reasoning. One morning we were getting ready to go to the beach when Everett announced:
“I don’t want to go to the beach.”
“Well all the adults and all the children are going to the beach, so I guess we’ll go play in the water and build sand castles and eat custard and french fries. And we will leave you here.”
“Well then you will get arrested.”
Melissa got her own version of this when she gave Everett an answer he didn’t want to hear and was told
“Momma, you need to learn a lesson about yes.”

Everett recently attended the fourth birthday party of his close friend George. Kelly, another close friend, was also there. The three of them have been in school together for about a year and have formed quite a bond. Now that Melissa has finished her dissertation Everett attends school just one day a week, and by coincidence the three of them were reunited at school on the Tuesday following George’s birthday. George’s parents had rented a bounce house for his party, which was a huge hit, but when Everett returned home from school that day he had something very serious to report: “Mom! George…did not…get…to keep…the bounce house.” Apparently no one explained to them that the bounce house was a rental, and they must have talked about it a lot on Tuesday. On a similar subject, Everett has been asking if he will have a birthday party at home with his friends. He has had mini-parties with family while we were traveling in June but has not had a proper birthday party at home yet.

Chris gave Everett a wallet for his fourth birthday. This idea came up because Everett has taken a great interest in Chris’ wallet recently. In fact, Everett can sometimes remove the wallet from Chris’ pocket without his knowledge, which is somewhat disconcerting. We asked Everett if he wanted his own wallet and explained to him the various kinds including the 1980’s era nylon wallets with velcro closures. We always got the same answer to this question: he looked at Chris and said “I want a wallet just like yours.” So a couple days after his birthday we went to the store and looked through all the wallets and picked one out. Note that this one has a bumpy texture but we explained to Everett that after years of use it will become smooth and shiny, just like Dad’s.

One comment that Everett received in the report card from his swim class a few months ago was that “He is a good conversationalist!”. And that is really saying something for a class that doesn’t involve much talking, and during which you can’t hear anything anyway because there are about 50 other children in the pool with a lot of echoes from the concrete walls. Our experience has been that conversations with a three year old often touch on existential questions, but recently they have become more fact-oriented, such as:
“How was the earth formed?”
“Does outer space ever end?”
Some time ago Chris did an imitation of Dr. Evil in one of the Austin Powers movies (the second one?) where he tells Scotty to zip it. Everett thought this was hilarious and picked it up immediately. Anyway, one day Chris was trying to answer the question about how the earth was formed while he and Everett were riding to school on the bike. Everett must not have liked Chris’ answer because he threw both arms in the air, pinched his fingers together and said “Bzzzzt!” just like Dr. Evil. Chris was laughing too hard to remind him that this was not exactly polite behavior.

A couple of interesting factoids about Barber-Butson offspring: Everett has stopped going to sleep before 10 or 11pm. We usually put him in bed by about 8pm and he stays in his room building nests, looking at books, herding elephants, etc. We have also noticed that BB offspring have a lot of complex vocalizations that seemingly continue throughout waking hours. As I write this (Chris speaking) it is about 10:30pm and Everett is still stomping around his room, singing, talking, asking if we are going to have any chocolate and whether someone can check on him.

During a recent bedtime Chris asked “What was your favorite thing about today?” and Everett replied “Seeing you.”

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