My Little Helper

My son is now 4 and 1/2. He's different now. I remember an unnie (older sister/friend) once told me, "4 is a different world." I was skeptical. I thought I would be spending the rest of my life managing one tantrum-meltdown after another. If it's your first time on Daechoong Mama, maybe a little preface is in order. Basically my son drove me crazy the last two years. He was an absolute dream before 2, but then his sister was born and it was game over. He started testing boundaries all the time. He became picky with his food (he still kinda is). He started HATING sleep and naps. If he didn't get his way it would lead to insufferable tantrums, often in public. But then he turned 4 in March and I started to see changes in him. Then, when the school year started in August, it's like a light switch turned on.

He started listening when we asked him to do things. He started understanding boundaries. When we told him simple instructions, he started to follow them, and not disobey just to drive us crazy. Also, he loves to help . He's taken ownership of his role as an older brother. He understands that because he's the oldest, it's his job to help. I remember reading in Babble or one of those hipster parenting blogs about "getting your toddler to help." I tried to get him to help me make a sandwich or something when he was 3, and it ended up being a whining-tantrum-filled fiasco, resulting in an inedible sandwich and piece of my soul dying.  "Hipster parenting blog, ruining my life!!" I thought, and I vowed never to let him help me with anything ever again. Then he turned 4 and having him help me is fulfilling, fun, and at times a God-send!

He started to help me cook. I noticed the Crock-Pot is great way to introduce kids to cooking. I don't have to stress about burns etc. I typically cut up the ingredients and he puts it in the Crock-Pot and will help me mix it. Afterwards he's so proud of the end result and will go on and on during dinner about how he made the food we are eating.

I noticed there are plenty of ways he can help, like pealing carrots.

When we make egg salad sandwiches for lunch he'll cut up the egg whites with a butter knife.

He's got a butter knife and he knows how to use it!

Another amazing thing is that he'll eat salad now!

When his sister finds kiddie siscors and decides to hack apart the silk flowers, it's big brother to the rescue... vainly picking up the pieces and trying to put it together.

Just before I took this picture he grabbed his sister before she ran into the ocean.

Gathering seashells for his sister.

After breakfast on Saturdays they'll have chocolate milk. Joey will grab one for him and his sister and put the straw in for her.

When we go to the mall and Kaitlyn runs around the stores, Joey will usually grab her just in time.

 Just 6 months earlier I used to dread taking him to the bank. He would run around the bank trying to get on top of the teller counter like he was about to perform a heist. Now while I'm at the bank Joey will sit with his sister and feed her snacks.

I took these pictures over the course of a few months. I noticed, each time he was able to help me cook, or help with his sister somehow, over time I soon expected it. Now I expect him to be helpful and be an extra pair of hands and eyes with watching his sister. I realize also, that the last two years are a blur. I remember while I was going through that time I felt like it would be forever.

I was recently backing up my hard drive and I went through some old videos of him. Some videos of him crying and whining, trying to piece his words together and get attention, he still had some baby fat in his cheeks. I strangely felt sad that it seemed like such a distant memory, almost like I was watching another child. I felt like I missed those times, even though they were filled with frustration and strife.  I couldn't help but think, "Is that how he looked? Did he really use talk like that? Did he really act like that?" I look back and I wonder did I handle that phase as best as I could? I remember losing my cool so many times. I remember it took every last drop of patience (and I have very little) to keep from shouting at the top of my lungs on a daily basis. Did he mellow out because we were always disciplining him or was all that unnecessary and all I needed to do was wait till maturity took over? I'll never know for sure. All I know is that although I love this new found chapter in seeing my son mature, seeing his distinct personality take form, seeing his love for learning, his love for his family, especially his sister, and his overall optimism that is so unique to childhood... the last phase is gone. Nothing I did can be undone.

I'm realizing motherhood is a train without stops or breaks and once you ride through one phase, if you don't take a close look around you, breathe in the air and enjoy the scenery and appreciate everything about it, before you know it, it's gone. Though there's always looking over the horizon to what the next phase has in store, it's a journey that's always looking forward. I need to keep that in mind with every new territory motherhood takes me, lest I pass through and not remember or appreciate where I was.

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