what a four year old should know

I see people inquire about milestones a lot online. I get it. It's easy to compare and worry and it's exciting when your child does things on their own. It's excitement and elation and pride and disbelief all rolled up into one teenybopper-esque shriek that you let out -- as your eyes well up -- when you see your child do something so remarkable. Write their name? Recite the alphabet? Read their first word? I mean, these moments are golden and magical and transport you back to that first moment your little bundle of joy was placed on your chest after birth and time seemed at a standstill.

But when it comes to guidelines, when it comes to what a four year old should know, the bulleted lists of academic skills simply do our children such a huge disservice. The checklist that ranks our children from delayed to on par to advanced consumes us as a society and creates expectations. Expectations and stress. And if there is one word that I want to keep out of my child's vocabulary as long as I possibly can, it's stress.

What a four year old should know is love. A four year old should know that they are loved. They should know how to love, purely and simply and beautifully as children do.

A four year old should know comfort. They should know that the arms of their parents are a haven whenever they feel frightened. They should never know a fear of abandonment, of feeling alone versus the big world around them.

A four year old should know the enthralling, exhausting feeling of an afternoon of play. Of play so free and unrestricted and unlimited.

A four year old shouldn't have to worry. Not about homework or wake-up times or finishing their food or art project in a designated amount of time, before they're even finished. They shouldn't have to worry about failing or inferiority or not stacking up against the expectations unfairly set for them.

A four year old should feel free. They should feel as if they have the entire world to plant their roots into. They should feel as if no part of this world is off limits for them to explore.

A four year old should learn through play. They should have their natural need to learn nurtured. They should have magic in their eyes and dreams in their head.

A four year old should be free. Free to be. Free to be a child. Free to submerge themselves entirely in childhood and every aspect of it.

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