I’m not ashamed to admit that I have relatively no idea what I’m doing as a parent.

I do my best to talk to other parents, get expertise advice from our pediatrician and read as much parenting content that my fingers can frantically find and quickly absorb. But if I’m being honest, I think I’m waiting for a non-existent “easy” button to magically appear.

I’m learning that with every passing stage, parenting doesn’t get any easier — as many would lead us to falsely believe.

The infant stage saw lots of late-night, sleep-deprived feedings. The twos brought newfound free will, and I thought for sure nothing could be worse than the tantrums of a 3-year old. But none of that compares to the defiant 4-year old currently residing in our home.

I look at my son and see that he appears to be stuck in limbo between a needy toddler and an independent little boy. His face has lost nearly all traces of babyhood and I swear he grows taller by the second.

He’s smart — almost too smart for his own good. And he has ears like a bat that are constantly on high alert to catch any naughty word within earshot for repeating. Ironically, he also has selective hearing, letting directions that go against his agenda appear to go unheard.

He knows what buttons to push. He wants his independence, yet is still so reliant on me and other adults for guidance. He wants to call the shots, yet still pleads for me to lay down with him at bedtime because “he’s scared.”

Parenting a 4-year-old may feel like they are trying to push you away by testing the limits, but really they want you to come closer. They’re starting to understand that the world is big and scary, and they are navigating their intense emotions and seek the comfort and security of their loving parents.

So when you feel like you are at a loss for what to do, know you are not alone. Parenting isn’t easy and no one handed us a guidebook. Wouldn’t that have been nice?

I’m learning that Omaha is full of fantastic resources to help you and your child through whatever challenge you’re facing. Don’t know where to start? Talk to a friend, a teacher, your pediatrician  —  people who support you and want to see you and your child thrive.

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Kendra Perley is a mom to two young boys who keep her busy. When not wrangling boys, she's an established freelance writer who loves helping businesses elevate their products and services with words. You can find more of her parenting stories on her blog, The Maternal Canvas.

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