Before I even had kids, I knew about the “terrible twos.” I had heard tales of tantrums and legends of toddler destruction. I had witnessed meltdowns of small children in restaurants, the grocery store, and the middle of the toy aisle in Target. I knew what to expect.

When I had my first child, I read the chapters in parenting books about two-year-olds, learning about their brain development and what is normal. I researched how to cope with their unruly behavior. I was armed and prepared so when the twos happened, I was ready. And I survived, as did my kids.

I threw out the parenting books, certain I would no longer need them. Ha! I was a “terrible two” survivor! I was on top of the world. I’d prevailed. I was certain that I could handle anything my kids dished out, at least until the teenage years. I was laughing, but so was the universe. Clearly I should have kept reading.

Four-year-olds are fun. They’re sweet, adorable, and say really smart and funny things. Most of the time you just want to squish their cute little cheeks and listen to their silly stories. Be warned though, within that sweet, loving, happy child lies a “fournado” just waiting to be unleashed and wreak havoc on anything within a five mile radius.

On a routine trip to the grocery store, my son turned into a raging lunatic. He was not provoked, thirsty, hungry, or tired. He was just four and very passionate about a sugary cereal on the grocery store shelf that he’d never actually tried but that had a picture of Star Wars on it, so it must be good. So good, in fact, that he could not possibly live without it. To emphasize that his very survival was 100 percent reliant on said cereal, he took off his rubber boot, threw it down the aisle, and refused to go on until it was safely ensconced in his ironclad grip. Needless to say, I was having none of it. Neither was he. He proceeded to have a very vocal sit-in protest in the middle of the breakfast foods aisle. A sit-in that, thankfully, ended in his surrender.

That was the day that I learned that four-year-olds invest themselves, body and soul, into random, weird things. Like cereal.

I have also learned that they have really strong opinions. About everything. The food they eat, the clothes they wear, or how to brush their hair. They know what they like, what they don’t like, and they’re not afraid to let you know. Loudly. Whenever. Wherever. They speak in full sentences, understood by all, at an incredibly high volume. Sometimes they even say things that they probably shouldn’t, like “you’re a big dumb poopy-head.”

Similar to their former two-year-old selves, four-year-olds are still capable of turning into a writhing pile of Jell-o on the floor, but they have the added bonuses that they now possess more stamina, are less easily distracted, and have their minds wired to do whatever it takes to bend matter to their will. They’re also a lot heavier than they were two years ago, making it difficult to haul them out of potentially embarrassing situations.

Another fun fact? Four-year-olds know everything. You? You know nothing. There is no point in arguing with them. You will, because they’re the harbingers of alternative facts and it’s your job as a parent to teach them right from wrong. Even things that are absolute will be questioned, turned upside down, and put back together to suit their alternate reality.

An example: that big yellow thing that rises in the east every morning since the dawn of time is known as the sun by all, except for my four-year-old, who declared one morning, “That is not the sun. It is the moon.”

I responded, “It’s the sun. The sun rises in the east. That is east.”

My four-year-old disagreed. “It’s not the east! And that is not the sun!”

There is no winning in an argument with a four-year-old.

Yup, four-year-olds are crazy. They lose their minds over ridiculous things. Like cereal. Or pants. Or that one tiny piece of Lego that has disappeared forever. They will make you feel like you are losing your mind, your sanity unraveling thread by thread. They question everything and will make you question everything too. They are frustrating and exhausting. They are also amazing little people who are just trying to figure out how this whole big world works and how they work in it.

Here’s to being four! (And hoping five-year-olds are somewhat saner.)

This was originally posted on Sammiches and Psych Meds.