Tag Archives: anger

Friday Favourites 34

I told my husband that I would DEFINITELY post something upbeat and life affirming this week. So far I’ve managed insecure/neurotic and angry/confrontational. It’s not looking good.

This afternoon as I rocked an extra-tired boy in my arms for Nap Attempt #3 (his first nap was interrupted by an impromptu field trip to pick up sick big sister from school and his second by the aforementioned sister coughing/crying/calling for Mommy)… anyway, there was rocking and wiggling and he decided that I just HAD to take a turn sucking on his soother (which smells strongly of spit but is nevertheless a very sweet gesture). He’s a giver.

We were having a moment there, when he started coughing so hard he puked. A half liter of curdled milk all over me, the chair and the once-upon-a-time-cream-coloured-carpet. As I scrubbed and laundered and bathed, I have to admit I wasn’t feeling all that upbeat or affirmed.

But then I realized how good I’ve got it. Hubby worked from home today so I wouldn’t miss my lunch date with my aunt. Sick boy is extra snuggly and I am well within my rights to keep him in footie jammies all day long. Sick girl is content to lay on the couch and reacquaint herself with the Wiggles (just in time for their big concert on Sunday, at which point she WILL be healthy, she WILL). The big girls have playdates, fun activities at church and sleepovers, quite happily leaving us home to enjoy early bedtimes and whatever the grownups want to watch on Netflix all evening long.

It really is a wonderful, messy, difficult, meaningful, smelly, exhausting, worth-it-all life!

How’s that for upbeat? Now here’s some random stuff that makes me smile.

Quote

“Behind every great man is a woman rolling her eyes.”

~ Jim Carrey

Marketing Gimmick

Make something pink, add the tag line “for her” et voila: a whole new product. If it’s pointless enough Ellen, will promote it on her show.

App

Earlier this week I was reading a book, blissfully unaware of the world around me when out of nowhere a car careened around a corner, hit a blockade, flipped over and over and over and landed RIGHT ON TOP OF ME!

The next day I was caught in a fiery explosion while talking on the phone. The girls found Action Movie FX and I can’t help but get caught in the crossfire. You can add all kind of disasters to whatever you happen to be filming with just a click of a button.

Apple Maps Parody

So here’s the thing: I love apple products. And like most people who do, I am strangely loyal/obsessed/fangirl about them. But apparently Google doesn’t feel the same way. In fact, Apple and Google broke up last year. And Apple was all like, “I don’t need you anyway, I’ll make my own maps, better maps… You’ll rue the day!!! Mwhahahaha…”

So, the latest iPhone and, thanks to automatic updates, ALL of our phones, now have Apple Maps. And it is Terrible. But, there’s always a bright side; this one is that now we can all make fun of it. I bet Google is feeling pretty smug right about now.

So here’s me: I smell like vomit, the snot on my face is not my own, but who’s to say this isn’t life affirming?

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What Do You Say?

Last month I sat around a table with 1/2 a dozen sticky faced toddlers. Each one clutching a mangled dixie cup of cheerios in their hot little hands. Upon reaching the bottom of the cup they lift hopeful eyes in my direction. The more assertive personalities hold up their cup beseechingly.

“What do you say?”

Each one, in turn, squeaks out an adorable “pa-wease.” Even S rubs his tummy to sign the word.

After that, it’s smiles all around, flush with the success of snack acquisition and the effusive praise that comes with having “SUCH good manners.”

This is what we do. We teach our children what to say.

Say “Hi” to Grandma. Wave “Bye-bye.” Tell your brother “No thank you! I don’t like it when you throw sand in my eye/take my toy/hug me until I fall to the ground/bite me on the shoulder.”

We give our children words to foster relationships, stand up for themselves and express their feelings. We teach them how to treat others, and ourselves, with respect. Words are the sticks and stones brick and mortar of relationship development.

At the end of a meal our big kids are expected to clear their plate and say to whomever prepared the meal, “Excuse me, thank you for my dinner.” It’s a pretty habit we admired in the respectful, well-behaved children of other families we know. We do the same in the hopes that one day our children will morph into something similar.

I’m not so deluded as to believe it is always the honest expression of heartfelt gratitude. Some nights is sounds more like “excusemethankyouformydinner, it’s MY turn with the iPad, put it DOWN, it’s NOT FAIR, where’s MY ice cream, DON’T touch me, MOOOOOOO-OOOOOOM.”

Other nights we get the sullen, slumped shoulders version which sounds like the exact opposite of gratitude “Ex-cuuuuse me. Thanks for my ‘dinner.'” And we launch immediately into a lively post-dinner discussion about attitude and tone of voice, which is always fun. “What do you mean? That’s my normal voice. I always talk like that.” This actually does have a ring of truth, since sullen-pre-teen-cool is becoming our new normal. Sigh.

But we plug away. Every time they say the words, they go through the motions of Grateful. If nothing else, it is a reminder that meals do not magically appear on the table; they are a gift of time and effort, and hopefully (most nights) some small amount of skill.

Manners are a big deal in our house. I went toe to toe with the speech therapist who insisted that the sign for “want” was the strong verb B needed to use most in her communication. I insist on “please” when she needs something. It may seem like a small thing, but when words are few, they should be the right ones.

And hopefully attitude will follow action.

The easy part is writing all of this about my children; yet another parenting technique we subscribe to. The hard part is applying it to myself.

Glen and I had one of those rare lingering disagreements this weekend (we usually have heated/hurt feelings/cry/make up/I-can’t-really-remember-what-the-big-deal-was-anyway/quick fights). We are tired and overwhelmed and in this life stage, with head colds all around, it’s probably inevitable. But the lingering is worrisome. And unhealthy. And I haven’t been ready to let it go.

I won’t go into the details (mostly because they are pretty stupid and petty), but we both felt disrespected and devalued. Me, by his actions and he, by my words.

I’ve been absolutely certain that actions trumped words. Wasn’t that the point? Not what we said or how we said it, but what we DID. Sure, I had been a little bit wrong, but he was wrong-er.

So there.

Then this morning I dusted off this blog post that I had started weeks ago: pontificating about the importance of words. Gah. I suck.

I thank the doctor for his time. I say ‘please’ to the waiter who brings me a drink. I excuse myself from a meeting rather than abruptly walking out. I would never demand or yell or belittle someone I had just met. Doesn’t my family, and especially my husband, DESERVE respectful words even more than the strangers and acquaintances I practice my manners on all day long?

I know they do. And when I am feeling entitled and ungrateful and irritated, I can only hope that saying the right words will help adjust MY attitude too.

So here’s me, thanking my husband for all he does. He speaks to me with respect and that means a lot. I’m sorry.


Losing My Cool

Turns out, I’m not as cool in real life as I am in theory.

I’m talking about the kind of cool that stays calm and collected in the face of a challenge. The serene, unflappable cool that takes life as it comes and assumes that God is in control and everything is going to work out.

If you’ve read this blog before, I’m sure this doesn’t come as a surprise.

But it’s caught me off guard this week. You see, I was sure I knew how I felt about my son’s birth family. I was adamant that they are an important part of my child’s life and therefore, important to me. I was compassionate about their struggles and their losses. I was encouraged by every indication they gave of love and interest in S. I was cautiously optimistic about openness and a continuing relationship with them; regular updates, pictures, and biannual meetings on neutral ground did not seem much to ask. I was secure enough and mature enough to face their angst and anger without taking it personally.

Until we actually set the time for the meeting. Suddenly my high-minded ideals seem naive and impossible. Though my mind continues to believe the truth of it, my heart revolts. I am sad. I am threatened. I am afraid. And I am, inexplicably, angry.

This week I will finally meet the mother of my son.

That sentence doesn’t even make sense. It is unnatural and strange. I share this incredibly intimate bond with a woman I have never met. I know heartbreaking details of her most difficult struggles. I know as much about her medical history as any doctor. And her child is now my child.

She carried him in her body. She felt his first kicks. Her voice was one of the first sounds his ears heard. She held him in the NICU. But she was young and broken and overwhelmed. She could not be what he needed.

Unlike many adoptions nowadays, she did not choose us. Nor did she choose adoption for her child, though she agreed not to fight the ministry on it. So far.

Our adoption is not finalized yet.

After 6 months in our custody, the government will apply to make it permanent (this takes another 2-3 months). It is extremely unlikely that anything should threaten this, but not impossible. Someone could petition the court to overturn the placement. Someone could try to take our boy.

Friends of ours recently lost the child they are desperate to adopt, abruptly taken and returned to his birth mom. Their grief and very real concern about his safety is palpable. Legal or not, he is their son. And they are devastated.

My cool, rational brain recognizes that this is not a realistic worry for us. But my heart isn’t always rational. And I won’t breathe easy until we hold the final papers in our hands.

Birth family is not our enemy.

This is the family that brought our beautiful boy into the world. They gave him a name. They dreamed dreams for him.

We have a plastic-covered book of pictures which we call “Everyone Loves S.” The first page is a picture of our family, the next section contains pictures of foster family and the last pages are pictures of Birth Mommy and brothers and grandparents. As we look through it with him, we name each face and tell him “Nana loves S, Poppa loves S… Everyone loves S.”

It’s true. They really do. As best they can. And we know enough of their story to understand where things have fallen apart for them. They are not evil, heartless villains, just flesh and blood people who are in over their heads.

And some part of me is glad, because now I have the son I wanted so badly. This competitive streak is alarming. I examine their shortcomings and am reassured that we can do a better job as parents. Mine! I see their dark hair and eyes, noticing that S looks more like my children than theirs. Mine! And I know it is ridiculous to be this petty and insecure, but he is mine, mine, mine…

I guess I’m not as mature and confident as I thought.

But I can play it cool.

I will let my mind and not my heart guide me. I will set aside my fear and insecurity. I will keep mama bear in check. I will protect, but not attack. I will pray when I want to obsess and forgive when I want to judge and trust when I am overwhelmed.

Adoption has enough losses already. This week we will try to build something positive and redeem some connection with his past. Because that is what my son deserves.

So here’s me, and I know it’s not a competition. I read “Percival the Plain Little Cattepillar” 7 times a day. I catch him when he leaps off the monkey bars. I wipe his nose and change his diaper. I teach him to sign “please” when he wants ANOTHER handful of blueberries. I rock him to sleep every night. I’m his Mom.


Nothing Hurts Like Family

Writing is a funny thing. There are times when it bubbles up pure and fresh, almost effortless. It feels like magic, and the blank page fills with words. A gift, not for readers, but for myself.

There are other times when I squeeze it out, a few recycled words. Predictable. Mundane. And I dress them up with a garnish and a little paper umbrella, pretending that no one was really thirsty after all.

I sat down to write about our family holiday. Something sweet and palatable about lazy beach days and toasting s’mores in the flickering firelight. We had a wonderful vacation! Idyllic moments punctuated by the exhaustion and chaos of our newly expanded family. The past few weeks we have connected with cousins and siblings and parents. We have laughed and reminisced and made several more “remember when” stories for the dinner table.

But no amount of garnish can dress up the bad writing I’ve produced on the topic. I can’t make it work. It’s a cheesy tourism brochure.

The truth is, I am consumed by the turmoil of family politics. Somehow it seems to overshadow all of the Norman Rockwell we’ve experienced. Like the fog that rolled in on our last day at the beach house, obscuring the spectacular view we had already begun to take for granted.

So this post is not what I intended. It is messy and vague and somewhat depressing. But honest.

Nothing hurts like family.

I write this with the sad comfort that I am not singling out any family member or particular conflict. On every side of both our families is a complex web of hurt feelings and disrespect and misunderstanding. I’m beginning to think it is normal, though it feels very unnatural. Most of the time we sit on the periphery and try our best to play peace-maker. But we’ve played a few rounds ourselves lately.

You don’t need the details to know the story. Over and over again in a thousand little ways and in the big ones too: nothing hurts like family.

Normally, I prefer the irritation and necessary pain of honest interaction. My advice to others almost always involves gentle confrontation. It’s not fair to be angry with someone and not tell them. Words. Words. Words.

Yet in reality they aren’t the magic fix I imagine. Some things are more complicated than diplomacy and amateur psychology can address. And let’s face it, the walking wounded make terrible diplomats. In my own life it is absurdly easy to settle for a thin veneer of civility atop a bubbling cesspool of resentment. I hate to admit that. It makes me a terrible hypocrite.

My husband reminds me to let things go, to be kind and forgiving, to do good, even when others don’t. Even when others don’t notice, which is the most annoying of all. For him, the relationship is more important than the fight. He is the master of conflict avoidance. But sometimes this peace feels like a lumpy rug. Eventually we’re bound to trip on all that skillfully concealed debris.

So we vacillate between conflict and cover-up. And I don’t know which is better. And I don’t have any more answers. And I don’t know what to do next.

But I love my family. All of them. Even the ones who hurt me. Even the ones whom I’ve hurt.

I don’t have a great insight about this subject, not yet. No pithy conclusion. No 10 simple steps to fix what ails us. Just a prayer for wisdom and hope that my words, and actions, and inactions will make things better, not worse.

So here’s me, trying to figure out how we imperfect jerks can love each better.


Do Unto the Telemarketers…

So, I’m kind of a grump these days. I picked up a head cold then hopped on 3 red-eye flights with my weary kids. My ears very nearly exploded and I didn’t sleep for almost 40 hours. Also, I am no longer a few steps away from a spectacular beach and a poolside bar serving over-priced (but delicious) daquiris. Woe is me.

I blame the crankiness for my snarky post yesterday (Modern Day Torture, aka The Timeshare Presentation). I won’t apologize for everything I said, because timeshare presentations are universally acknowledged as a painful test of financial resolve and politeness. But I feel bad for denigrating the salespeople.

It is honest work and I have to respect that.

In fact, I kind of have a thing about it. I am prepared to drag one of my most dreadful skeletons out of the closet. It’s not something I share with many people (until I got a blog and lost all sense of privacy and self preservation apparently).

Brace yourself.

I once worked as a telemarketer.

I know. Not my finest hour. To be fair, I was only 17. The money was AWESOME and I didn’t actually have to sell anything. I simply called to set up a complimentary lawn assessment from a highly qualified lawn care specialist. It was free of charge and absolutely no obligation.

It was one of the most painful experiences of my life. I had no idea that perfect strangers could be SO mean. I didn’t even mind the hang ups, but I couldn’t understand the bitter, hateful rants. I was just doing my job. Would they prefer I was out there looting convenience stores or stealing car stereos?

If I happened to come across an out of service number, I would call it over and over again, to buy myself sometime to recover. I left in tears every evening.

With my father’s admonitions about work ethic and stick-to-itiveness ringing in my ears, I returned not once, but twice before throwing in the towel. It was the first time I quit something since my nasty piano teacher pushed me too far (my mom thought I was exaggerating until she decided to take lessons in my place and the mean old lady brought her to tears also).

The golden rule applies to everyone, no matter how obnoxious their profession. I need to treat people considerately, even telemarketers, door to door solicitors, timeshare salesmen, mimes, and even squeegee kids.

It’s hard having a job like that annoys and offends almost everyone, believe me. If nothing else, we can respect their work ethic and value them as people. I’m still figuring out firm, but polite. I don’t need to listen to the whole spiel and I’m not going to buy, just to be nice, but I do need to be nice.

It’s a sneaky way to measure what is really in my heart. How do I treat the JWs who come to my door during dinner? What do I say to the telemarketer who calls in the middle of my favourite show? What is my reaction when people I never have to see again rub me the wrong way?

If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus?

Anybody can do that...

In a word, what I’m saying is, Grow up…

Live out your God-created identity.

Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.

Matthew 5:46-48

Was it kind and gracious to mock my timeshare sales friend in blog format, even though I was nice to his face? Probably not. Fail.

So here’s me, still figuring out how to say “shut up and leave me alone” to pushy sales people in the most kind and loving way possible.

Any ideas? How do you deal with these people in a kind, but expedient way?


The History of a Tantrum: For the Well Meaning Bystander

Have you ever seen an adult dragging a small child kicking and screaming down the street, stuffing them in a vehicle and peeling off down the road? Just so you know, it might be me. I sometimes wonder if you passers-by have a moment of concern about this situation. I wouldn’t be offended if you took a second look, I’m all about protecting children.

No doubt you would soon notice that A) the shrieking midget in question bears a striking resemblance to her “kidnapper” and B) the perpetrator is exhausted, overwhelmed and most likely close to tears herself. No one WANTS to be that parent, the one getting all the pitying and/or disapproving looks on the way to the grocery checkout. If you think it’s a pain to be stuck on an airplane with a crying baby, try being the Mom who feels the weight of everyone’s displeasure.

I remember the good, old days. The “I have one well-behaved child” days when everything was neat and orderly, and I had all the answers. I knew in theory that there might be more to a situation than I could see, yet my inner dialogue usually went something like this “Tut Tut… listen to that bratty child carry on. Some consistent discipline and clear expectations is just what she needs. I would never let MY child behave like that.”

It’s not that my opinions and experience as a parent and daycare teacher were wrong. Reality is just so much more complicated (and exhausting) than all the theory in the world. I look back at that smug, certain parent I used to be and I cringe. I was so quick to offer answers and advice, so sure that I understood the challenges of parenting… so completely untested.

So, next time you witness a monumental melt-down give me a break. If you have to look, look closer. My daughter may be 7, but she is developmentally delayed and so are her emotions. There may be a long and complex back-story to this split second in history. There may be extenuating circumstances. Or there may be no good reason whatsoever, just a bad day all around.

This afternoon as my howling child trotted down the sidewalk of a busy street, all by herself, in the rain, without a jacket – it was all of the above. She had just had a blood test. It happens every few months and lately, each one is worse than the last. While two lab techs hold her flailing arms down, I try to keep her still, pin her legs down with my own and sing”Jesus Loves Me” in her ear. I haven’t yet found a way to make her understand how necessary this is. No amount of candy bribes, stage appropriate explanations and fun games in the waiting room seem to make a difference. She gives me a look of such utter betrayal each time. Then it gets even worse when they slap on the band-aid, something she hates almost as much as the needle itself. The minute she was off my lap today, she was out the door and down the street with me in hot pursuit.

In the end, it was only a moment in time, a bad moment, but over quickly. She’s happy now, showing off her war wound and telling her daddy all about her “dee-do” (which we think means needle). She is painting a picture with bingo daubers while her sisters are doing a science experiment (aka – messing up my kitchen). And suddenly I’m feeling like a good mom again, but I’m pretty sure I was this afternoon too, even though it didn’t look like it.

So here’s me, with a lot fewer answers, and hopefully, a lot more compassion for the next tantruming child I meet.


The Flaw

I’ve kept quiet for many years about this. Okay, not exactly, but mostly I suffer in silence. Since I started this blog I have taken the opportunity to sing my husband’s praises through it. And he really is the best guy around – a wonderful father and human being. But sometimes he really bugs me.

It’s not a marriage thing; anyone you spend a lot of time with will find it. That thing, that seemingly insignificant, small thing that irritates you like nothing else. Other people may barely even notice, but this thing will drive you batty. Perhaps I am more neurotic than most, but I have quite a few pet peeves.

Thankfully, Glen does in fact understand the correct way to load toilet paper: from the TOP people! He understands the need to put the toilet seat DOWN (which makes my first thing in the morning dash to the bathroom much more pleasant). I am forever grateful to my mother-in-law for raising a son who puts his dirty dishes in the kitchen, dirty socks in the hamper and dirty self into the shower.

However… he does have one dark flaw, and it is something I “have a thing about”. Each week I collect, sort, wash, dry AND fold the laundry. I’m somewhat anal about it. Growing up, wash day was Monday, and I cannot feel quite right with the world if we have dirty clothes kicking around on Tuesday, or heaven forbid – Wednesday. The rest of my life may be descending into madness – dishes to the ceiling, crunchy floors and grimy bathrooms, but we WILL have clean clothes on Tuesday.

After busting my butt to produce this minor housekeeping miracle, I expect the neatly folded piles of clean laundry, which have been conveniently delivered to each person’s room, to be PUT AWAY. Each of my children puts their own clothes away. It was one of the first chores they learned. Even the baby was doing her part (as soon as she was able to stand on her own – I’m not a monster). It could be because their mom is the laundry Nazi, but I like to think it’s because this incredibly simple task is the least they can do to assist me with my Very Important Work (aka: laundry).

We talked about it when we were first married and he agreed. Not a big deal… totally something he could do… he was happy to help, and yet it hardly ever happened. All week I would eye that basket of clothes on the floor while he rummaged through it for what he needed. Determined not to nag, I decided to just ignore it and see how long it took before he actually put his shirts IN the drawer. Five laundry baskets precariously stacked with a smattering of clean clothes in the bottom of each one and STILL he would rather hunt through the stacks than empty the things.

I like to think of myself as a reasonable, peace-loving human being, but this could very well have pushed me over the edge. He really wasn’t trying to be a jerk or disrespect me in any way. He just doesn’t see it. In fact, he floated the idea of doing away with drawers entirely, just living out of the baskets.

Eventually I realized that this little, but extremely crucial issue could cause our relationship serious stress. Relationships can be destroyed by the silliest things. Friends, siblings, co-workers, room-mates… pretty much anyone who is up in your face long enough for you to want to punch them in theirs. Of course, in the end it’s not about how to fold the towels or who is a better driver, but it can start there. The spark that starts the fire doesn’t need to be a big one. I watched a bitter divorce unfold with the major battle being who should clean out the garage.

I know wives all over the world have been putting clothes away for centuries without complaint, but somehow I got it in my head that I shouldn’t have to. And I don’t, I really don’t. But I decided that this would be my act of sacrificial love. It may not seem that romantic, but it is a marriage builder in our home.

For more than a decade I have been putting shirts, pants, socks and boxers away while repeating the mantra “an act of love, an act of love, an act of love.” To be honest, I don’t think he’s even noticed. Every once in a while that irritation sneaks up on me again, but it’s good for me. Glen says it all the time – love isn’t just a feeling, it is an act of the will. And in our house, that means drawers full of clean laundry.

So here’s me, grateful that he loves me by overlooking the garbage I leave in his car, clipping my toenails in front of the t.v. and even peanut butter breath.


**it Happens.

I was in fine form this morning. I lurched out of bed and a curious smell wafted down the hallway. Nothing says “Good morning” quite like this: something our family fondly (okay, not so fondly) refers to as a “craptastrophe.”

And it was all downhill from there. The big girls fought about absurd and unimportant things for hours on end. The checkout lady at the grocery store was the slowest moving land mammal on the planet. My usually attentive husband was watching a mind-numbing golf tournament all day.

I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase “if Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.” Well, they don’t call them truisms for nothing. I was selfish, resentful, impatient, angry and altogether ugly today; so the whole family followed suit.

As my 9 year old stood before me weeping, I kicked the rant into high gear. The yelling was beyond a tone of voice. It felt good to embrace the rage. When I was finally done dressing her down, she hiccupped, “Can… I .. uh… just… uh… say… something?” Grudgingly I allowed her to speak.

This happens often when she’s in trouble. Regardless of how clear the situation, she launches into her version of events, hoping to explain her superior perspective. I suspect she may end up becoming a lawyer like her aunt.

Usually, this only gets her in more trouble. Today, however; at the end of her halting explanation, I was appalled to realize that the entire thing had been a misunderstanding on my part. She hadn’t actually done anything wrong.

That was the low point.

There’s no other way to say it: shittiest parent in the world.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I wrote this two weeks ago and haven’t quite brought myself to post it. What would be the point? Not only is it an exceptionally un-flattering peek into my world, it is just so depressing.

But then I remember how that day began:  Craptastrophe. For us, this goes beyond a poopy diaper. Thankfully, what was once a bi-weekly experience is now a rare opportunity to test our parenting metal. Our daughter occasionally dabbles in something the developmental psychologists call “smearing”. Perhaps it is a convenient medium for her artistic endeavors. Perhaps she is trying to clean it up. Whatever the reason for this bad habit, when things are very quiet and very smelly, we know what to expect.

I’m sure you have the mental picture: it’s on the sheets, on the walls, on her clothes, in her hair… And if that’s not disgusting enough, she gives us her usual toothy grin. Yep, it’s in her teeth too.

Even now, when we gag and complain and offer each other outrageous favours to do the clean up, she’s still cute and sweet and altogether wonderful to us. We love her just as much even when she’s covered head-to-toe in shit.

Cause that’s what family does. They love me, not matter what: even the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad version of myself. Whatever clean up needs to happen – an apology, several apologies, an anger management course, a time out… I know that they’ve got my back and I’ve got theirs.

So here’s us, shovelling it together.


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