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My family was enjoying dinner out at our favorite Mexican restaurant when a waitress walked up to us, “I just want to thank you for being cool parents.”

Cool parents? Us?

My husband and I looked at each other, confused.

We’re so not cool. Our kids are four, two and one, and we struggle with wanting to control too much. I admit, I have a hard time knowing what requires discipline and what falls under the category of age appropriate childishness. Sometimes I’m just too firm with the kids, and I’m known for majoring in the minors. We’ve never been called cool anything, much less cool parents.

The waitress said it was so cool that we would let our child go out of the house dressed like a fairy.

Ah yes, the fairy costume.

Our four-year-old wears it so much that we almost don’t even notice it anymore. On any given day, Isabelle is either a fairy, Cinderella or Belle. And that fairy costume with its droopy wings has seen better days. Sometimes she adds a crown and then she becomes the trifecta of all imaginary things: A Princess Fairy Unicorn. That’s what she was dressed up as on this particular evening.

I murmured something about “choosing my battles” and the kind waitress went on with her duties.

But the truth is, letting Isabelle go around in her fairy costume has very little to do with choosing my battles.Lately, as I’ve noticed each of my kids growing up too fast, I’ve realized something.

You’re only four once.

Right now, Isabelle is this tiny little pixie of a girl with an imagination bigger than herself. She can switch into her unicorn voice at a moment’s notice. She has no inhibitions, but she rarely runs around without clothes on because her dress up clothes are just too darn fun.

Isabelle has the rest of her life to worry about what other people think.

One day, she’ll be self-conscious. One day, she’ll want to dress for the approval of others. She’ll know she can’t wear open-toed shoes if her toe nail polish is chipped and worn. Maybe she won’t leave the house unless she’s wearing make-up. She’ll worry about whether the other girls think she’s too fat or too skinny. I hope it’s just a phase. A really, really short phase, and by the time she’s an adult, I hope she cares about pleasing God instead of gaining the approval of others around her.

But at four, the thought has never even crossed her mind. And I want it to stay that way as long as possible.

Gabby is a mom of three little bitties, ages 4, 2 and 1. Her kids keep her on her toes and remind her that the longer she’s a mom, the less she really knows about this thing called Motherhood. She loves the Word of God, her husband, her children, classic literature and good coffee. You can find her blogging at MamaGab, on Facebookand on Pinterest.