Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Four Sons

Yes, I know it's a little early to be thinking about Pessach, but I had an idea about child development, based upon the concept of the Four Sons.  The way in which they approach the holiday, their observance and acceptance of the Jewish heritage, symbolizes as well the route of the development of the mind, and the human.

At first, a baby can only focus on the essentials, ie food, sleep, attention and filling diapers, and that phase lasts into the beginnings of early language.  They "don't know how to ask" because it doesn't interest them, the rest of the world is outside their sphere of influence, they are the center of their parents' universe.

Then a toddler starts asking "What's that?"  The question certainly isn't sophisticated, and you can't expect to have a philsophical discussion about existentialism with a two year old;  but the child starts to realize that an entire spectrum of experience thrives outside their bubble of family and friends and Gan.

Raphaela has arrived at the Simple Son stage.  Through pointing and three word sentences, I hear a lot of "What's that?"  and "No, I don't want..."  She spends hours in imaginary play, baking birthday cakes (her favorite cooking activity) and lecturing her dolls and Harry about how the world works.  This morning she woke me up at five am, presented me with the clothing she had chosen from her drawers and declared that she was ready to get dressed and start her day.

The independence building that starts now with "I don't want..." transitions straight into the Rebellious Son.  At some point, having understood the rules and the proper protocols of civilized society, we all want to see what will happen when we color outside the lines.  Our parents embarass us, and it's no fun to have homework, or a curfew.  I personally believe that rebellion represents the most important phase of our development as individuals, to become grown-ups who respect their tradition and can be their own person, forge new paths and takes risks without being tied into the rigid expectations of family and religion.

If I had to repeat any time in my life, it would be college.  I made life-long friends, found the joy and the artist within myself, and stopped being so damned serious all the time.

I didn't break out of the Good Girl mode until my 20's, too late as far as I am concerned;  I didn't make the most important choice of my life, the one that brought about the birth of my amazing daughter, until I was 39 years old.  Call me a late bloomer, I suppose.

The last step in our emotional and intellectual development is the Wise Son, the adult who understands that there is a place for rules, and a place for breaking the rules;  a person who understands the full value of experience, continuity and community.

I will make my way there, eventually, with all the human mistakes that go along with it.

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