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Week 41: "Four and the Fourth!"

Daniel Barash

I’m four!

Aviva proudly proclaims this phrase to her Abba and Papa at least ten times per day. On May 24th, Aviva officially ended her three-year reign, and is now basking in the 4th dimension and all that it has to offer. She can now say more, do more, want more, cry more, love more. It’s (almost) as if the first three years were rendered in subtle shades of black and white, and now it’s all technicolor!

In many ways, it’s a very exciting time; she’s beginning to know what she wants, and is fiercely independent about how to obtain those wants. And for exactly those same reasons, it’s proven to be a great challenge for Abba and Papa ;)

In some respects, an imperfect analogy to this situation is the FOURTH of July, celebrated across these United States this past weekend. Here we remember our nation’s founding--the good, the questionable, and the deeply troubling…we remember the early years after the colonists arrived, and their desire to ultimately chart their own course, free of the tethers that stretched across an ocean. We marvel at their audaciousness, and their persistence of vision. And we shake our heads, as we recognize how this very “freedom” was ultimately sacrificed by the accompanying genocide and slavery that stained and continues to stain our country to this very day.

What are the similarities, you ask, between a four-year old girl and a new nation gaining its independence?! Well, they both involve entities that are quite young, and full of energy, spirit, determination, and grit. And they both are characterized by a lack of maturity, perspective, due process, and nuance.

Our personal Fourth of July was celebrated with a family camping trip to the Russian River. After baking challah on Friday with Emily, a friend from preschool, and sharing it with cohousing neighbors for their holiday cook-out, we awoke early on Saturday morning and headed to Schoolhouse Canyon Campground, right outside of Guerneville. While the New York Times full-page “Declaration of Independence” always beckons its readers to think about the deeper meanings of the holiday, our convenient excuse for not engaging in the text this year was the early-morning mad-rush to avoid traffic, followed by the many distractions encountered once on the road.

From the beginning of this camping weekend, it quickly became evident that we were in for a Mini-Fourth-of-July-Revolution. Wherever and whenever Aviva could assert her independence, she did so, unapologetically, and with fervor. “I can fasten my seatbelt!” “I want snack now!” “I don’t have to use the bathroom!” “I want to stop at THAT playground NOW!” “I want to eat strawberry jam packets raw while waiting for my meal, I want to spread more raspberry jam all over my Mac and Cheese, and then I want to take several packets home with us because we NEVER have anything sweet at home!” “I want to climb and jump on top of our real car because it’s a toy and it’s fun!” “I don’t have to look both ways EVERY TIME I cross the drive at the camping site, only SOMETIMES!” You get the picture, yes?!

More than once, okay about every five minutes, Mark and I would exchange exasperated glances at one another. “How exactly did we find ourselves in this situation?” “Do we have any control?” “Where did we go wrong?” “Can we change this dynamic?!”

Clearly, I’m being a little overly dramatic here; much of our visit was filled with laughter, silliness, and the telling of frightful stories under the redwoods. And most of the time, Aviva acts with a reasonable head on her shoulders. But the weekend did raise important and thorny questions for us: How do we as parents set healthy limits, establish boundaries, and ultimately keep our daughter safe, while also nourishing her spirit, her sense of self, and her growing independence?

Amazon has been our friend; we’ve ordered more than a few new parenting books that are now waiting to be read and acted upon…and we’re definitely looking to our wider community for any words of wisdom. So, nu, anything to share?

In community…