Friday, February 5, 2010

Just Baby

"How is Rees going to survive when I go to middle school next year?" Daney asked me the other day. "He can't even tie his shoes."

Before Dave and I got married, his mom gave me a book. It was about birth order, by Kevin Leman.

As I read it, I understood why she had given it to me. It was basically her way of telling me that Dave was the baby of the family, that he had inherent flaws because of it, that it wasn't his fault, and how to handle him.

Because I was a firstborn (of 8!), Dave and I were destined to be a perfect match.
Firstborns and firstborns was deadly, babies and babies: disaster.

That book has made a huge impact on me. I've been able to tell when my students-- from first grade through seventh, and even in community college--are, especially, babies.

Since I'm a firstborn, I'm fascinated by the baby: carefree, disorganized, social, and funny. My dad is a baby, as is my brother, Mackie, and my aunt, Jeanne.

My friend, Karlee, and I frequently dismiss the folly and flops of our youngests as excusable. Since Reesie and Derek are babies, and all.

The thing about babies is that they will always be babies.

They never have to grow up.

This is the exact opposite of firstborns; we came into the world with rules and lists and stop watches.

In my boy book, my character is a firstborn. He has to be. Not only is there external pressure for him to succeed, but there's internal pressure, too.

That wouldn't happen with the baby of a family.

But, in Carolyn Mackler's The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big, Round Things, the narrator, Virginia, couldn't be anything but the baby.

The baby is always competing. For attention, for love, for the last of the fresh-pressed apple juice.

In essence, the baby will never learn, because he doesn't have to--someone else will do it for him--how to tie his shoes.

What is the birth order of your character?

How does this define and motivate him?


Shannon O'Donnell said...

My character is the middle child, and he definitely acts like it! Superior to little sis and jealous of big bro. :-)

Anonymous said...

thank you for not SAYING that on cranking up the silly. thank you VERY much.

- gracia

krn said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
krn said...

What happens when you are the baby but your only siblings are 11 and 14 years older than you but you are raised by a man and must be the woman of the house? I'll tell you, you get some screwed up baby/only child/oldest thing going and it is messed up. :-)