08 September 2006

The Carter Administration

My nephew, Carter, bears the blessing and curse of being the first child, grandchild, nephew in his generation. He is a generation of one.

Some of us, including myself, also bore this incredibly torturous fate of having everyone's attention, gifts, and encouragement as we flashed our first smile, said our first word, and did our first pee-pee in the potty. The first-born makes way for everyone else; he carves out a mold by which all second- and third-borns will endure judgment. He names the grandparents and there are twice as many pictures of him as what's-his-name, born 2 years later, and who's-her-face, who came along about the time the first-born was getting their first-day-of-school picture taken.

And that brings me to the locus of my meditation. The first day of school.

See, Carter is still the only member of his tiny generation. He is a lonely-only, red-headed, high-pitched squealing, picky-eating, most organized five year-old
you'll ever meet. No brother arrived to divert attention from his terrible-twos. No baby sister takes Mama's time away from pondering his social aptitude. Unlike me, Carter still shares no spotlights. He is still the star of the show. And the show is: Carter Goes to Kindergarten.

The whole situation has led to a network of adults with (dare I say too much?) time and energy to bestow upon him. Parents, grandparents, aunts, and family friends have Carter on the brain. When we are all together, Carter sets our tone, determines our activities, and ranks us in the order of his appreciation and favor. My family is now the Carter Administration.

Kids adjust to school, right? They eat food they don't like, they lay down at nap time and pretend to sleep while secretly coveting the tennis shoes of their new worst enemy. They push each other down; they spread rumors
about each other; they talk about penises and vaginas. Come to think of it, kindergarten is a lot like seminary.

I remember when, at story time, Miss Joseph read us a story I'd never heard. At one point in the story, the main characters go on a hot-air balloon ride. The only part I distinctly remember was when Miss Joseph read aloud: "the balloon went up
and up, and carried them elsewhere." She asked if we had any questions. I asked, "Why were the characters in the army?" This apparently made no sense to anyone else, including Miss Joseph. I wanted to die. Why did I ask that? Some of the kids looked really confused and for some reason, that made me feel humiliated. I was responsible for mass confusion.

There was another time that we were supposed to arrange these pictures of a fox skiing down a hill in the order that they happened. You know, re-arranging them to prove you know how a story has a beginning, a middle, and an end. And I got mixed up, and me and my crayon got sort of out of control. I had to cross off and scribble out several things, and make some arrows and extra circles. By the time Miss Joseph got to my table, I had resorted to covering the whole thing up with my hands, even from her. She pushed my hand out of the way, and I was completely traumatized by this, again inexplicably. The fact that I had planned to hide the mistakes from the teacher is still interesting to me -- that I would engage in a battle of wills with Miss Joseph at age 5.

So now Carter takes his turn in the dramatic world of 5-year-old Who Goes to School. It is the stuff of trauma-rama, no doubt about it. Still, though, there have been so many comments about the whole thing: "Carter's adjusting to school" appears at the ends of family emails or "Carter won't eat the food" in hushed tones or the astonished, "Carter is so worn out at the end of the day!" When the school cafeteria menu has traveled from Kansas to Colorado to California, you know you're dealing with not only the first-born, but the only-born 5-year-old of his generation.

Dearest, sweetest, most wonderful-est adorable-est loveable Carter, My Sugar ( I started calling him "my sugar" a few years ago and now he knows that's the incredible bond we share ):

Please accept my resignation as your Secretary of State, your cultu
ral attache to California. I'm underpaid and underappreciated for the amount of time I spend adoring and coddling you. You're in school now; so go mouth off to your mother like I did and quit expecting me to think you're the most amazing thing that's ever happened. Since you don't have any brothers and sisters I am going to have to initiate this separation on my own. An aunt has to do what an aunt has to do. If this goes on I'll be doing google searches on your friends and sending you 1/2 birthday presents until you're 40. Just think, if I stay this attached will I be able to love my own children? Probably not. They'll probably be traumatized by your stunning intelligence and sharp wit and never be able to live up to the precedents you're setting every day like they're just nothing.

Tough Love,

Aunt Sarah


Blogger mikey said...


8:35 AM  
Blogger Katie Knoll said...

you're just jealous.

7:24 AM  
Blogger Zinnhead said...

jealous, really? i thought i was reflective....

3:45 PM  

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