Study Guide

The First Part Last Coming of Age

By Angela Johnson

Coming of Age

And then, not moving and still quiet, my pops just starts to cry. (4.5)

Fred doesn't react the way that Bobby expects when Bobby tells his parents that he got Nia pregnant. Perhaps Fred is grieving for Bobby's lost youth, or maybe for the change that he knows is coming in Bobby's future. Maybe he's just crying out of disappointment, though. It's hard to tell.

I just smile and try to keep from curling up in the baby carrier with the kid. (7.21)

It's really hard for Bobby to keep up the façade that he's doing fine, especially at his doctor's office. But that's a thing new parents do: They try to function through the exhaustion.

Then I want to beg her for a note like I used to when I didn't want to do something and a sore knee or fever could get me out of it. […]

It just had to get me out of staying awake all night, changing diapers every hour, and doing nothing except think of the yawning little thing in the white booties, whose baby carrier was all I wanted to be in. (7.27, 31)

There's no easy way out of his life's situation, even though Bobby desperately wants one. He wants to regress to being a child again, to being someone's responsibility instead of having all the responsibility of being a father. Because if he could do that, then he wouldn't have to own up to his own responsibilities.

Then it's the first time I see Nia really mad. It's like she wants to throw me across the room.

"So this isn't about what you really want to do. This is all about what your mom thinks you ought to do." (8.11-12)

Bobby wants to go to the obstetrician's exam with Nia, and his desire to be involved in the baby's pregnancy seems honest, though it may be his mother's idea. Is it fair of Nia to get mad at Bobby for doing something that his mom suggests? Why or why not?

Never talked to so many adults in my whole life. It was getting right down to my last nerve. (13.13)

In the guidance counselor's office, Bobby refers to himself separately from the other adults. Even though he may have matured in many ways as a father, he still considers himself a kid. And this belief that he's just a kid might hinder his progress on the path to adulthood.

Even if I'm feeling old when this stuff happens I just change her diaper, put my food down and hold her when she cries, and tell the woman on the train that she's mine. (19.11)

It doesn't take Bobby all that long to own his decisions. When he's with Feather, he doesn't hide behind assumptions that other people make. As much as he may not want to, he tells the truth. Now that's a pretty big indicator of maturity.

I feel like I don't even know who all these people are or where they came from, and I've known most of them all my life. (20.11)

It's clear at this party with Nia that something has changed within Bobby. Pre-pregnancy, he probably wouldn't care that he doesn't really know the people he thinks he's known his whole life. But now, with a baby on the way, he feels like he doesn't belong with them. He's past the point of this party but not quite ready to give up parties altogether. 

Mom never has said or done that for me since Feather's been here. But now she's looking at me like I'm a baby that just walked across the room for the first time.

Maybe I just did. (21.38-39)

When Paul visits, Bobby's mom offers to babysit Feather so the two brothers can go for a walk. It's shocking for Bobby; she's refused until this point, and he's far too proud to beg for help. So why now? What steps might she realize that Bobby has just taken?

But I wiped my eyes real fast on the back of my sleeve 'cause I'm going to be this baby's daddy now.

I don't know any of the parent rules, but crying like a baby when you just decided to keep a baby probably shouldn't happen. (29.59-60)

Bobby cries when he tells Nia's parents that he's going to keep Feather, and he is starting to act in ways that he thinks adults should act. (Though, truth be told, there's no magic playbook entitled How to Be an Adult, Bobby.)

But it's all okay 'cause I know now better than I ever did that I'm supposed to do this. I'm supposed to be her daddy and stay up all night if I have to. I'm supposed to suck it up and do all the right things if I can, even if I screw it up and have to do it over. (29.64)

Once Feather's home, Bobby realizes his purpose in life. Although this event is in the middle of the chronological story, it actually occurs near the end of the book, because Bobby has two real coming of age moments: when he decides to keep Feather, and when he decides to move to Ohio to give Feather a better life. And even though he may struggle with the responsibility, he never struggles with the love for his daughter.

This is a premium product

Tired of ads?

Join today and never see them again.

Please Wait...