The good news is my 13-year-old is not cut out to be a mother. The bad news is, if she was; I would most likely fail as a grandmother.
She recently went through the ‘baby’ assignment in seventh grade Health, where students are assigned a realistic infant that they have to take care of; from feeding to burping to soothing to changing. She entered the experiment with a mix of trepidation and excitement, not knowing how she would handle the burden of motherhood, even if it was only for a little while.
My co-workers reminisced about their own ‘baby’ experiences in school, some having to haul around a sack of sugar or flour, taking care of that as if it were a child. Today, they go more high tech, with computerized babies that track movements, including when you forget to support the head.
Well, the baby arrived and my daughter got her first lesson in the real world. She got a boy. She wanted a girl. Things don’t always go as planned.
She accepted the boy, named him Spencer Jordan, and was surrounded by cooing, helpful friends all wanting to hold him when I arrived to pick her up at school. One particularly knowing friend was busy instructing her while she changed Spencer’s diaper, having already gone through the ‘motherhood’ experience herself.
There was, of course, a car seat and we made sure to strap it into the back seat. Heaven forbid there should be a fender bender and computerized baby get thrown around, charting things all the while.
She had to change him into different clothes almost immediately, saying the outfit he had on was ‘too ugly.’ So she opted for a onesie and did pretty well until she yanked his leg backward to put his foot in. That set off a screaming bout and it took a while to calm him down. I even tried to ‘shush’ him and rocked him even though it made no sense because he really couldn’t hear me. But I thought, just in case there is a tape recorder or something, I would try to be a calming voice.
Actually, he cried the full three minutes (that’s their set time for having a fit when nothing will calm them) and then stopped. A little later, after feeding him a bottle, she decided to change his diaper when he fussed. Proudly, she pointed out she was right, the diaper had changed color to yellow, indicating he had used it and she put on the fresh diaper, which at that time was colored with a green spot. She told me the diapers must be green to start (as in OK to go, or use) and then are yellow when they need to be changed. It made sense, what with this high tech baby and all.
In between dinner and homework, she got a little frustrated with him. Spencer Jordan was boring. He didn’t cry; he didn’t fuss. He got hungry once so she gave him another bottle, succeeded in burping him and then he was happy. He even fell asleep, making little contented sighs. Very disappointed in how easy this whole thing was, my daughter started complaining about how dull the assignment was becoming. I urged her to get some sleep because, if Spencer Jordan was content now, it was a pretty good bet he wouldn’t be later.
He fussed a little before 11p.m.; we checked his diaper, it was still green. He seemed hungry, so she fed him.
He woke her up screaming at 2 a.m. and wasn’t hungry. She rocked him; he fussed. She checked the diaper. Still green. She made me rock him. I cooed. He fussed. She told him to be quiet. After three minutes (which seemed more like three hours) he stopped fussing.
At 3:30 a.m., he started to cry. She soothed him, rocking him a little. He seemed better. She put him down to sleep. He screamed. She screamed at him to shut up; she was tired. He was hungry. She tried to feed him the bottle as she was falling asleep, he kept slipping out of her grasp and I cringed as I watched his head fall back — that whole neck support thing again.
She asked me to feed him so she could sleep. I told her no, he was her baby and her responsibility. Then I got concerned about the whole diaper thing; it was still green. Was it possible they programmed this baby to suffer from constipation? I thought about having her change it, but she assured me it was fine, still green.
After she succeeded in burping him, he once again seemed content and settled down to sleep. By this time, I was hovering over him, checking to make sure that he was still making those little breathing sounds. I just got paranoid about the whole thing.
When he woke up screaming at 5:15 a.m., it was the last straw. She moaned, groaned, tried to wake up and called him a “stupid baby,” telling him how tired she was of him. Gently, I told her that even when she was tired, the baby came first. He couldn’t take care of himself; as a mother, that was her job. She was beginning to get the idea that this baby thing was way too much to handle.
He didn’t want to eat, rocking didn’t calm him; it was another three-minute ‘fuss’ until he settled down. She decided to put his other clothes on and was careful not to pull his leg too hard this time. By now, it just made sense to get up and get ready for school. She had to fill out the rest of her ‘baby booklet’ with her thoughts and feelings about the whole thing. She had already charted the times he had been up and what she had done to make him stop crying throughout the night.
She made sure to indicate in her notes her concern over his lack of ‘output’ in the diaper and she was more than ready to turn him in at the start of the school day.
Final outcome: she was deducted multiple points for failing to change his diaper; she only did one out of six required changes. The diaper does not change color. She just thought it did. After all, she said, it was yellow the first time it needed changing. Great, we gave computerized baby one heck of a case of diaper rash.
She failed to support his neck four times. She was marked off once for rough handling. Fortunately, there was no tape recorder so ‘stupid baby’ didn’t count against her.
She barely passed the baby test. Which is a good thing — she has decided to put off motherhood for the next couple of decades. That’ll give us both time to get ready.
Marg Jackson is editor of The Escalon Times and The Oakdale Leader and assistant editor for The Riverbank News. She may be reached at email@example.com or by calling 847-3021.