One of the most infamously amusing rites of passage for every teenager is the opportunity to trial parenting for 72-hours, risk-free. In the Old School, they did it by carting around a Cabbage Patch Kid. Today's technology affords a classier (uh, creepier?) model to provide the most realistic potential Mommy/Daddy experience possible. Heck, since we're all about 3D movies and video phone calls these days, we might as well give 15-year olds more in-your-face reality in the form of little robot babies that burp, poop and wail at the top of their lungs (at the most inconvenient times). The goal of these faux kiddos is, of course, to deter immature youths from making dumb decisions about sex. As to whether or not they actually succeed in their efforts, I don't know. But what I can say is that this project has lived on in public schools for decades: A creative lesson in abstinence that never goes out of style...
I recall the first generation of "computerized infant simulators" coming out a few years post-puberty for me, which is too bad, cause that would have been fun. Not that I didn't already know how to diaper and feed a baby at that age (I became an aunt at 14), but my clever imagination conjures up endless possibilities for hilarity when it comes to teenagers attempting to care for a RealCare Baby. (Trust me, you want to check out that link. Entirely worth the ten seconds it took to discover just what lil' animatronic munchkins look like these days...) :)
To be honest, though, the funniest scenarios that play out in my head have less to do with the technologically-advanced doll and more to do with the medium of my particular parental-deterrent. Circa 1997, fake baby of choice was not a Cabbage Patch, nor a computer, but an egg. All ironic metaphor aside (for now), for three mortifying days as an eighth grader, I had to pretend I was the legal guardian of an item that had once previously taken up residence in the fridge.
Had it not been for the insecurity that marks female junior high existence (can't take risks at the risk of being ostracized), I would have loved to have had a bit of fun with this assignment. If I were an eighth grader today and could do it all over again, you bet your sweet bippy I would use the opportunity to create the world's next viral video. My virtual baby book, complete with pastel-colored captions and a sappy soundtrack, would chronicle via YouTube a Day in the Life of my temporary infant, Shelly...
(Since I'm a little lazy right now and can't be bothered to make an actual video, humour me by reading my script and creating your own appropriate visuals as necessary...)
Shelly comes home nestled amongst cotton balls in her tiny dollar-store basket. It is the cheapest car seat money can buy, and for this I am grateful, as my part-time waitressing tips simply won't suffice for the real deal.
Shelly is the antithesis of the colicky baby, as she has a constant smile on her face care of the Sharpie that recently transformed her from a food product into a pretend child. Hopefully the 24/7 grin will serve its purpose in making her cute enough so I don't forget she's here...
I'm sorry to report that Project Perma-Smile did not render its intended effect. While I was successful in remembering to bring Shelly along to Walmart (mostly because Mom reminded me), I accidentally left her there. After we finished our errands, Mom and I went to McDonald's for lunch. All was well until I spotted the ad for their new breakfast sandwich: a bagel, bacon and an egg. Gasp! SHELLY!!!!!
I hope I haven't scarred Shelly for life by leaving her lying there on the shelf with all those gossip magazines. I pray she won't grow up to have some weird obsession with celebrities or feel pressured to succumb to society's standards of beauty (I'm a little nervous, seeing as she is a little round in the midsection...). Given the fact that 1/3 of her life is already over, I decide not to waste too much time feeling guilty about the incident...
Probably something I SHOULD feel guilty about: Shelly's accidental trip t o the "sauna..." [Camera makes three successive pans as the drama unfolds: 1) An empty basket on the counter. 2) My brother pulling the mustard and mayo out of the fridge. 3) A pot of boiling water on the stove].
No need to look inside. We already know... :(
Of course, I would reveal such a video only after receiving a passing grade on the project. At which point, I would also include a note to my Home Ec instructor: "Mrs. Archer, I should probably be honest and tell you that the Shelly that was returned to you without a single crack was actually Shelly #6..."
While the whole experiment is just ridiculous (how, in ANY way does babysitting an egg simulate rearing a child????), it's even more ridiculous to think that becoming a parent is now a pertinent topic. It's not just a little assignment anymore, I remind myself, In a short while, this could all be real!
Just to clarify, I'm not about to pull a Murphy Brown (I cannot believe I just used that reference! Da-ted!) and have a baby sans a man. I'm a pretty traditional gal and I intend to do it right (much more fun that way too...). But I'm not gonna deny that the Mommy dream is there in my heart. With my requisite college feminist phase well behind me, I finally feel the freedom to say that I'm super excited for my Singleness blog to one day turn into a Wife and Motherhood blog. *Big grin*
At a recent family function, my 17 year old cousin told me that her school's particular abstinence experiment had her not only taking charge of Robo-Baby, but also donning "The Belly" (as made popular in 10 Things I Hate About You). For obvious reasons, she chose not to do the baby/belly thing that weekend (which, of course, defeats the purpose of the assignment. You can't ditch the real belly just because you're embarrassed...) For a kid, though, pregnancy and having babies have the potential to be overwhelming, even tragic. How interesting, however, that years down in the road (within the security of marriage), that same pairing of events are cause for rejoicing.
Man, I know it's been a long time since 17, because I certainly wouldn't be embarassed to sport a cute maternity outfit over a growing bump on the arm of a wicked hot husband at this stage in life. Hopefully sooner rather than later, in fact... :)
Oh, and you don't have to worry about me: I'm much better with actual babies than with eggs ;)