Monday, April 28, 2008

When Good Mothers Go Bad

Infant SimulatorIf you haven't heard me say it already, I work with the teen girls in our local church congregation and a little bit ago we had a cooking class at our house. The girls showed up one by one but when Ashley, age 15, rang the doorbell and I let her in she was carrying a baby carrier.

My first question was of course, "So, uh, what's up with the baby?" and she explained she was taking a child development class with the assignment to take care of a simulated infant for the next four days to experience what it’s like to take care of a real infant. This of course made me and the other women leaders chuckle but when she pulled the doll out of the carrier our mouths dropped open.

The baby looked pretty lifelike, it was sized and weighted to feel like a real baby. I picked it up and it didn't feel like a doll, it's head was even made to be as floppy as a newborn's.

Ashley had named her temporary offspring Big Daddy and Big Daddy was completely computerized, programmed to cry at certain predetermined-by-the-teacher but unexpected-by-the-student times. Ashley was wearing a monitoring bracelet and when the baby cried she had to pick him up and respond to his needs within a certain time frame or else the computer inside of him would know and record her negligence. (Do you ever feel like that as a mom? That if you let your baby cry that somehow someone's going to find out and will fail you as a mother?)

We didn’t really believe it at first but part way through the activity Big Daddy started to cry. Ashley picked him up and swiped her bracelet down his back like some gallon of milk scanning at the check out counter and the baby made a tiny “beep," registering that she’d picked him up (and she had to pick him up carefully because if his head flopped back and wasn’t supported correctly the computer would know--it would know).

She tried changing his realistic diapers but that didn't calm him. Then she tried feeding him with this special bottle and Big Daddy made these authentic sucking motions and sounds--she even had to burp him afterward and he made little baby burping sounds.

After she’d scanned him, fed him and put him back down we leaders were all kind of fascinated with this freak of a toy. I mean I'd always told Andrew that I'd love to get a report card to find out how I was doing as a mom and now, there on my kitchen table was a device that did just that. Are you a C+ mom? Well take care of this baby for a week and find out! If only they could simulate parenting a teen . . . perhaps a doll that says, "But why??" and "I can't believe you're making me!" then ties up your phone lines for hours at a time.

Anyway, when the baby started fussing again while Ashley was busy one of the other leaders there offered to help out by holding Big Daddy. So my friend Kelli tried burping him some more to calm him down and when I looked over a few minutes later there she was in the corner, absentmindedly bouncing the cradled baby in her arms in that back-and-forth, mom-rock reflex motion same as if he had been her real life baby. This of course cracked us up but as we passed Big Daddy around in wonder we all found ourselves treating him as if he were a real baby.

A little later he started to get fussy again and you should have seen this group of otherwise intelligent women standing around this piece of plastic speculating on whether it was tired or hungry or gassy. Finally another of the leaders--Tammy--picked Big Daddy up, put him gently up her shoulder (supporting his head of course) and began patting his back in comfort, just as she would have with her own child.

Tammy's one of those moms who seems to be just a wealth of patience, control and love when it comes to her kids. Me? Not so much but Tammy's got that nurturing-mom thing down perfect so of course we gave her a hard time about not knowing a real baby from a fake one as she gently patted and soothed the little android on her shoulder.

This went on for a few minutes and with all the laughing and joking going on she began joking back with us saying, “Oh, come on, I know he's not real!” and just at that moment to prove it she gave the doll a hard, solid, call-child-services whack on his back with the full force of her arm.

The instant she made contact Big Daddy let out with this huge "WHAAAAAAAAAA!!!!" which produced such a look of horror on Tammy's face that we were all rolling on the floor. She tried calming him down and rocking him but he would not be consoled for almost five minutes and we teased her that if Ashley failed her class we’d know who’s fault it was.

Funny thing was a week later Tammy and I saw Ashley and asked her how her child development grade came out and Ashley grumbled, "Well, I got a 93% because they docked me three percentage points for manhandling Big Daddy at exactly 8:10 pm on Thursday night."

Oops. Well at least he was well-burped. Though I find it rather funny that you can abuse your child in such a way and still pull off an A. I think that's a classic case of grade inflation if I ever saw one--what it would take to get a D?

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59 comments:

Tim Appleton (Applehead) said...

That was so funny I laughed loud enough to almost wake my family this morning!

MRMacrum said...

As real as the simulated baby might be, until it pukes up on Mom's new dress or dad's new shoes and leaves dad to change a very nasty diaper while mom sleeps blissfully, it is not even close to real. And only 4 days? Jeez, that's like leaving the kid at Grandma's for a long weekend and then listening to her complain later.

Like you said, is there a course for raising a teen? Taking a child to adulthood is a non-stop series of new educational opportunities for any parent. There's always someone with sage advice, but seldom are they around to enjoy the experience when times oare tough.

Edi said...

When I was in high school we had a similar assignment - except with an egg! No beeping, no burping, no feeding - all you needed to do was keep the egg with you at all times and make sure it didn't break.

Technology has come along way since then...

Amber said...

A D would be turning off the baby monitor, which is exacly what my husband wants me to do!!!

Summer said...

Poor Ashley. :(
This post was awesome!

365 Mommy said...

That made me laugh out loud!

Karen said...

too funny - and odd - last week on yahoo news I mistakenly clicked on a video story that informed mothers that they could buy a $400 computer to tell them if they were talking to their baby enough. I wondered if you plugged it to your laptop to download it's information if it would just say "you are a terrible mother," but now I think grades would be better.

alotalot said...

I guess Ashley will be careful when she hires babysitters from now on!

Christie O. said...

Hilarious!!

Mrs. Annie said...

Wow, that entire idea has come a long way since they passed out flour bags and made them tote them around.

PS. Received the book. Thank you so much!

My Ice Cream Diary said...

Android babies, sounds like a good sci-fi story in the making.

I remember them using sacks of flour for this class. You passed if you could bring back the sack intact. The funny thing was that other classmates would go around kidnapping the flour sacks and holding them for ransom. There were even a few baby murders that resulted in heavy detention sentences.

Now, for some real fun, I'd like to see a potty training android in the schools.

tjhirst said...

This is helping me find my sense of humor this morning! What happened to making do with a 10 lb. bag of flour? And we wonder why education has become so expensive.

Jamie J said...

That's hilarious!

laura said...

My sister had to do this as well, a few years ago. I loved watching her take on this responsibility. As with you, it had me laughing to tears! Thanks for the reminder and laugh.

laura said...

Oh, I forgot! They also had to wear the pregnancy tummy belts to simulate them being pregnant. Hilarious!!

MommyTime said...

And did you know these babies are programmable, so that they can simulate "normal" infants (as Big Daddy seems to have done) or crack babies, or babies with fetal alcohol syndrome, or other issues, so that presumably-more-irresponsible -than-Ashley teen-agers can see what it would REALLY be like to have a baby of their very own?

Kelli said...

Frankly. I think they should get a teen android way before they get a newborn android.

Gauranteed birth control.

Jody said...

That is the funniest thing I have heard!

The name Big Daddy had me rolling!

Bertie said...

That is great!!! HAHA!! When I was in school they didn't have those technorized dolls- they gave us a blad of flour! But they did have "baby snatchers lurking" and if you stole a baby- then you got extra points!

Big daddy is the best name ever!

Heather said...

I think that would have had the opposite effect on me in high school. I would have thought it was fun...4 days, sheesh. Big deal.

Too funny about the "lower" grade.

Amanda said...

That was so funny! I laughed out loud. I have seen those babies in TV shows but I didn't know they really used them. Sounds like fun!

John & Laura said...

I've always wanted to try one of those babies. I think I'll stick with own, due in approximately 13-21 days...

MamaKas said...

Oh my gosh that is so hilarious. Thank you for sharing that story! Hahaha

Yes, my name is Arizona said...

Oh my gosh!!! That's so funny. I can't believe the doll knew it got wacked!

Jeana said...

This is fascinating!

Anonymous said...

My high school used those, I thought everyone's did, like a rite of passage thing. lol There is also a drug addicted version, cries more, higher pitched cry, etc...

They are great educational tools.

imadramamama said...

LOL! That was hilarious...

And hopefully she'll have better sense when she's older than to name a child Big Daddy.

And that'll teach Tammy to manhandle the next fake baby she sees.

Michelle@Life with Three said...

So funny! I can't believe how "high tech" that class has become. Back when I was in school (which wasn't very long ago, I might point out), we used an egg! Thanks for the laughs! :)

Richelle said...

That is so funny!

amy g. said...

Great post--I am still laughing! We did the egg-baby for a week in a Peer Counseling class I took in high school. I remember feeling special at first for having one of the eggs, and definitely done with it as the egg aged through the week. It made an impression, I guess, because I waited until age 30 to have a real baby!!

chelle said...

hehehe that is hilarious!

Cat said...

We have those at the school I work at, occasionally the girls will try to sabotage or kidnap the other girls "babies". The programing varies so some of the dolls can keep the girls up all night, that's when the girls get really cranky.

Kelly @ Love Well said...

That's amazing.

I assume they do this to discourage teen pregnancy. I would think it it must work. A demanding newborn certainly puts a damper on teen spirit.

Stephanie said...

Hilarious! I read every.last.word. What a well-written narrative. I've always wondered about those babies in child development classes. What lesson do you think they "teach"? That babies are hard work or that they are really cute or...

Kim Priestap said...

Wow high school has changed a lot since I graduated, but that was 23 years ago. I don't think we even had a class like this.

Anyway, as always, I really enjoyed your post.

Ginny said...

We were at a dance competition a week ago that was an all day thing. There was a teen there carrying around one of those babies. It was so funny watching her all day long get up & down with the baby, burping & feeding, rocking, etc. She had so many people staring at her. They do look lifelike because many people thought she had a real baby.

Amy said...

I think if I would have taken a class like this, I might have waited on the motherhood thing a teeny bit longer ;) So hilarious- way to dock the girl's grade by three percent ;)

Amy said...

I think if I would have taken a class like this, I might have waited on the motherhood thing a teeny bit longer ;) So hilarious- way to dock the girl's grade by three percent ;)

Daisy said...

So, so funny! This is a little more expensive than the "Egg Babies" they used to use and the flour-sack babies.

SabineM said...

This is hilarious! Made me laugh!
I love the idea! ALL TEENAGERS should have this class! It has much evolved since we had in when I was in High School and we had to carry an egg every where and ppl would try to break or kidnap your egg! I LOVE THIS IDEA! Let's make it mandatory!

Caffienated Cowgirl said...

OMG..I am still laughing! I have heard of those "babies"...a far cry from the eggshell baby I had to care for in sixth grade. Aside from the professional moms...you wonder if Ashley will remember all of this when she actually has children.

Alice Wills Gold said...

I was cracking up the other night on Wife Swap they had one of those babies to try and train a young girl about being a mother...she was all ticked off...."there is no way that you have to feed a baby for 40 minutes!" Oh, she will have so much to learn

Kim said...

Hilarious! Thanks for making me laugh out loud today!

Janet said...

Like everyone else, I'm still laughing. I felt like I was in the room when Tammy whacked the "baby." (And of course, her name will go down in blog history now.) They should definitely do that in the schools around here, and make them keep them 24/7 for a month, and program the babies to know when someone else picks them up. Although nothing could prepare you for 2 kids having nasty diaper blowouts in Burger King when the mother is down to 2 baby wipes and not enough extra clothes and had to put the baby in his sister's pink dress and "borrowed" wipes from every Mom in the joint, because you know it was the busy time of day. Not that I personally would know anything about that. I just heard.

:: Suzanne :: said...

I had a student bring one of these to class one week. She was a high-schooler doing a college English writing class.

At the beginning of the week she was loving it, couldn't wait to have a 'real' baby. By the end of the week she said she was not having kids until she was 30 and had a good income to hire a babysitter.

I should look up the stats on teen pregnancy for kids who take these classes . . . in my free time: ha!

Lei said...

ROFL and all other acronyms for nonstop laughter! That is hilarious!!!

Lightening said...

Well, that's certainly an advancement on the eggs we had to carry around with as as pretend babies when I was at school!!!!

Becky said...

Every so often I find a blog entry worthy of reading aloud to my husband. This is by far one of the best. I even had to link it to my blog.

I also work with the 12-18 year old young women at church and I could totally see this happening.

I never had the egg or flour, but my older sister did. She wasn't allowed to have the "baby" flour sack while taking a test and so paid me to babysit during that class. The boys in my choir class punctured a hole in him and she was failed. No inflated grades in my high school.

Anonymous said...

Hilarious! Every teen should have one of these accompany their dates. Viola, no more teen pg! :-)

jenny said...

well you know some mothers get dubed as bad ones when thay realy are good ones and well when i went to school we had to carry a round eggs for that class and also bags of sugger and baby dolls you name it has been use over the years in high school and well i think its kind of nice now thay have well al most life like babys and well by doing that well maybe then young teens will not go out and try to have one of there own .

Anonymous said...

That was mean of you ladies. The computerized grading system no doubt takes into account adults fooling around with the project.

Sorry to be snarky.

Bonnie said...

If nothing else I would have loved to have been there to see Tammy's face when that baby started crying. Looks like I missed a fun one! :)

Jenna Consolo said...

That is SO cool! We had to take care of an EGG. Funny story. I'll be the kids were happy to have that week over, and a bit slower to want to think about sex the same way.

Dr. Ashok Koparday said...

Hello Mom Michelle Mitchell,
Compliments and Greetings from Samadhan India.

What a refreshing blog? While reading 'When good mothers go bad,' I felt I was in the company of a group of your friends who were giggling with tongue in cheek humor. The spontaneous home spun narrative style conveyed the emotional nuances fluently.

It is news to me that 'Baby Simulators' are used for certification in 'Mom Training.'

Moms do need a book like 'GUIDE TO GOOD PARENTING'; a book that acts like a Pediatrician at home and helps steer away from the clutter of [supposedly] authoritative, unsolicited advices when the new mother is confounded by a yelling baby.

I still cannot get over my surprise about the hands on 'Baby Management' training with high tech gadgets and certification for a girl of 15 years. The training would be ideal and I would make it compulsory for fathers, especially the 'low patience,' 'irritable,' 'no time' ones. Nurses in the Department of Maternity and Neonatal Care would benefit too.

Being a mother is a prerogative of the female kind. Infant care is quite a daunting task. Mother's instinct is honed in her entire being and is so sharp that it leaves no doubt that women are bestowed with eerie sixth sense about every thing. Anatomy and physiology of the cerebral hemispheres support this view.

The practical care of the infant that you narrated is in our life blood. 'Motherhood' is a distinctive gift a woman has.
Those parents who have no time to personally attend to and care for their growing child miss an unparalleled joy that no money can buy.

Thanks to the blogger team to bring me to your blog. The look and feel of your blog was no doubt soothing, but the first thing that happened was that your name sounded very familiar. I reckon it could be because of Margaret Mitchell who wrote 'Gone with the wind' and a colleague of mine who has similar name and we were probing to find the meaning/origin of the name at a conference meet.

May I have the permission to reproduce the post "When Good Mothers Go Bad," with due acknowledgment and link to your blog?

Best regards,
Dr. Ashok Koparday

Scott & Allison Snyder said...

This is unbelievable! I wish I could see one of these dolls. Great story telling. Allison

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Marketing Mama said...

This is a hilarious post, Michelle. When I was in high school we had to be parents of an egg. At least they were hard boiled.

If I were Ashley, I'd be really upset about Tammy abusing my baby!!! I bet it taught her a great lesson though. :)

Rhonda said...

This is so funny as my older two daughters have been nanny's over here in Fairfield county, CT. Nothing, and they will tell you NOTHING, makes for better teen birth control prevention (among other reasons) than to nanny a bunch of real little children... who do spit up, vomit, and poop all over your brand new, over priced, had to have, JCrew sweater.

Love the post.

California Girl said...

I really enjoyed this post. I have often wondered about the baby dolls as well. Sounds very realistic for practice. My husband is a former social worker and thinks every prospective parent, particularly the teenaged ones, should have to take beaucoup classes before they get PG. I'm newly past the raising kids stage. Visit me @ http://emptynestevolution.blogspot.com/