I write this having come off a night with little sleep. You see, my 13 year old son brought home a baby yesterday. Part of his Home Ec class includes learning how to care for a baby. For 24 hours, he had to feed, burp, change diapers, and soothe the baby. He had to wheel it around school yesterday, from class to class, making sure it didn’t get kicked, smashed into, or forgotten.
This was one of those baby dolls with a computer chip inside. It cried at random times, even through the night. When it cried, my son had to figure out which one of its needs had to be met. He would rock it, change it, and feed it until it stopped crying and cooed. Sometimes it didn’t want to stop crying. Bottle-feeding took anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes. My other sons even pitched in and tried to help. It’s pretty amazing watching a 13 year old boy change a diaper!
The novelty soon wore off, as the baby continued to cry, preventing all the kids from getting a decent night of sleep. They were getting pretty annoyed with that baby. Why wouldn’t it just stop crying, they asked. Annoyance soon turned to frustration and eventually to anger. Just make it stop, they pleaded. Unfortunately, there was no shut-off switch.
When they woke up this morning, they were all exhausted. We talked about the experience over breakfast. They all agreed that taking care of a baby is hard work and never stops. It made it hard to get homework done, take a shower, get sleep, and play outside with the neighborhood kids. It caused anxiety over when the next crying spell would come and how quickly it would be resolved. The decision was unanimous: wait until you’re an adult to have kids. (The abstinence lecture comes next!)
Early in my career as a dietitian, I counseled women at prenatal clinics in very poor communities. Many of these women were teenage girls, as young as 13 years old. They were so excited at the thought of being pregnant and having a baby to play with. They often mentioned how fun it would be, just like taking care of a doll. I only wished these girls had the opportunity to take this course and experience reality before making the decision to have sex at such an early age.
This experience was so eye-opening for my children. Yes, it was a bit of an inconvenience to listen to the baby cry all the time, and frustrating for me as a mom to have my children’s sleep interrupted, but I think the message was sent loud and clear.