We’ve been expecting it for weeks and yesterday was the big day. After school my 13-year-old daughter brought home her 7 lb. 8oz. baby boy. She named him Emmitt. He’s a cute little guy and pretty good, too.
Now before you cluck “Tsk, tsk!” or question the loose morals in our house, understand Emmitt is a health class project. At my daughter’s school every eighth grader is assigned a “baby” to care for overnight.
Emmitt is a life size and weight baby, and eerily real-looking. Even his cry sounds real. He runs on a program that makes him cry at pre-set intervals and records how well he’s cared for. To stop him from crying, the student inserts a key into the baby’s back for anywhere from one to 30 minutes. (Oh, what fun the teacher can have setting the baby for disruptive students!)
My daughter’s choral concert was last night and she had to take Emmitt with her. Thankfully the baby “behaved” during the concert. I can only imagine what she would have done if he started to cry while she was on stage!
In the lobby afterward, more than a few concert-goers shot shocked and curious glances in her direction as she walked through the crowd with her violin case in one hand and a baby carrier in the other! I even received a few “congratulations” from moms who’d already had their turn playing the grandmother role.
Whatever fun Emmitt provided during the day, quickly wore off at night. As any parent knows that's when the real fun with a newborn comes. True to form, Emmitt woke four times during the night. This morning our bleary-eyed daughter dragged herself and her baby to school, only too happy to return it for the next victim…er “parent.” Even this scaled-down simulation showed how hard it is to care for a baby.
As funny as this experience was for our family, it was surreal. And it freaked all of us out a bit. Our dog was convinced the baby was real. She sniffed and fretted and followed it everywhere. My husband said seeing his little girl with her newborn made him feel physically ill. I vacillated between fast forwarding to the day I hope to share this beautiful experience with my daughter and picturing that experience coming at far too young an age.
Overall I have mixed feelings about the baby simulator assignment. Maybe I don’t want to admit my little girl is growing up. Really, how did my daugther travel from American Girl dolls to the possibility of real babies so quickly? Did I miss something along the way? Do we really need to get discuss pregnancy with eighth graders?
Apparently, yes we do. Each year about a million teenage girls get pregnant. And some of them are nice Christian girls from godly families, girls just like our own. As parents, we can teach purity, listen and guide but ultimately this isn’t a decision we can control. How I pray for my daughter, and for all teenage girls, as they navigate the difficult, confusing and not-always-well-marked road to adulthood.