High school health classes have come a long way since the late 1980’s. Seriously. The most exciting thing my high school did was bring out a mangled car with dried blood all over the interior for us to look at while a state trooper told us not to drink and drive.
Now my oldest son is in high school and his health classes are a little more… interactive.
Case in point, they covered pregnancy and infant care last week. Boy1 brought home a baby. Well, not a real baby. He was assigned electronic baby #13. Baby 13 was programmed to go through a cycle of diaper changes (no real mess, he just had to exchange one computer-chipped diaper for another), feeding (again, a computer-chipped bottle), burping and general fussiness. Baby’s complaints had to be acknowledged with a little key strapped to my son’s wrist before he could begin to sooth the baby. Little baby #13 even came with a car seat in case we had to go somewhere.
At first, everything seemed to go well. About an hour after the baby came home it made an electronic burbling noise and fussed a little. Boy1 used the key and rocked it for a few minutes before it cooed and went silent. His moment of fatherhood was successful and he promptly put the baby on the table and went back to his video game.
I know. But he’s sixteen.
About thirty minutes later baby #13 burbled again, this time breaking into a little whiny cry. This took a little more investigating, but after changing the diaper, the electronic baby was happy again. For about ten minutes anyway. It hit the third level of programmed angry baby noise. Boy1 tried rocking, tried the diaper again, tried the bottle, he even tried burping, but there was no consoling the baby. The harder my son tried to quiet it, the louder the baby got.
The baby hit DEFCON 4 and the little brothers couldn’t get out of the room fast enough. The screams were every bit as jarring as a real baby’s… maybe even worse because it was a continuous loop of unhappiness. Nothing calmed the baby. For more than 5 minuted there was nothing but the baby screaming while the kid rocked it with one hand and flipped through the handbook with the other.
And what great solution did we find in the handbook? “Your baby is colicky. Continue to rock and burp it. It will not stop screaming until the colic cycle ends.”
At this point I send the kid to his room with the baby. I mean, I made it through three kids. I don’t have to do this again, right? Anyway, it took ten minutes for Boy1 to return with little #13, who he was now calling Chuckie for some reason.
Before long it was bedtime. Boy1 is a very heavy sleeper. I shut every door between him and me and turned on some white noise. Because I’m a good mother that way. Hey, I’m pushing forty and treasure my unconscious hours. Don’t judge. It all worked because I didn’t hear one robotic peep from #13 all night long.
Boy1 was not as lucky.
The next morning I knocked on his door to wake him up and it swung open, revealing him sprawled on the floor next to a cooing robot baby #13. He lifted his head to reveal a puddle of drool on the floor. His expression was dazed and his hair, all 18 inches in length, was sticking out everywhere. Through it all he was rocking the baby seat.
I had to bite my lip to keep from laughing. He looked like a very harried parent.
It brought back memories of the night he was a week old and I was so overwhelmed with exhaustion I put him down in the middle of the carpet and laid down beside him. He screamed himself to sleep at some point but I couldn’t say when because I passed out almost the second my head hit the floor. When I woke up and realized I’d just put the baby on the floor I was horrified… I was also too scared to pick him up since he was sleeping quite happily, so he spent the next 5 hours there with me next to him.
Despite how tired I was, how much I wanted there to be someone else to take care of the baby so I could rest, I never loved him more than that day. It was the first night I really felt the pressure of motherhood, the first night it hit me that this baby was going to depend on me, not just while he was a helpless little bundle, but on into adulthood. I will always be his mother.
It was odd seeing my child caring for a baby, even if that baby wasn’t real. A little taste of life coming full circle. It made me look back at his fleeting days as an infant and ahead to the time he would be a father. I hope that when his time comes, he’s the type of father who falls asleep in the floor, the type who when he realizes that fatherhood is forever, curls up beside his baby and accepts the job with love.