Remember the school assignment where your home ec teacher made you dress up a 5-pound bag of flour or sugar and carry it around like it was your little darling? The point of this exercise was to terrify you out of teenage sex.
Even at 13 years old I knew that having a child would be nothing like schlepping around a wheat product dressed in a onesy. For heaven’s sake, our sugar babies didn’t even cry. Someone must have had a similar thought, because I recently had a run-in with a rather high-tech sugar baby.
Before I tell you about Charles, the Home Ec Baby, let me give you a run down of mine and David’s 3-tiered plan for becoming parents:
Step 1: Acquire a plant and keep it alive for 3+ months.
This step took quite a bit of trial and error. Who knew a basil plant couldn’t be expected to thrive with no water while we vacationed in Europe? It’s not like common sense has anything to do with plant parenting.
Step 2: Acquire a pet and keep it alive.
Success. He is a fearsome 13 lbs, and grumbles at the slightest provocation. Yesterday I found 16 assorted squeaky and/or chewy toys in David’s office. He is also the worst jump-up-on-you kind of dog imaginable. Sorry house guests.
Step 3: Baby.
Step 3: BABY.
Oh yeah. I guess its getting to be that time. We’re in our first house. A beautiful one. And as the song goes: First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes a house!
Or at least that’s how our song is going.
So the day we moved into our house I enlisted my little sister Jo to babysit The Grumbler, as he and his jumping were not going to be an asset to our move. Jo ended up watching his high-maintenance little booty for hours. So I couldn’t say no when she called and asked if I would babysit Little Baby Charles for a few hours.
You see, it was Jo’s week in her Home Economics class to have a weekend with the “Baby Think It Over infant simulator.” Sounds cute, right?
Baby Think It Over is basically a computerized baby doll that is programmed to cry, eat, and make a general nuisance of itself.
Every weekend Baby Think It Over gets a new name and a new parent. The junior high parents are supposed to care for Baby Think It Over as though it were real. Its head has to be supported, it has to be fed, and it wakes up in the middle of the night. Oh, if Baby Think It Over could talk.
My mom and Jo met me for a morally questionable baby hand-off in a parking lot. Baby Charles and his stuff was passed through the window, and just like that I became a parent.
For the first hour nothing happened, and David and I continued unpacking the house. Then I heard some snuffling from the next room. My computerized baby motherly instincts kicked in, and I raced to Charles’ aid.
First I waved my special parent key on Charles’ back so he would know I was there. Then I tried changing his special magnetized diaper. He kept crying. I tried rocking him. He cried harder. Finally I grabbed his bottle and smashed it up against his painted mouth. He cooed. And then I had to feed him for 20 minutes until he finally quieted down.
But a few minutes later he started snuffling again. I tried the bottle. No go. I tried the diaper. Nothing. I rocked him. His whimpers lessened. I rocked him for 13 minutes.
It was now less funny.
I was tired. I’d been moving all day. And I had an extremely needy doll.
When it was time for dinner we drove to a 50’s style drive-in restaurant so as to avoid stares. Halfway there I realized I had’t buckled in Baby Charles’ carrier. I wondered how many drivers had seen our moderately lifelike baby shifting around the back seat.
But my pity for the baby was short lived. Because Little Baby Charles cried in the car. Little Baby Charles cried as I tried to order dinner. Little Baby Charles cried as I desperately texted Jo. Little Baby Charles cried until David swore at it.
Finally, Jo and my mom came to pick him up. I was sitting in the middle of our new living room with boxes and assorted Little Baby Charles stuff all around me. I was frazzled. I was exhausted. I may have just grown my first gray hair. The baby had cried about every 15 minutes. Jo told us that he had cried only a handful of times for her the whole weekend.
I’m not sure if we were the intended target, but Baby Think It Over had a profound impact on this couple.
At least Jo got an A.