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‘90s FAMILY : A Little Bundle of Crankiness for Students

TIMES STAFF WRITER

In some sex education classes, teachers assign students full-time care of an object such as an egg or a sack of sugar to get across the idea that having a baby is permanent, not always pleasant and can be a nuisance when you’d rather just go out and have fun.

Now they have Baby Think It Over. Or, as I began to think of it after 48 hours at our house, Baby Cries a Lot. The $250, seven-pound doll has an interior control panel that operates a random crying pattern, shuts off only when a special key is held in place for varying lengths of time, and has red and yellow lights to detect child abuse or neglect.

My 14-year-old daughter, Amanda, named it “Bailey.”

Bailey came to us as part of a unique eight-week sex education course for parents and teens called Sharing Healthy Adolescent and Parent Experiences (SHAPE) through the Coalition for Children, Adolescents and Parents in Orange.

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The idea of the course is to impart crucial information about sexuality, reproduction, birth control, diseases, relationships, setting limits and parenting to parents and early teen-agers in ways that are fun and age appropriate.

Amanda assured me right off that she had no interest in babies and didn’t need this lesson. But I was concerned. This looked like it was going to be too much fun.

As soon as we got home from the hospital, oops, I mean classroom, Amanda activated little Bailey and left him on a table in the garage while she went rummaging in the attic for a doll bed.

“Wait a second!” I said. “You can’t do that! What if it cries and you can’t get to it in time and we get a yellow light?

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“What if this were a real baby?” I said with alarm. “It might roll off and get hurt! Or die!”

“Hey,” she said, “whose baby is this?”

Amanda took Bailey to a soccer game, to a sleep over and to the mall with her friends. He brought them attention. More fun. One of her friends dropped him by accident, she said.

As I chauffeured the girls around, I could see the baby generated a lot of interest. A woman stopped us in the parking lot and asked about the doll and the class. “That’s a great idea,” she said. “This is the age when they really need it.” The girls looked at her blankly.

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They were just doing an assignment, trying to have fun.

Once activated, the doll can be set to good baby, normal baby or crack baby. We had chosen “normal.”

According to Amanda’s daily log, he cried at the game, at the sleep over, in the car, at the mall, when she was in the shower, when she was watching TV, when she was cleaning the bunny cage and four times when she was sleeping.

I ignored the crying. Whose baby was it, anyway?

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Her log also asked her to record her feelings when the baby cried. She wrote, “Frantic. Irritated. Responsible. Embarrassed. Tired and annoyed. Upset. Angry. Worn out.”

It was all so familiar. I couldn’t help but notice how much it reminded me of when she was little and no matter the depth and breadth and timelessness of my love for her, how grateful I am that those days are gone. Bailey made me think it over. If we don’t want to be responsible for another infant, we need to make sure our children understand that they must wait until they are responsible.

Amanda thought it over too. She concluded there must be a malfunction with Bailey’s batteries.

The fourth time he woke her up gurgling in the night, the yellow light was on. We talked it over in the dark and decided there was really nothing else that could be done.

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We disconnected him.


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