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Sunday, 25 October 2015

How Not to be a Teenage Mummy.

                                                         WIRED TO CRY                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            "It's to, like, make you think about it.  To, I mean,  understand, what having a baby is like?"
The boss is explaining to my very incredulous mother about why the the Transition Year students are each in turn taking home a pretend baby for two days and two nights, on this Friday evening visit.
"It's, like,  the weight of a baby? It costs at least €1,000, to, I mean, make?  "And" she goes on, being interested in such matters "its  electronically wired to stop crying when the nappy they give you touches it's bum, or the bottle reaches it's lips. And it's wired to cry hard if you don't support it's head. Also, sometimes, it cries at random?  for ages and you have to... you have to...  make it stop?"

My sister explains again to my mother, who can't quite believe it,  what its all about.
"And, you know, the students, they have it constantly, I mean all the time, so that it might cry in the middle of the night, or early in the  morning too."
"Yeah" the boss adds  "I heard that they, the teachers,  programme the crying too. Like they might set it for longer periods for some people."
"You mean people who really need telling"  I ask, incredulous in turn.
The boss says she's not sure.  But... Jane from her class had it crying all night, so that she threw it into the car in the end. So she couldn't hear it any more. "You get, I mean,  graded afterwards.  On how long it cried"  she finishes calmly. You can see she figures hers won't be crying all that much.

My mother, a  woman who has had eleven actual babies, laughs. You get the feeling she's not convinced. That the entire thing is, basically,  distasteful.  And inappropriate. Also pointless.  From the look on her face.

                                              SO WHAT EXACTLY IS THE PROBLEM HERE?

The boss doesn't, in fact,  have all that  much of a problem. At first.
She brings home the dark colored Pretend Baby, and so she calls him, on the Wednesday. He is heavy, and he has disconcertingly soulful chocolate brown eyes. (Really)
I ask her on Thursday after school how it went the night before.
"Yeah" she says, looking over at the pretend baby, who, silent for the moment, lies on the floor with one leg sticking awkwardly in the air,  "It was ok. He awoke crying at three? I gave him the bottle and he stopped. So like five minutes later he started again, and I gave him the nappy and he stopped. And then, I mean,  five minutes later he started again so I rocked him for a few seconds and he stopped. And that was it. I went back to sleep. Till, like,  six in the morning? when he did it all again.  And at eight. Now that was annoying as I was trying to get ready for school. Nothing since".
On cue the Pretend Baby starts to cry. It is an actual baby cry and none of the interventions work this time. I shudder discreetly at the memory. "Well, ye know, they do cry darling.  Endlessly.  Randomly, in fact. I expect that's what they are trying to teach you. That's the ah learning"
 The thing stops then. The boss takes him off her shoulder unfazed. She doesn't have to say "so what's the big deal about that?" It's written all over her face.

                                                           FAMOUS LAST WORDS

On Friday the Beautiful one, returning, is introduced to the Pretend Baby. She and the boss pose for selfies cuddling the doll,  doing other stuff with the doll, accompanied by raucous giggling.
I look into the kitchen later on where they sit at the kitchen playing scrabble. The Beautiful One stares intently at the scrabble board, her phone in her hand, her eyes swiveling from screen to board and back, seamlessly. The boss pats the Pretend Baby absentmindedly where it is hooked over her shoulder, staring intently at the screen on her phone. "Hurry up" she says to her sister without looking up.
"How's it going"  I say. "I mean with that" nodding at the Pretend Baby.
"What? Oh well. Yeah. Switches off tomorrow at lunch time.  Gotta bring it back on Monday. I might even miss it. It's kinda cute."

                                          POST TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER. PROBABLY. 

On Saturday morning I meet her on the stairs rocking the Pretend Baby who is wailing disconsolately. Has been wailing disconsolately for a good part of the night, if you want to know. She has a harried, slightly haunted look.  It sits incongruous on her clear eyed, teenaged face. I used to see the same harrowed face in the bathroom mirror when she herself  was a real baby, welded  to my shoulder, buckled on my breast. You didn't get a loo break.

Later on she tells me that it wasn't that cute after all.  We look over at the Pretend Baby, silent now, switched off as programmed.  I'll swear the melting chocolate eyes widened as she spoke. Or maybe, probably,  that was just me, traumatized by wailing baby memories. I tell her to put it in a drawer in her room till Monday. She doesn't want to. So we put in the boot of the car until then.

I feel I should offer context, reassurance to the Boss afterwards. "So" I say carefully  "I guess you could sat that motherhood is not for the teenaged honey. Or..or the um..  fainthearted. Or you know, girls. Like, until you're older. (But not too much older or your ova will be ovah,) What?? No! that last bit was my inner witness only dear reader. What can I say? Its a minefield out here.