Baby, Think It Over

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Fall 2007 / Vol. 7, No. 4

The baby is screaming. My wife is tapping its back. It keeps screaming. She shakes it. More high-pitched baby screams.

Finally, I shout, “Throw it in the freezer!”

My wife laughs. She turns the little black doll over and fiddles with, yes, the key.

I was first introduced to Baby Think It Over® several years ago, when the 13-year-old babysitter arrived carrying—my God!—a baby and promptly tripped on the steps, flinging the little bundle onto the bluestone sidewalk. I gasped. The babysitter screamed. The bundle went Waaah!

My son’s school paid $300 apiece for a dozen or so of these computer-assisted dolls. According to his teacher, Ms. Ferraro, they are meant to teach prepubescent kids how difficult it is to take care of a baby and thus make them “think it over.” And for the past few years it has been a ritual of fall to see 8th graders in the supermarket, in church, at football games, carrying their “little babies,” which Waaah! at the appropriately inappropriate times and embarrass the kid.

But this is serious business. On the Baby Think It Over web site (www.realityworks.com), you’d think you were shopping for a new car:

“As of July 1, 2007 Realityworks will discontinue support for older models…Standard Baby (Generation 4) released in 1996, Realistic Head Support Baby (Generation 5) released in 1998, Original RealCare Baby released in 1999…. Please consider the Trade-In Program.… We’ll give you a $50 discount toward the purchase of the latest Realityworks infant simulator.”

You can’t make this stuff up.

The students must take the “babies” for a weekend, everywhere they go. They fill out a chart, noting when it cried, what the student was doing, how long it cried, how the student felt, and how others were affected. My son was reading a book (good for him) at 3:46 p.m. when the baby started crying. “I felt fine,” he wrote.

The next entry is in my wife’s handwriting. Crying started at 4:55 and ended at 4:55. And what was she doing at the time? “Talking to our dog.” How did she feel? “Anxious.” Her next entry, 20 minutes later, is “Key breaks.”

She elaborated in her own journal (I refused to keep one): “In order to let our son attend his first snowboarding night with the City Youth Department, I volunteered to babysit. Trying to stop the baby’s crying, I broke the plastic key. I drove to the Middle School and threw myself on your mercy.”

She got a new key (for $6), and our son took over later that night. He made another dozen or so entries; he was, variously, sleeping, riding in the car, watching TV, sleeping, sleeping, sleeping, brushing teeth, when the baby cried, and he always felt “fine.” The crying never affected anyone else except once, in church. “It scared my dad,” he noted.

After my son turned in his baby, he came home from school dejected, with a note. “I had it 66 hours. Let neck down 13 times. 5 neglects. 2 rough handling. Let cry 37 minutes.”

My wife was incensed. She penned “an addendum” to her journal. “I think that a piece of the missing broken key could be a cause of the result. Please advise.”

I could have advised: a piece of broken logic got stuck in the educational cerebellum.

Later that year, on the way to my son’s 8th-grade graduation, we stopped at the hospital to visit his classmate, Katlyn, and her new baby boy. “Did he come with a key?” I asked. She laughed, beaming, as any new mother would. Of some 80 girls in the class, 4 were pregnant that year. They were barely 14.

I recently called Ms. Ferraro to ask how things were going. She explained that she probably wouldn’t get any new babies. “I was chaperoning at a football game, and these kids had the babies in shopping bags. They had figured out how to put duct tape over the babies’ heads and on to their chests so the head wouldn’t move.”

I didn’t have the heart to tell her that some kids play football with the babies.

Peter Meyer, former news editor of Life magazine, is a freelance writer and a contributing editor of Education Next.




Comment on this article
  • melissa coles says:

    Yes i am trying to fine out were can i buy the doll at for mine cousin and mine daurhter and nices And how mush and the phone number please

  • jessica says:

    i would also like to know were to get them please

  • Hope says:

    We’re can you find these

  • Teacher Tara says:

    http://realityworks.com

    You should be able to contact them and buy one, but they are meant to be educational tools, not toys so they are rather pricey.

  • Amanda Mae says:

    My life skills class is doing this next weekend and I’m really excited but I’m also nervous…

  • J. A. Henson says:

    It sounds as though your son and his friends were ill-prepared for the project. Actually, I question the value of even using the dolls with boys. Despite advances in society, the teenage mother’s life changes forever after her child’s birth, whereas for teen fathers this is by no means always the case.

    I’m a teacher and once taught in a high school where the dolls were used for a course in the social studies section. In my experience, students who did the project took it very seriously and got a lot out of it. All were excited when their turn with the doll started. And I found it interesting to observe how soon disillusionment and exhaustion set in for each student! A few (very few) really “bonded” with their pretend baby and were sad to relinquish it. But by the end of the week, although elated that they’d succeeded in the project, the vast majority were exhausted and really rather relieved to hand over responsibility to the next “mother” in line and go back to their relatively carefree lives. Which, of course, is precisely what is supposed to happen!

    I think the idea is brilliant and that when students who are appropriately well-prepared for the project, the dolls can achieve something that a thousand lectures will not.

  • Peter Meyer says:

    Dear J.A. Henson,

    You’re probably on to something here: a difference between boys and girls. It could be the difference between a good idea and a bad idea.

    thanks,

    peter

  • Corinne says:

    I am also a teacher. Students at my school also participate in this project in grades 6, 7, and 8. But no one else is allowed to babysit. Only the student can care for it. Our students take the project seriously, as well. I think it is valuable for them.

  • hdcaku says:

    Getting a Baby Think it Over club in my afterschool program! Can’t wait, my friend did it one year and she got send out of class because it wouldn’t stop!

  • liz says:

    I did this in high school, for extra credit, since we were the first class to have them. I wasn’t “doing it”, but i decided to wait. But the night I brought the doll home, my dad said to me, What is that? i told him, he replied by saying, if i hear that going off during the night i’m throwing it out the window, i replied by telling him have alot of money ready to give to the teacher because they are not to cheap. But nothing went out the window. And i learned alot from the doll got extra credit and know i’m thirty years old with a five year old and a twenty one month old. I’m glad i waited. These dolls can teach alot.

  • amber says:

    imma take the baby think it over thing this year im so nervuse i dont no wat to do

  • Kate says:

    I did this in school. Lost a lot of sleep but definitely made me think it over!!

  • donna says:

    On the second day at 3:30 am, with the screaming doll she was too exhausted to console, my daughter tore off the bracelet. She failed the class. I protested. Baby-Think-It-Over had taught the lesson. She knew she wasn’t ready for a baby. The teacher allowed her to write an essay of the experience.

    I had my own version of Baby-Think-It-Over. I made my daughters help care for their siblings. My 34 year old was in her late 20′s and married before becoming a mom and my 24 year old remains child-less.

    They should make a teen version of this doll that disrespects, smokes pot, breaks curfew and lies. That would really give em something to think over.

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