Meet the newest member of our family, baby Ireland. My 8th grader's teacher assigned everyone in the class a 5-pound bag of flour to haul around for a week and treat like a baby. You 've probably heard of this assignment, designed to give teenagers a glimpse of what having a real baby would be like. Before I knew it, I was making Ireland a sling and asking my son how baby Ireland slept last night. It was kind of spooky how easy it was to slip into the role of Grandma. My son took on fatherhood with grace. He made a little diaper for Ireland out of construction paper and a plastic bag, and wouldn't even leave the baby alone downstairs while he did his homework. On the ride home from school on Monday, he and his friend made sure Ireland had a seatbelt around him. In math class, the kids put all the flour babies on a table together for a "playdate," and they worked out a complicated genealogy for the babies among their friends. Later in the week, they were going to have to wake up at 3-hour intervals and email the teacher to verify their "feedings."
But today, my son came home without baby Ireland. His science teacher had called off the project. Apparently some mean boys got hold of the babies and destroyed 8 of them, creating a big mess in the hallway with the 40 pounds of flour. They were caught, fortunately, and had to clean it all up. My son was disappointed, but resigned, almost as if he found the boys' behavior inevitable. There has been an epidemic of egging incidents at schools so I guess he wasn't surprised. I find the idea of boys destroying the babies disturbing and discouraging, but I treated it lightly with him. For him, it was a game anyway, and he took away from it what he was supposed to: if you're not mature enough to take care of a 5-pound bag of flour, you're not mature enough to take care of a baby.