Two days ago, I was driving my fourteen-year-old daughter back from school, and she said, “One of the boys in my class said he could buy condoms at his barber shop.”
My heart skipped a beat. “And why was this boy telling you that?”
“We were in Health and Wellness, and we had to name three places we could get condoms if we needed to.”
“Oh, okay.” I breathed a sigh of relief. Sort of.
Then, yesterday she came home with a baby. Not a real baby, but a lifelike educational doll that cries and coos and needs to be tended to like a newborn infant. Every time it cried, Anyssa had to figure out whether it needed changing, feeding, burping, cuddling, or if it was just fussy and was going to cry no matter what she did.
“This is stressful, Dad! I have to keep it with me all the time, and it’s hard to figure out what it wants.” Her care for the baby was monitored and recorded by a computer program that communicated with a wristband she had to wear. Her actions would affect her grade.
I had to chuckle. The designers of this program had put a lot of thought into it. Anyssa’s whole routine had to change around the arrival of this unpredictable infant. Dinner was interrupted, sleep came in short bursts, and I think she even had to stop and get out mid-shower this morning to check on the doll.
I asked her at breakfast time today if she thought she was ready to live like that for the next two-three years. “Maybe in ten years,” she said. Good answer, I thought.
Then the baby cried again. Right when it was time to walk out the door for school, she had to stop and feed it. In order for Emmy to get to work on time, Anyssa had to keep feeding her baby as they strapped the car seat in and drove to school. (It was a tense five minutes in the Ball household.) The baby was still “eating” when Anyssa arrived.
“She was really loaded down when I dropped her off,” Emmy said. Not only did she have her school bag, but she also had to carry all the baby paraphernalia with her.
The whole experience was just so realistic. Of course the baby needs to be fed right when it’s time to leave! And wow am I glad to be done with the days of carrying around all that baby crap. Diaper bag, car seat, extra clothes, food, toys.
Some people miss their babies. They pine for the days when they could hold their children in their arms. Not me. Sure, I loved certain parts, but on the whole, I honestly just thank God we made it through those years without screwing things up too badly. I am so much better at parenting my kids at this age than I was when they were little.
I’m also incredibly thankful for public schools and the great teachers who are willing to tackle uncomfortable but necessary issues with a room full of teenagers. Don’t get me wrong; I think parents need to be involved and informed about what their children are learning. That being said, I have no desire whatsoever to talk about condom procurement with a bunch of adolescent boys.
But I sure am glad my daughter is there for the discussion. I remember the hormones that coursed through my body as a fourteen year old boy. And also at seventeen or twenty-three. I’m a realistic parent. I know that even the smartest people do really stupid things, especially during their teenage years. The more my daughters are prepared to deal with these realities, the better their chances are of making fewer foolish mistakes.
In the end, however, if there’s one thing I hope I can teach my kids, it’s that even if they make those mistakes, we’ll find a way through. Mom and Dad may get irritated or disappointed (or, let’s face it, really angry), but Mom and Dad will also get over it, because we love our daughters and we know how life is.Like this? Click to subscribe!