Yvonne’s phone rings while she’s in the shower, noticing that it is Haley Marie, one of our many surrogate kids, I answer.
‘Tia Won (given name from this child to my wife, couldn’t say Yvonne as a baby, rhymes with own) I need to make a baby.’
No hello, no how are you?, and now it is confirmed that Yvonne and I have morphed into the same person because this thirteen year old has assumed Yvonne has answered the phone.
‘It’s Tio Fwan (my given name from this child, partially Asian, couldn’t say Juan when she was a baby either), excuse me, what?
‘I need to make a baby’
I walk into the bathroom where Yvonne is taking a shower, her body soaped up in Apple Blossom Ginger Pomegranate wash and her hair with a stiff peak of lathered Green Tea Jasmine Bloom Non-Sulphate Organic Hair Repair (I like to read bottles when I’m in the shower too) – and I blurt out: ‘Haley’s on the phone and she needs to know how to make a baby.’
Yvonne’s response as she has now immediately begun to rinse the bubbles and lather that were just covering her modesty, ‘A real baby?’ Soap gone and modesty revealed, I nod my head ‘no’, I give her a look that says, ‘Really?’ and without answering, I walk out of the bathroom.
Haley explains this is for a school project. She needs to make a baby out of birdseed and she needs to care for the child for an extended period of time so she can learn the pitfalls of teenage pregnancy and the obligations surrounding caring for a newborn.
Having friends and family who are educators, I understand the whole modern, experiential learning methods. I get it. People, especially kids, learn by doing. This project, however, is just going to leave one big birdseed mess in Haley’s parents’ home because this child has trouble hanging up her clothes. Now, we are going to make her responsible for little Tweety-Feed, who can’t take care of itself.
If we want to teach her about teenage pregnancy, why not employ the 94.3% method that worked for my generation and my Cuban mother:
‘If you come home pregnant at thirteen, I will kill you!’
It wasn’t foolproof and we did have teenage pregnancies, but we also had enough sense to know that babies are not made of birdseed and that no ‘hands-on’ experiment was going to dissuade someone, especially a teenager, from making a mistake.
I believe in the lessons that are drilled and instilled via repetition and practice. Our fingers learn to find musical notes on instruments, our brains learn the spelling of words by writing them down and we learn math theorems and rules by working out problems and proofs by showing our work.
‘If you come home pregnant at thirteen, I will kill you!’ may seem a bit extreme but I think it has the same (if not more) effectiveness of caring for birdseed baby. Who knows? With the time Haley and her classmates would save by not creating birdseed baby, by not pretending to feed birdseed baby, by not pretending to change birdseed baby, by not pretending to rock birdseed baby, etc., they may have time to do something real.
Perhaps, they might read a real book.