Welcome to the latest weapon to deter children from getting pregnant too soon

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At around 7.20pm last Friday I became a grandfather for the very first time. A moment I’d long pondered but never really expected to become a reality. At least not quite yet.

How would I cope with the clear sign I had walked an awfully long way down life’s great highway? How would I cope with having a baby once more in my life?

By around 7.20pm on the Sunday night – 48 hours after he first entered our lives – that moment in my life was all over. The prefix was stripped from me and a grandfather I was no more. There were, however, no tears.

Because my experience was one plenty of parents of young teenage girls are going through for the duration of a weekend.

It is the latest weapon in the arsenal schools fire in the fight to dissuade teen pregnancies and highlight some of the realities of being a parent.

So for 48-hours my daughter became the mother of a 7lb bouncing baby, er, doll. Just that he didn’t do much bouncing. But an awful lot of crying.

He also needed a regular nappy change, he cried lots, he needed to be winded, he needed constant feeding, he needed to feel the warmth and reassurance of his mother, he cried lots, and he even woke up in the middle of the night and cried lots (again) for no apparent reason, other than to ensure the neighbours became thoroughly convinced my daughter had some serious explaining to do.

In short, it acted like a baby to a certain extent.

What’s more, she couldn’t palm him off into the arms of its grandparents. Oh no. Because she had the little computer tag on her wrist which meant it recognised only her as its mother and settled down accordingly.

Apparently, my daughter will get a score for her weekend of dedicated parenting. And, were it up to me, she would get full marks and a commendation. Call me biased if you must.

But not only did she do everything this blessed little pre-programmed baby demanded of her (and that includes the 30 minute feeds at 3am in the morning) but she also trotted down the metaphorical learning path the whole thing was designed to take you along.

We were expecting the baby to activate at 7pm on Friday. By 7.15pm it hadn’t squeaked. Had we managed to get a ‘dud’ pretend baby? My daughter was almost in tears at the thought. When he squawked his way into life ten minutes later, a prouder mother you could not have wished to meet.

And for the rest of the night she was found cuddling and tending to the rather unresponsive lump of chilly plastic in a way which touched even my rusty old heart.

Saturday morning came, and, rather bleary-eyed, the new mum informed me of a night disturbed by tears and tantrums. But the devotion remained strong. Impressive I thought.

During the day, as the demands for drink/cuddles/fresh underwear continued, my daughter began to resemble the look of a woman who has just given birth and is finding the non-stop demands of their new charge a little taxing.

Sunday morning and where once she was cuddling the baby, I entered her room to find baby in its seat being rocked by my daughter’s foot and a look of ‘please make it stop’ in her eyes.

When it switched off on Sunday evening, my daughter looked relaxed for the first time that weekend. She was exhausted. Everyone else almost shed a tear. We’d grown rather attached.

Yes, dear daughter, having a baby does mean even simple things like going to the loo becomes something of a juggling act. Yes, you really do have to stop doing lots of things you used to enjoy.

To cut a long story short, I don’t think she’s going to be desperate to have a child in her teens. And my shotgun licence can no doubt wait as a result. So a result all round.

Except... except that a baby is far more than a crying, urinating bloody nuisance. Yes, it does all of those things. Yes, it wakes you at 2am and frequently every hour throughout the night. Yes, it really does often cry for absolutely no good reason and you can seem unable to placate it. And yes you kiss all your friends goodbye for the next six years.

But a real baby, a warm, gentle, fragile, baby, gives something back. It exudes innocence, vulnerability, undiluted love, and a complete reliance on you to raise it until it is strong enough, quite literally, to stand on its own two feet.

And that is where having a child – when the time comes – is a priceless experience.

Granted, you don’t want to be having babies too young – not because teenagers have to make poor mothers (I know one in particular who is a world beater) – but because when you’re young you should find your way a little in life first.

And rest assured a real baby, a real finger-squeezing, smiling, tear-inducing son or daughter delivers far more than the frustration of a plastic pain. Even if they were, just for a few short hours at least, my first grandchild. I’m happy to wait for a few years yet.


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