Monday, November 26, 2007


We had an excellent Thanksgiving with new friends. Everything from soup to nuts was great...even though they served neither soup nor nuts. The pre-meal spread alone was worthy of a king. Plus, the actual turkey and the various accouterments that went along with it were deliciously gourmet.

Now four days later just when it seemed that our cup of life's bounty had runneth over...our house has been blessed with the unexpected gift of life...a visit from the stork! Albeit a mechanical stork and a computerized baby that I named JUSTPAT!

In our school district, eighth graders as a part of their Life Skills course are presented with a computerized doll. This doll, I nicknamed it JUSTPAT because it came with pink clothes but when we removed its diaper, it had standard (okay maybe a little better than standard) male equipment.

The assignment identifies to middle school kids the harsh realities, responsibility and the consequences of unexpected/unwanted pregnancies.  These lessons are eloquent yet simple because each student is equipped with a non-removable scanner attached to their wrist and that activates their doll.

The student is expected to react to the different cries than the baby is programmed for. By swiping the scanner at the appropriate times, the Life Skill teacher can judge the level of care that the eighth grader alone provides.

In conjunction with the scanner, the student keeps a running log and identifies the time, length and type of aid provided. If necessary (and it's VERY necessary), the student will also identify any snags along the way.

My son Andrew brought Justpat home at 2:30PM yesterday.  By 3, we all were in a tizzy (even our dog Roxy felt the pressure) from the faux baby's incessant crying.

 At first, this was so difficult and time consuming...if you don't hold the bottle right, the baby won't get fed and it will cry or you might have to burp it for twenty minutes before you hit the "sweet-spot." So if the baby is crying to be changed and you feed it, it will continue to cry. If it needs to be burped and you comfort it, it will continue to cry.

The student's receiving the highest grades for this project manage to go about their normal daily routine and make minor adjustments to care for the infant. This was one area that wasn't happening for Andrew. He was so rapt in self doubt and worry that rather than take JUSTPAT with him, he was forced to cancel with friends.

The doll even comes with a tilting neck. So when you coddle it or put it to sleep, the correct angle for comfort must be maintained. Further and most importantly new-born mechanical babies don't sleep through the night. On one hand this a major problem for the student but in the case of my wife Sue who works graveyard shift, the doll's cries during the night cost her valued sleep.

We are half way through this two-day ordeal and the message of practicing safe sex has become abundantly clear to Andrew. Beyond that, a valuable lesson in ALL of life's responsibility is learned and perhaps best of all...for Andrew...just because you aren't good at something...something you may not like doing...with patience, accepting assistance through networking and hard work...things that seem impossible CAN be done.

Yesterday started slow and ended rather well. I didn't see Andrew this morning but I was told that he was bursting with pride. I fully expect today will be a lot easier.

I as I type, Andrew has returned from school. So, here we go again.

I think JUSTPAT will be a lifetime memory for all of us but I'm certain that on Wednesday morning, Andrew will throw the damned thing back at the teacher! Cross your fingers that we get through this last day and hopefully, we'll laugh when its over...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

OMG! Those couple of days and NIGHTS were dreadful! I remember changing its diaper on Andrew's weight bench and "Justpat" fell off and screamed...FOREVER! What memories...All BAD! --- SUEBEE