Middle school students learn the demands of being a parent
" I am not ready to be a father - not for another 20 years," James Alegre, 14, declared.
The Granite Mountain Middle School eighth-grader made that statement after he and other students "adopted" an infant for 72 hours.
"Baby Ready of Not" is part of the abstinence program presented to the students by North Star Youth Partnership.
North Star program director Diane DeLong and AmeriCorps worker JoHeather Johnson "delivered" babies to the group of students who volunteered to participate in Baby Ready or Not.
The baby dolls are infant-size and cry like real babies. The students must respond to the baby's cries by inserting the correct "key" in the baby's back. Each baby comes with four keys - hunger, diaper change, needs to be burped, or attention - and the student must find the correct one before the baby will stop crying.
Morgan Coates, 14, adopted a baby boy she named Jamie.
Morgan thought having Jamie from Friday evening until Monday morning would be tough but "interesting."
Adding to the challenge for the new teen parents was a dance at the middle school the same evening they adopted their babies.
Morgan said she had a babysitter for Jamie, "but I will have to take care of him the rest of the weekend."
James Alegre, 14, was one of four boys adopting an infant Dec. 12. He names his son Spike.
"I volunteered for this program because I thought it would be interesting. I think I will learn that babies are hard to take care of," James said.
The new father planned to spend the weekend "taking care of Spike and watching movies."
Johnson gave them a few basic instructions.
At the top of the list was "Don't let others abuse your baby. This is a good time to find your voice; say what you mean and stand by it," Johnson said.
Johnson also talked about child safety, the cost of car seats, strollers, backpacks, diapers, formula, and, for working parents, babysitting.
"Don't let your dog chew on them and don't leave them in the garage. You have to use common sense," Johnson said.
Each baby came with a backpack filled with a blanket, an infant carrier, a bottle, diapers and two outfits.
GMMS counselor Amy Hendershot said, "My hope is that they realize it is not easy being a teen parent, and hopefully, they will abstain from sexual activity when they see what the results could be," Hendershot said.
The counselor said parent support for the program is "phenomenal. If the parents aren't supportive, it is not going to work."
When Morgan and James returned Jamie and Spike Monday morning, they said they had an interesting weekend.
Morgan said she took her baby to Peter Piper Pizza
immediately after school on Friday.
"It was weird. People were staring at me as if I had done something wrong," she said.
Morgan said she learned a baby is more responsibility than "just a baby doll. I also learned that I am not ready to have a baby. I want to wait. When we were out in public, people stared at me and judged me."
Spike woke James up 21 times Saturday night. When they went to the mall and Denny's, "people thought he was a real baby and would roll their eyes."
James thought the entire experience was fun, and "it was interesting being needed."
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