Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Mothers (05/02/05)
TITLE: Who's the Dummy, Mummy?
By Melanie Kerr
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"Why won't you just go to sleep?" she pleaded, trying to keep a sharp and tired tone out of her voice. The baby seemed to be sensitive not just to her voice, but the signals her whole body was sending out. She made a conscious effort to relax her shoulders and lighten her hold on the child.
The gentle click of the kitchen door opening revealed her father, wrapped in a dark blue dressing gown, smiling tiredly at her.
"Sweetheart, let me take over for a bit - you know you have your test in the morning. You need to get some rest." He picked up the kettle, walked over to the sink, preparing to make a cup of tea. Carefully looking at his daughter, he read the emotions that played across her face. She was close to tears and unsure whether she should surrender her burden. The baby was her responsibility and she felt that she needed to demonstrate that she was mature enough to cope. She was just sixteen, barely more than a child herself. He blonde hair was twisted into an untidy knot and secured on the top of her head. Circles of grey tiredness smudged the skin underneath her blue eyes.
"I thought it would be fun…to have a baby. I thought I was mature enough…" her voice trailed off sadly. She remembered at first the jealousy of her friends as the baby was put into her arms. It was so small and fragile looking, dressed in a plain white babygrow. She remembered the small mewing sounds the baby made, and she acknowledged a rush of tenderness that suffused her body. That seemed so long ago. Now most of her friends rarely called, becoming impatient with the time and attention the baby required.
"It is fun to have a baby," said her father, "when everything is in place - the family set up and ready, the father present and willing, the mother old enough not to still be at school, old enough to have had a real taste of life.." He reached out to tuck a tendril of hair behind her ear. There was no criticism in his voice, just love for his daughter who had taken on this immense responsibility.
"Come on, hand it over.." reluctantly Annette complied. The baby gave a loud protesting wail. "Will you shut up, please." Lifting the baby towards his face her father stuck his tongue out.
"Dad?…now look what you have done….she'll never settle now." Annette reached out to reclaim the baby.
"Honey…I suggest we start looking for the off switch. The baby had done its job and you have nothing else you need to learn." He tossed the baby over, his fingers exploring the soft plastic surface beneath the babygrow.
"And what…give up? I am not a quitter." Annette snatched the baby back. "There..there…was Grandad being bad? It OK…mummy is back." Annette continued to crone softly to the plastic baby. She looked into its glass eyes remembering that inside there was a tiny camera calculating the quality of her gaze. Small sensors in the surface of the baby's plastic skin registered the strength of her grip. The microphone hidden behind the baby's ear registered the words she spoke and the tone of her voice.
Two weeks ago, Annette had volunteered to be the guinea pig for the social development class. So many young girls, still at school, after a careless relationship they were too immature to handle, found themselves, like Annette, saddled with the responsibility of bringing up a child. Annette's baby might be just a hi-tech doll, designed to simulate a real baby, but the feelings that it provoked were very real. Annette had agreed to keep a diary that was going to be photocopied and given to the girls in the school. She was determined that through her experience, other girls her age, would think twice before walking the path she was on.
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