Molly is a very lifelike baby doll that my granddaughter Cassie had to take home for a weekend, as she is currently studying child development at school.  Each child in the class had to take a turn, and 14 year old Cassie was eager to discover the delights of caring for a ‘newborn’.

Cassie was issued with a non-removable electronic wristband that recorded the distance between her and the doll, thus enabling the school to ensure that Cassie didn’t just drop the doll in a cupboard and forget about it until it was time to return to school on the Monday morning.  The wristband also recorded when the doll was fed or had its nappy changed, and how long it cried for. Marks would be awarded to the most attentive students, and Cassie wanted to obtain the highest grade for her ‘work’ over the weekend.

The first problem occurred when Cassie realised that she would have to travel home on the school bus with Molly, who cried at irregular intervals just as a newborn baby does.  My daughter-in-law was summoned to pick her up in the car to avoid the embarrassment of having to face hordes of teenage boys on the bus with a crying  doll in her arms.

Back at home, Molly’s cries soon began to grate on Cassie’s nerves.  She picked the doll up, rocked it, ‘changed’ its nappy and ‘fed’ it, but it still cried.  When she told me this it brought back memories of my 24 year old self let loose with newborn Leon suffering with colic.  Like Cassie I remember being in floods of tears by the time Sam came home from work.  Sam, ever cool in a crisis, took Leon and straight away sat down with him in perfect silence.  Leon, now 37, came home from work and found Cassie in floods of tears holding Molly, who wouldn’t stop crying.  Leon, a father of 2 and well trained by now in pacifying babies, showed Cassie how to rock the doll to shut it up.

At night-time, the doll had to be by Cassie’s side due to the electronic wristband.  Cassie’s sleep, usually peaceful and undisturbed, began to be pierced by Molly’s shrill tones at unearthly hours of the morning.  She was soon in Leon and Kelly’s room complaining that the doll would not be quiet.  The whole household began night manoeuvres, walking up and down with Molly, changing its nappy, feeding it copious amounts of ‘milk’, and generally rocking the hell out of it.  I wanted to roar with laughter, as memories of rocking Leon backwards and forwards in his pushchair at 2am came to mind.

After a Sunday night also spent in absolute torture, Cassie, by then tired and irritable,  had decided that she would never ever have a baby, and that she couldn’t wait to return it to school.  Kelly drove her in on Monday morning, and she fairly ran out of the car with Molly firmly under one arm.

I had to keep a straight face as Cassie related the sad tale of her first attempts at child-rearing.  Like her I wondered what had hit me in the first few months of Leon’s life, and did not know how on earth I was going to manage.  But manage I did, because of course there’s a strong bond between a mother and her baby.   I tried to explain to Cassie that it’s a bit different when you have your own real-life baby to look after because you love the bones of it, but she wasn’t listening.

I suppose it’s a good thing that she got to face the reality of looking after a newborn just at the crucial time when puberty decided to strike.  Do you suppose that’s why the school decided to farm Molly out to a whole class of teenage girls?  Who knows – it just might prevent a few unwanted pregnancies.  Poor old Molly; It sounds as though Leon scored the highest marks as regards keeping the doll quiet!