Baby received a grand reception on Christmas and took center stage. And afterward, Baby never left E's sight. At night after prayers, I'd mumble a soft good night and find Baby buried beneath layers of blankets, kept warm by E's side. And in the morning, E descended the stairs with Baby held tight between two hands, and gently placed her in the back seat of the car. It became a daily routine. Yes, Baby attended school -- it reminded me of the Home Economics classes where students simulate pregnancy and child rearing by carrying an infant with them as they move throughout the day. But our Baby was different. Baby even sat at the dinner table -- for a time.
Justifying Baby's prominence within our family unit, E regularly explained that Baby offered an educational opportunity -- and had an IQ surpassing anyone we knew. Within seconds Baby could recall obscure facts no savant could triumph over. E proved this through daily demonstration. E was always poking Baby, pushing Baby to do more, be more, engage more, offer more. For a time it seemed reciprocal. And like any new parent E spent a lot of money on Baby -- on educational materials, entertainment, books and games. Baby devoured it all -- shared it too. That's what made Baby so attractive and enticing. Suddenly, I found myself holding Baby, working with Baby, poking at Baby, learning from Baby but I would not allow myself to become ensnared and drawn into Baby's lair. E was not so lucky...she was drawn to the dark side of Baby....and...there was a dark side....and....
...that's when the trouble started.
I don't know when exactly it happened, or how, but one day Baby morphed into the enemy. Soon Baby took precedence over chores, bike rides, and dare I say it...even homework. A request to empty the dishwasher or set the table was met with, "Not now, I'm working on something [with Baby]." As time went on, E's responses became shorter. Answers to my questions and requests were met with monosyllabic "Huh?" and on a good day, a two-syllable "Uh-huh."
What had Baby done to my baby?
Then one day, I could no longer recall my daughter's delightful face. I had not seen it for some time. Yet, if asked, I could easily sketch the top of her scalp. That's when I decided: Baby must go. And of course it was met with defiance.
I threatened to pull the plug on Baby -- take away life support. Did I mention that Baby could not survive without assistance? Yes, without support, external power, she would not be able to participate fully in our family. In fact Baby's face would go black -- completely blank. There would be no dialogue or engagement and no amount of finger poking would bring her back to life. I no longer cared. Baby had taken over our home, had invaded my teen's mind and needed to go.
E countered my request for total exile and perhaps even "euthanasia" with, "How about a time-out?" I asked, "For Baby or for you?" She countered again, "What if I put it [Baby] away for a few hours?"
No. I mustered all the parental authority I could find in a house headed by one parent and said, "Maybe Baby should go for a trial separation, a divorce of sorts, or how about an exchange program, overseas from whence Baby came...for say....a year?" A smile surfaced as I pictured Baby in bubble wrap stored in cargo on a 747 going to Anywhere But Here. E didn't like that but after our eyes met, put Baby on the floor and covered her. Then for the first time in a long time, our eyes connected again -- E's eyes are blue, bright and joy-filled. Finally, E admitted, yes, she had been drawn in, had come under Baby's spell.
That night, sans Baby, we played a card game, then E played piano, and we even took a walk outdoors. On the return home we spotted a bushy flower with new buds on it -- at roadside, one we could not identify. I mentioned, "Maybe we have a nature book that lists it. I'll check when I get home." And E threw me a quick smile and suggested, "Why don't we just ask Baby?"
I-Pads and tablets have a place. Sometimes, I wish they'd just stay in the box. But it's too late. They are appendages to the family unit -- so we better get used to them...but use discipline where appropriate.
For the record, E is a 4.0+ honor student capable of uttering multi-syllable words...and as of today...I can envision her face...and the top of her head. However, in case I should forget, I might just let Baby take some pictures.