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Baby Borrowers” reality show not really funny when you consider the kids

Submitted by on Sunday, 15 June 2008 No Comment

If NBC still is looking for candidates for the cast of “”Baby Borrowers,”" I have two I’d be happy to loan them.

Come, teens, spend a few hours with my guys! Try to eat lunch as they clamor for more juice, more milk, more cheese. Attempt to bathe as they bang on the door. Plead with them to go sleep so your dead-dog tired self can speed through dishes and decluttering in hopes of snoozing more than four hours.

I’ll even let you have my house for the duration. It’s not as nice as that one NBC loaned you, but after a while, you get used to the chocolate-milk crunch as you walk across the carpet. You’ll have to pay the rent and bills, though.

Doesn’t sound like a lot of fun, eh?

That’s what The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy is banking on.

“”It looks like a lot of other shows teens watch, but they get also this incredible message,”" National Campaign senior manager Amy Kramer told The Associated Press. “”It’s not a ‘very special’ episode of something. It’s not hitting them over the head. It’s like real life.”"

My only wish: That someone had considered the loaner kids the network used to deliver the incredible message. If you keep them in mind, The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children might be a more appropriate organization to involve.

Based on a popular and controversial British reality show of the same name, the stateside “”Baby Borrowers”" debuts June 25. It sends five teenage couples to Idaho for six weeks, where they’ll speed through family life from caring for babies to elderly parents while living in two-story custom homes.

There’s the first break with reality. Custom home? How about making them deal with cramped quarters, drippy faucets, broken appliances and landlords who won’t fix any of it?

The girls start with “”empathy bellies”" — those contraptions that are supposed to simulate the discomfort of pregnancy, except you can take it off. Which one girl did during the show’s first episode.

Take it off? Oh, wouldn’t you love to, particularly when it’s 106 degrees in the shade, your feet look like water balloons and your ribs ache courtesy of the little soccer player who lives within. Or maybe that was just me.

The couples move on to caring for “”real live infants”" — except, based on pictures posted on the show’s Web site, the infants are at least old enough to hold up their heads, which means the teens missed out on the truly fun early months.

The colic. The feedings every two hours. Being so sleep deprived and dazed you’re hard pressed to figure out which end go diaper.

Not that I’m advocating using newborns for a television show. I have a huge problem with “”borrowing babies”" at all, and so did some Brits when the show first aired across the pond. According to an article on the Daily Mail of London’s Web site, a 10-year-old went without food for a day during filming. Despite pleas from local authorities, producers refused to allow social workers on the set.

In the American version, the real parents can — and do — charge in to set the teens straight, and that’s where I start getting angry. Here comes mom, storming up the sidewalk after she’s sat at a screen all day and watched trouble brew. “”She’s just giving up! She’s not even feeding him!”" Mom barks. And now she’s in the mood to scold a teen-ager about a mess an adult created.

“”He doesn’t want to (eat) because you’ve been holding him, and he’s never used to being held,”" mom lectured. Then why didn’t you keep him with you, where he could have had what he’s been used to, I wanted to ask .

The video clips get worse with the toddlers, as one child cries at bedtime — not exactly aberrational behavior, granted. But this child seemed unnecessarily mournful. “”I go home!”"

And that’s when my stomach turned. Being a little kid is hard enough — this big old world is overwhelming and scary at times. Why make it harder by taking babies away from the only consistency they’ve ever known — their parents.

I hereby withdraw my offer: You can’t have the guys for your silly little show. A human life is too precious to be toyed with for the sake of TV ratings and commercial profit.

Copyright 2008 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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  • lorna said:

    “I know it may sound jolting for a child to be in that situation, but the parents were there the entire time and could step in when ever they wanted. I personally think this show will be a really good idea – especially after the MA teen pregnancy pact story broke!depending on the actual educational value of the show it might not hurt to start showing it in sex ed or parenting classes that high schools have.”

  • Debra (author) said:

    I agree that spending time around small children definitely can be good birth control. One weekend spent in the same house with my guys last spring convinced two couples and one single guy that they’re not ready for kids.

    It’s the “”turning kids over to strangers”" part that bugs me. Yes, the parents could step in, but in the clips up on the show’s site, they mostly waited until meltdown time — for the kids, teens or parents. And when you wait that long to resolve any problem, things are destined to get ugly.

    The one exception was Miley’s dad, who was so level-headed I see a career in diplomacy in his future. He saw that his daughter was out of sorts and went to visit before everything fell apart. He played with her while calmly discussing the, er, challenges of parenting with the teens.

    I still wouldn’t have left a baby as young as his daughter with strangers for that long, but at least he didn’t come off as a stark-raving loon.

    That teen pregnancy story out of MA — scary stuff that’s convinced me to lock up the guys until they’re 30.”