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     Volume 4 Issue 44 | April 29, 2005 |

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Straight Talk

The Tamagothci Test


I must be going completely mad --- it's either that or having had three kids, my inherent desire to nurture and look after people has reached a new level! A few days ago just before a trip to the countryside with her friend, my eldest daughter thrust into my hands her "Tamagothci" with her parting words ringing in my ears, "Please feed it and look after it while I'm away. Oh, and please don't let it die." With that she was gone and I was left holding the proverbial baby. Now for those of you who have not been initiated into the world of Tamagotchis, it is a virtual electronic pet that requires you to feed it, play with it, praise it or punish it according to its behaviour, clean it's waste products etc. It also grows from being a baby to a toddler, passes through adolescence and then adulthood. In other words it is like looking after a baby, one major difference being that my current baby was made of plastic and happened to be an interesting shade of lime green. From that moment on, I found myself living in fear of letting "Bingo", so named by my daughter, die (poor thing, imagine having to live with a name like Bingo!). I actually ended up checking on it regularly making sure it was not hungry or neglected, gave it regular exercise, gave it the necessary medicine when it showed signs of being unwell and was utterly relieved when my daughter returned and I was able to hand it over healthy, happy and alive.

I was thinking to myself that as you go through life, you need to pass all sorts of exams in school or college, attain degrees in University; you need have a licence to be able to drive on the streets or fly a plane, you are required to pass numerous tests to be able to join the army or navy. Yet to bring a child into this world we require no qualifications, we don't have to pass any tests whatsoever, nor do we have to procure any licenses of any kind. As long as you are physically able, there really is nothing stopping people from having a baby. However, not everybody is equipped to handle the responsibilities that go hand in hand with the arrival of another human being who is totally dependent on you for every aspect of their existence. I suppose it is inherent in our nature like any other living being, to procreate and extend our gene pool. But being a parent is a full time job and a lifelong commitment. There is no time out nor as in the case of the Tamagotchi, the option of returning it after a space of time. In the UK when you learn to drive, you have an "L" plate on your car to inform people that you are just a learner and to be a little indulgent of your mistakes. And even when you pass, you can have a "P" plate stating that you have only recently passed and are not necessarily a confident driver. But no such luxury when you have children. The moment they arrive you are thrown in at the deep end and have to cope without labels such as "first baby" or "new parents"!

It crossed my mind that maybe couples thinking of starting a family should in fact buy a Tamagotchi first and then see if they can meet all its needs for a certain period of time. Or better still we should have a parenting test where we have the obvious written or oral test. And then for the practical section, we could have someone spending a few days with us. The duration of the stay could be broken up into segments where we have the baby, toddler, adolescent and adult stages. It could start by our visitor waking us up every few hours, demanding to be fed at all hours, crying for no apparent reason etc. Then in Stage two the whole bumping into furniture, refusing to eat what you cook for them but trying to eat objects that aren't necessarily part of our dietary requirement (e.g. paper, toys, mobile phones etc.), then in Stage three, we could have the symptoms of typical teenage behaviour thrust upon us and see how we deal with homework, sulkiness and even puberty. Then finally the adult stage where we have to show how we react to our hypothetical child leaving the roost, getting a job, finding a partner and realising that we no longer are the centre of their universe! In other words this parenting test would give us a trial run for what to expect. Yes, I know that what I am saying is all very impractical and never going to happen but if it did, how many of us would actually pass? Not very many I think. Nothing can really prepare us for the whole experience that is part and parcel of being a parent. It sadly is based on trial and error and all we can do is try our best and hope that at the end of it all we haven't failed the test completely.

Oh yes, did I mention that as the Tamagotchi matures you have to find it a partner and they too can have their own offspring. However, at this point I feel that I am in no way ready to become a grandparent and would definitely fail any necessary tests as a pre-requisite for grand parenting!

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