For one school week, the halls and classrooms of campus fill with students carrying babies. AP Psychology students participate in an annual project in which they parent flour babies as part of their child development unit.
“My baby, James Henry, is a total of 5 pounds and 3 ounces. He has wide eyes and chubby legs and I love him to bits. He’s honestly super cuddly,” senior Sarah Dewitz, single flour-parent said.
Students may choose between single-parenting or co-parenting their flour baby. They randomly draw their baby assignment. Babies are of either gender, and some students may draw twins or disabled children. Once assigned babies, parents must purchase a 5-pound bag of flour and decorate it with baby clothes and accessories.
Starting on Tuesday, students must supportively carry the baby with them at all times. If the student cannot care for the baby, they are responsible for finding a babysitter. Babysitters may only watch the baby for two hours a day. The project focuses on a child’s social, emotional, cognitive and physical development. It forces students to take on the responsibility of constantly caring for someone else.
“It’s about putting the baby before yourself,” sophomore Nalivette Caravalla said.
The flour baby project presents more challenges as the week goes on. Initially, students feel excitement for finding their baby’s gender, making and naming it. However, some student-parents face hostility from people attempting to harm their baby. They must overcome bullying and keeping track of their child through day-to-day activities.
“You have to remember the baby exists a lot, and make sure you don’t forget it,” Caravalla’s co-parent, sophomore Dena Cher-Fils, said.
Cher-Fils and Caravalla bonded over parenting their babies. The partners were assigned twins, an autistic boy and a girl. As co-parents, the girls managed trading babies over different class schedules and protecting it from aggressive peers trying to “sabotage” their baby.
Not all co-parents shared their baby so smoothly, though. Some co-parents struggle to share their babies fairly.
“Right now we have two co-parents fighting over the baby. That becomes a challenge, when there are custody issues over the baby,” AP Psychology teacher, Kelly Mahler, said.
Single-parenting presents challenges, as well. Without a partner to assist them in watching their child, single parents must dedicate more time with the child and find trustworthy babysitters. Minor tasks become burdens when the student raises a child alone.
“It has been highly impactful to my every day routine. I’ve said to multiple teachers that I don’t know how single parents can use the restroom with their baby. Some have said strollers always help, but if that’s not an option, some parents just hold it,” Dewitz said.
On the last day of the project, students complete reflection questions about their week as a parent. They also create a presentation about childhood development. Students may opt out of the flour baby project and instead research their own childhood, creating a scrapbook about their own developmental milestones.
Mahler hopes students learn more than the human developmental stages through this weeklong assignment.
“You have to think about someone else all day long, and they begin to take on that role of a parent and learn empathy, which I think is something really special and a side lesson,” Mahler said.
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Anime and Manga
- Revolutionary Girl Utena has Nanami taking care of an egg for an episode on her own initiative, but she thinks she laid it and gets a bit upset whenever anyone mentions omelettes or similar foods.
- Futaba-kun Change! has a similar chapter, but it's a misunderstanding arising from the main character's Jerkass sister having hard-boiled eggs in his bed as a midnight snack and leaving one there.
- Lillie in Pokémon is assigned to watch over a Pokemon egg early in the Alola arc (which has a school setting and is is in Alola, an American-based region). A few episodes later, it hatches into an AlolanVulpix, which becomes her first Pokemon.
- Life-like dolls instead of egg example: Happened during the "Death of a Goblin" storyline in Ultimate Spider-Man, with Peter awkwardly paired up with X-Girlfriend Kitty Pryde. Pun intended.
- And then when she got fed up and passed it on to him, he ended up accidentally blowing it up when bad guy Omega Red attacked the Daily Bugle.
Kitty Pryde: He killed our baby!
- Fortunately, after Peter proves he works at the Bugle, and provides the paper's front page describing the attack, the teacher is relatively understanding of the situation and gives them a decent if not outstanding passing grade.
- And then when she got fed up and passed it on to him, he ended up accidentally blowing it up when bad guy Omega Red attacked the Daily Bugle.
- In Garage Days, Joe babysits a watermelon ("Melly") to prove to his girlfriend he can have a kid. When Melly gets "killed" (hit by a car, no less) he becomes distraught and almost suicidal.
- In License To Wed, the couple being tested by Robin Williams's character are given a pair of extremely disturbing baby dolls. In addition to being equipped to scream and cry (very loudly), they are also capable of various other functions, including... You know what, I'm not going there.
- Otis in Milo And Otis is charged with caring for a chicken egg for a few hours and takes the role very seriously, watching the egg intently. It hatches on his watch and the new chick immediately assumes Otis is its mother.
- In We're the Millers, the Millers have to wrap a pack of marijuana in a blanket and pretend it's a baby to stop the others from seeing it. When the pack eventually gets thrown into the street and run over, Casey quickly covers by claiming she was taking care of a pack of herbs for a school project.
- Long before this trope developed, the C.M. Kornbluth story "The Education of Tigress McArdle" (1957), set Exty Years from Now, has a robot Toddler that works like this for adults as part of the Parental Qualifications Program which is actually a Yellow Peril plot; the Toddler is so obnoxious that it persuades a generation or two of Americans to get sterilized. The Chinese then move in to the aging and low-populated country.
- It goes even longer than that. The story of "Fitcher's Bird" by The Brothers Grimm has a sorcerer named Fitze Fitcher who carries young women and gives them an egg, then tells them to carry it everywhere except the sorcerer's room and to be very careful with it for a few days before he can marry them. Failure to pass the test results in the women getting dismembered. One of the women, however, is smarter than her two sisters that he has dismembered, so she has to hide it into a clean, safe place before she can enter the room and bring her sisters Back from the Dead.
- Flour Babies is based entirely around this trope, as a boy looks after a bag of flour and discovers the truth about his parents.
- Eve Bunting's Our Sixth Grade Sugar Babies, likewise, is a book whose plot is based solely on this trope.
- In Holly Black's Valiant, Ruth and Val take care of a flour sack together, which prompts Jen to call them lesbians.
- Unfortunately, Val commits infanticide so that she can use the flour to expose a faerie's glamoured apartment. When they fail the project, they try to scrape together a paper about the effects of post-partum depression.
- In Lisi Harrison's The Clique, Claire's class takes care of synthetic babies; the data can later be uploaded to the teacher's computer.
- In the Girl Talk series, they had an egg-sitting episode, mostly for a "Not So Different" set up between Zek and a quiet pianist. Though it's notable for the fact the Alpha Bitch tried to cheat by boiling hers, and a guy accidentally sat on his.
- Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Ugly Truth had Greg do this. His mom makes him it for breakfast.
- In Nothing But Trouble Trouble Trouble, the plot centers around the narrator and her friend being assigned to care for either a pet or an egg for the weekend and write it all down. First they try to kidnap a rich, bratty neighbor's two nasty cats, then are forced to return them and use the eggs. Then their eggs break, so they quickly purchase a mouse to use. And then that gets loose. All of this is kept secret, owing to the fact that the narrator's younger sister is very allergic to all pets.
- Lifelike doll variant: In the Adrian Mole series, Adrian rents one of these dolls for his sister Rosie to help her decide whether to continue with her accidental pregnancy.
- Happened in a fairly good The Baby-Sitters Club book, Mary Anne + Too Many Babies. It even had a completely unexpected turn in-universe and out when one day in class, Mary Anne notices a classmate who is sobbing and initially thinks she's upset because of the troubled "marriage" of a pair of students who have "work" conflicts. Then when the teacher calls on the crying girl and her partner, the girl says "We lost our baby..."; the entire class reacts in shock and Mary Anne practically has a heart attack.
- The Sweet Valley Twins book The Middle School Gets Married used this plot.
- The point of Horton Hatches An Egg. A lazy bird doesn't want to spend her time sitting on her egg, so she cons Horton the elephant into doing it for her while she goofs off. Despite much teasing from his friends and being caught by hunters, Horton doesn't budge and eventually the egg hatches into a bird-elephant hybrid.
- In Planet Tad, a regular feature in MAD, later released as a book, Tad and one of his classmates have to do this. So many of the kids in the class break their eggs that the teacher says that anyone whose egg remains intact will get an A for the project. Tad and his classmate nearly get one, until the teacher learns that Tad hardboiled the egg.
Live Action TV
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer, "Bad Eggs": Xander cheats by boiling his egg so it won't break. Lucky for him, because the eggs turn out to host demon parasites.
- He was also going to eat his egg, before he learned it had a demon parasite in it.
- Degrassi Junior High, "Eggbert": Spike gets the egg assignment in a prenatal class. Shane, who got her pregnant, has been asking to take more responsibility. She calls his bluff by making him look after the egg— on the weekend of a major party. The project helps bring out the worst in the entire cast. Since this is Degrassi, the viewer knows that eventually the egg will break; the only question is how and when.
- Degrassi: The Next Generation, "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For": When Danny discovers that his sister is pregnant, he blackmails her boyfriend into helping him take care of the doll ("you need to learn this anyway"). It ends with the doll getting smashed in public.
- Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide, "Bathrooms and Project Partners": Ned takes a "Life Science" Class meaning he and Cookie have to raise a doll the whole semester. Loomer steals the doll from Ned and Cookie, and threatens to send it back piece by piece if they don't do what he wants. Ned gleefully points out that they can just wait for Loomer to send all the pieces back, then put the doll together again. But their teacher moves the end of the project forward, before the doll's head is returned...
- On That '70s Show, Jackie uses this as a test for Kelso. The egg is broken and replaced, but he manages to explain away the missing pencil mark as having given it a bath.
- Although this is usually played with high school age characters, Frasier used the trope in one episode, when Niles adopts a sack of flour to see if he is ready to become a dad. The humor comes in that the sack is singed, taped, glued, and otherwise maimed from a series of events that take place offscreen and are highly unlikely for babies to encounter (as Niles put it, "A real baby would have cried before bursting into flames"). Ultimately, the sack was chewed up by the dog and Niles treats the situation as if he had actually lost the child. He also had a dream where somebody kidnapped it and started sending him muffins in the mail.
- During a Season 10 episode of Cheers, Carla challenged Rebecca to take care of an egg.
- Also used with adults on Las Vegas, where egg-sitting is a homework assignment for a couple's parenting class. The father-to-be's egg gets broken in his jacket pocket, while the expectant mother dresses hers up more like a pet chihuahua than a child. She also foists eggs off on other casino staff who aren't yet parents, so they can "share the life lesson".
- So did Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip: The simulation doll ends up being decapitated by a "safe" prop guillotine, then put back together (...mostly) by the prop department of the Show Within a Show.
- Flash Forward (1996): The main character, Tucker, has to take care of an electronic baby and babysit a live child at the same time. He manages to take care of the living kid, but the electronic baby is broken in an accident, which he tries to repair by using parts from movie monster kits that he collects.
- 8 Simple Rules used the 'Bag of flour' version: Everyone uses the flour for baking, leaving the "baby" deflated.
- Hannah Montana: Oliver bonds with his partner while caring for a sack of flour and they start dating, only for him to discover they have nothing in common when the assignment is over.
- Head of the Class: Standard hijinks ensue, including one student losing his egg at a Star Trek convention.
- Lucy and her boyfriend get this assignment on 7th Heaven. When something happens to their egg, Ruthie advises them to write that they aren't ready to be parents, which is the whole point of the assignment, anyway.
- An episode of A Different World had this once, where one of the characters was obsessing over the egg as if it actually WAS her child.
- In The Suite Life of Zack and Cody, Maddie and London do this with a baby doll. This runs into the problem of the baby constantly crying up to the point where they're so fed up with it they fight and end up throwing the baby out the window by accident.
- In an episode of Lab Rats, Adam and Chase must take care of baby dolls, and they start fighting and torture each other's baby in various ways. Adam's baby ends up with the head shaped like a waffle and Chase's, with a burnt face.
- Parodied, like every other high-school trope, on Strangers with Candy, where a teacher announces that "in order for you to learn what it's like to take care of a ten-pound 'baby,' each of you will be taking care of... a ten-pound baby." Sure enough, each pair of students is assigned a live child. Jerri and her friend Tammi quickly fall into the roles of "abusive husband" and "doormat housewife" respectively, and the baby is spectacularly neglected in the process.
- Castle: Alexis and her friend Paige do this with an egg ('Feggin'), asking Castle to egg-sit while she and the friend go to a party. Surprisingly, both Castle and Beckett manage to keep the egg safe. However, after Paige gets drunk at a party and Castle calls her parents, she "accidentally" destroys the egg.
- Leads to a surprisingly tender moment between Castle and Beckett. While Castle is "babysitting" his "grand-egg" at the precinct, he gets an emergency call and rushes off. In the morning he discovers that Beckett took Feggin home with her. Castle thanks her and she says "He was easy. He didn't even fuss when I put him to bed."
- Something similar in Sabrina the Teenage Witch. Instead of being parents, they simulated marriage. Libby naturally snaps Harvey up as her partner, and Sabrina is "stuck" with a nerdy guy.
- On The Middle, Axl ends up dismantling the doll to get it to stop crying, after earlier accidentally microwaving it. Needless to say, he fails the assignment.
- Veronica Mars has to "raise" a baby-like doll with her boyfriend Duncan for a sex-ed class. It's not clear if they fail or succeed, but Veronica definitely isn't shown to be a reliable parent. Also, the doll serves as Foreshadowing for the reveal that Duncan's ex-girlfriend is pregnant.
- In one episode of Charmed, Paige rents a doll for expectant parents Piper and Leo to care for to see what it will be like to raise a child while constantly battling demons. Hilarity Ensues when the Demon of the Week shows up and the doll predictably doesn't survive in one piece.
- How to Be Indie: The class gets an egg sitting assignment in "How to Get Gotten". Indie tries to dodge the assignment by volunteering to escort a seventh grader who is being trialed in the eighth grade for a week instead.
- An adult example occurs in an episode of Kenny vs. Spenny. Each is given a lifelike doll that requires attention and records how observant the parent is. Kenny purposely mistreats and eventually kills his doll and then switches it with Spennys doll.
- Everybody Hates Chris: Chris's class gets this assignment in the episode "Everybody Hates Eggs". Miss Morello, being the naively racist teacher that she is, she gives Chris a brown egg and makes him do the project alone as a single father.
- My Wife and Kids: Michael makes Junior take care of a water balloon to test if he is ready to be a parent. Junior draws a face on it and calls it Fetus Face. It is eventually destroyed when he slams down the hood of his car while arguing with Michael and the water balloon falls on the floor, followed by a montage of Junior and the water balloon together.
- in the Max And Shred episode The Half-Cab Robot Baby Bonk", the title pair must take care of a baby simulator that can be plugged into a computer to discover if anything serious happened to the baby.
- The Goldbergs: Adam and Dana have to take care of a Cabbage Patch Kid for class. Beverly, naturally, meddles in and takes the doll to prove she can be a good "bubbie". She ends up losing it, and tries to replace it with a Lettuce Crop Kid. The teacher passes Adam after he tells off her mother for meddling. The teacher realized that the assigment was to see if Adam could be a responsible adult, and by standing up for himself, has technically proven himself as such.
- Referenced in The Big Bang Theory. When Raj's father tells Raj he's cut off financially Raj protests that he can learn responsibility some other way. That is, taking care of an egg-by for a week.
- A non-school example in the 100 Things to Do Before High School episode "Adopt a Flour Baby Thing!". In order to prove to her mother that she is responsible, CJ's mother gives her a bag of flour to protect. Crispo, Fenwick and CJ's father also participate although Fenwick takes care of a bag of chips as he has a gluten allergy.
- Played With on Girl Meets World. Before Cory and Topanga leave Riley to babysit Auggie, they give her an egg. Riley assumes it's going to play out the typical way with her having to take care of it to prove she's responsible. Instead, Cory has Riley give the egg a name, face, and personality so Riley will become emotionally attached to it. Once she does, Topanga smashes the egg, to Riley's horror. Cory then tells her that if she's that upset over the egg, she should have an idea of how upset Cory and Topanga will be if something happens to Auggie on her watch.
- Played with during one of the challenges on Rock Of Love. Each team of contenders took a baby doll through a roller derby course. The team with the least injuries to the baby at the end of the challenge won.
- On the American Shameless, pregnant teen Debbie tries to prove to her older sister Fiona that she's responsible enough to care for a child by carrying around a sack of flour. (Admittedly, more the size and weight of a baby than an egg.) It goes about as well as expected.
- The "It Could Still Make a Cake" strip in Ctrl+Alt+Del manages this whole trope in four panels. (There's also discussion of egg-sitting in The Rant.)
- A Skewed Paradise has this as on ongoing plotline.
- Olympic Dames - this is the strategy used by the god Pan as a cover story to explain how four high school girls all became very visibly pregnant overnight, one ludicrously so. He implants this into the minds of everyone they meet so as to make them think the pregnancy bulges are just fat suits and the bulges are part of an Egg Sitting assignment.
- Camp Camp has a variation when the kids find a bunch of platypus eggs and are divided up into pairs by the camp's owner to take care of them until they hatch so he can sell the babies. The results are mostly messy (literally), as well as one instance of an egg running awayto escape his parents' abusive relationship, complete with leaving a goodbye note behind.
- All Hail King Julien, while Julien is playing daddy, Action Girl Clover begins to feel she is poorly suited to be a mother, and attends a motherhood class where she is tasked with Egg Sitting as an assignment. She takes this very seriously, as when villains threaten her with the chance to either save King Julien's life or save her egg's life, she takes this as an actual Sadistic Choice, going out of her way to prioritize saving both.
- South Park, "Follow that Egg!": In order to spite her former lover, Mr. Slave, Ms. Garrison puts Stan and Kyle together for egg-sitting, expecting them to break their egg — and thus provide evidence against the legalization of gay marriage. When they don't break it, she hires a hit man to kill the egg.
- Danny Phantom has Danny (secretly a half ghost) and Valerie, a fellow student, (secretly a Hunter of Monsters, trying to capture Danny) take care of a microchipped sack of flour that can simulate crying and defecation. Tucker had the idea of "babysitting" other student's projects for money, but his mother used all the flour for cooking, forcing him to pay everyone back with interest. Sam, however, passes with an A, while Danny and Valerie get a C for their cooperation, since they are the only other students whose flour sack has not been used for cooking.
- In O'Grady, Kevin (the High School Hustler and Humphrey) babysits everybody else's dolls for money. Abby discovers that he's been reprogramming the dolls' memory chips to record that everything is fine. She responds by reprogramming them to scream twenty-four hours a day.
- Batman Beyond:
- In place of a real egg, Terry's Family Studies class uses a baby-sized artificial egg that's AI-enabled to cry, get "hungry" and generally respond like a real kid. Unable to get anyone to babysit his electronic egg, Terry has no choice but to take it along crime-fighting with him. Not only does Hilarity Ensue, he ends up getting the highest grade in the class, as only his egg was properly "stimulated" (it had the most fun). The teacher says this is a sign that Terry is excellent father material, which pleases his girlfriend. (Notably, this is the episode of the series that won an Emmy, and the commentary on the DVD explains that they intentionally wrote a funny episode for their otherwise serious show as deliberate award bait.)
- Also an interesting take happens with one couple:
Max: Here's the bio and civics.
Nelson: Thanks, hon. What about the math?
Max: It's coming, keep your shirt on.
Terry: I get it. You're doing his work for him so you don't have to take care of the baby.
Max: We opted for the traditional marriage: one breadwinner, one homemaker.
Nelson: Beats algebra.
- Beavis And Butthead are assigned to care for a bag of sugar by Mr Buzzcut. They immediately ruin the bag by dropping it in a river while "giving it a bath", then claims their baby was stolen by gypsies in the night. After Buzzcut fails them, they shove the remains of the sugarbag into his gas tank.
Beavis: You killed it, dude!
Butthead: Now we'll never get to see it grow up. *throws the bag on the ground with a splat, then strums out the melody of Black Sabbath's Iron Man on Air Guitar*
- A Kim Possible episode plays on this (and a really bad Meaningful Name joke/pun). Ron is entrusted with a sack of flour, which he's repeatedly forced to replace after a series of slapsticky mishaps. While he lavishes attention on "Sacky I" through "Sacky MCMXXXIIII", (Ron doesn't know his roman numerals,) he ignores and deplores his new adopted baby sister Hana, whose name happens to mean "flower" in Japanese. In the end, he gets a failing grade because the sack he tries to pass as the one he was supposed to babysit is a sack of sugar.
- The trope was featured in the Hey Arnold! "Egg Story". Arnold and Helga get paired together and spend the entire assignment arguing, losing the egg in the process twice. The second time they find it, they put aside their differences to work together — and then the egg hatches into a baby chick. The progress of the other students are also followed. Harold and Rhonda are paired together, for example, and she paints their egg to look like it has a baby's face and hair. She leaves to go shopping and Harold, who is apparently channeling Cronos at the time, gets very hungry and eats it. They ultimately turn in the egg shell, taped together.
- Drawn Together subverts this by giving Toot an actual baby (from Nicaragua) for the experiment. She gets pregnant. And I don't mean Toot.
- Subverted on My Gym Partner's a Monkey. The students of Charles Darwin Middle School are given eggs to take care of. The eggs hatch into exotic bird chicks which must then be cared for.
- Hercules The Animated Series has the students taking care of eggs as part of their project. Despite his clumsiness and tendency to trip over his own feet and cause chaos and destruction everywhere, Hercules keeps his egg safe. Cassandra cooks her egg and eats it in front of everyone else.
- Carl Squared does it with sophisticated robot babies, including a microchip that records how well the students do at "parenting". Carl accidentally decapitates his.
- Detention: The "babies" are water balloons, each of which has a device that cries at random and will lock into the 'on' position if the parent doesn't switch it off in time. The guys are either reckless with their babies or completely absent, so the girls add water to the balloons, saddling the guys with the extra-unwieldy babies. All the guys except Emmitt cause some accidental mayhem during a field trip, dropping their balloons in the process, so he and Shareena are the only ones that escape having to do the project again.
- The Penguins of Madagascar had an episode where the gang found an egg and tried to care for it until it hatched. Skipper was initially against it (though as Kowalski correctly points out, incubation of eggs is a guy thing for penguins.'') However, between Skipper's military perspective, Kowalski being a mad scientist and Rico being... Rico, Private was mainly the one who knew what he was doing, though they all did their best. Eventually, the baby was returned to its rightful mother.
- An episode of American Dragon: Jake Long had Jake trying to protect a griffin's egg from the Huntsman and Huntsgirl, with Fu Dog's help. In the same episode, his class is given an egg-sitting assignment, which makes for a hilarious (but convenient) mix-up.
- Pepper Ann's class uses actual dolls as a way of teaching the students responsibility. After spending most of the episode failing at being responsible, she leaves a crying "Irma" on Nikki's doorstep. When she gets home, she monologues about how irresponsible she is as she turns off the lights and TV and prepares dinner for her sister. When her mother arrives home and comments on how responsible she is, Pepper Ann retrieves Irma (who stops crying).
- Phineas and Ferb