Ben Hillyer / The Natchez Democrat — The Cathedral tennis team had a trio of infant spectators watching from the end of the court Monday afternoon. Babies made from bags of rice and beans sat on blankets waiting for their Cathedral senior parents to come pick them up and take them home.
Ben Hillyer / The Natchez Democrat — The Cathedral tennis team had a trio of infant spectators watching from the end of the court Monday afternoon. Babies made from bags of rice and beans sat on blankets waiting for their Cathedral senior parents to come pick them up and take them home.

Oh, baby: Cathedral seniors get heavy lesson in parenting

Published 12:01am Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Rice and beans never looked so good and never felt so heavy for the Cathedral Class of 2013.

With pastel colored clothing, fuzzy blankets, tiny bows and even shoes, the seniors have transformed 10-pound sacks of rice and 2-pound bags of beans into what might pass as a baby at first glance.

Ben Hillyer / The Natchez Democrat —  Sarah Garrity and Erin Hicks carry their babies in their arms during a class presentation.
Ben Hillyer / The Natchez Democrat — Sarah Garrity and Erin Hicks carry their babies in their arms during a class presentation.

These babies are all part of their religion class taught by Jean Benoit. The class is studying about sexuality, and as part of the class, each student will carry 12-pounds of rice and beans with them, wherever they go — as if they were single parents trying to take care of a little one on their own.

“I have gotten the ugliest looks,” Erin Hicks said Monday afternoon at the end of school.

Hicks takes her baby to school, to the mall and even to church.

So does Sarah Garrity, who when taking her little one to the mall received a few stares.

“It’s that look like you are some kind of psychopath,” Garrity said.

Students are not allowed to leave their child far behind, even though they are tempted from time to time.

“My mother threatened to call (the Department of Human Services) if I left my baby in the car,” Hicks said. “I told her if she called about a bag of rice and beans, they would send her to a psychiatrist.”

They may get a babysitter for two-hours at a time at the rate of six dollars an hour — money that comes out of a budget the students have also learned to make in the class.

Ben Hillyer / The Natchez Democrat — Colton Webb rests his chin on the top of his baby’s head.
Ben Hillyer / The Natchez Democrat — Colton Webb rests his chin on the top of his baby’s head.

The seniors are in the second week of parenting, and the newness is beginning to wear off.

Like real life, the students have to wake up in the middle of the night to feed the baby. Each senior is required to wake up between 1 and 4 a.m. three times a week, send an e-mail to Benoit telling her that they are feeding the baby and then 15 minutes sending another e-mail telling Benoit that the little one is back to sleep.

The students also draw “fate” cards that give each parent added instruction.

One card may have the word “colic” written on it with the instruction that the parent pace in the back of the classroom with his or her child during the class period.

Teething cards add another feeding period between 11 p.m. and midnight to the baby’s schedule.

Despite the late night feedings and the constant pacing, most of the students agree that the hardest part is carrying 12 pounds all day long.

“I have a bruise on my arm from all of the carrying,” Hicks said.

“It makes your back really hurt,” Zoe Flattmann said Monday,

Ben Hillyer / The Natchez Democrat — Some of the babies were dressed in clothing that typified ever parent’s nightmare.
Ben Hillyer / The Natchez Democrat — Some of the babies were dressed in clothing that typified ever parent’s nightmare.

Flattmann did admit that babies have brought out some motherly instincts.

“I find myself rocking the baby all of the time,” she said.

Even still. Flattmann says the lesson has taught her one thing.

“I will not have kids until I get out of (college),” she said.

Crystal Beckwith said getting out of school wasn’t enough.

“I will not have kids until I get a spouse, because I am not going to do it by myself,” Beckwith said.

The seniors will leave parenthood behind, at least for the near future, at 3:15 p.m. on April 25. At that point all of the rice and beans will be donated to the Natchez Stewpot.