Mona Charen | Family Matters
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The Struggle is Worth it

He is short, bald, toothless and incontinent. He is inarticu­late. His vision is lousy. He cannot walk. He needs help to sit up, tum over and burp - and he is the most winsome, delicious, adorable, engaging person we've ever met. He is our son, now 7 weeks old, and the center of our universe. The call announcing Jonathan's arrival and availability for adoption, though we were prepared for it, sent our lives into tumult. A theoretical baby is very different from an actual baby. There were still last-minute supplies that had to be purchased. How could we have overlooked cotton balls? We flew to the Midwest the morn­ing after The Call and were introduced to Jonathan at the adoption agency at 11 a.m. It was, in all honesty, a somewhat strange way to begin parenthood. We had been told by telephone that the baby was dark com­plexioned -and I had spent 20 hours convincing myself that dark -skinned people have the best lives. No worries about sun­burn or skin cancer. ButJonathan was actu­ally fair, with blondish hair and gorgeous blue eyes. But appearance was the least of it. He is, without any question, a beautiful child. The strange part about the first few days of an adoption is the sense of distance. Is this really our baby? He looks like someone else. He has someone else's genetic predis­positions. Are we just the babysitters for someone else's child? Since this was an interstate adoption, we had to spend three nights in a...

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Babies can Understand Math

A new study reveals that babies, some as young as 5 months old, have an innate understanding of math, reports the New York Times. Well, that puts most babies ahead of me. Now you don't ask a 5-month-old how much two plus two equals. But there are ways of figuring out that they understand addition and subtraction. (No one is yet suggesting that babies know algebra.) The researchers placed several Mickey Mouse dolls in front of the babies and then let the children see another doll being placed next to the visible ones but behind a screen. When the screen was removed, the babies stared longer (indicating surprise at the unexpected) if the total number of dolls differed from what they had previously seen. Get it? If not, I may not have ex­plained it very well, or you may not stack up to your infant in braininess. This research adds to our knowledge about the innate abilities of young babies, once thought to be insensate eating, sleeping and pooping machines. It has long been accepted in scientific circles that lin­guist (and loony leftist) Noam Chomsky was right about babies' innate ability to learn language. Chomsky said babies don't just imitate adults, they make sense of lan­guage according to rules. A fascinating footnote to Chomsky's thesis was added recently. In studying children raised by deaf parents, scientists discovered that these children begin to sign babble at exactly the same age as hearing babies begin to make babble noises. But it won't come as news...

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The heart can conquer the body

Every now and then, a columnist pleads for the indulgence of read­ers on a personal matter. I am asking for that indulgence now. For the next month, I will be taking maternity leave. Human gestation still takes nine months. But until now I have not been able say when we would become parents, because I am not the one who is pregnant (at least, not in the biological sense). My husband and I will be adopting our baby - and so his or her exact arrival time has been a tantalizing mystery. FOR US, ADOPTION represents the sun peeking out after a prolonged eclipse. Infertility is an emotionally, physically and financially devastating condition. I have been physically gouged during laparoscopic surgery, financially gouged by fertility spe­cialists and emotionally gouged by the well­ meaning but insensitive comments of friends and relatives. Like a serious illness, infertility pierces the illusion we all enjoy of invulnerability. It shatters our sense that we are in control of our lives. The most careful timing of ovula­tion, the most painstaking scientific inves­tigation of the process of conception, avail us nothing. There is nothing we can learn, nothing we can do to help ourselves. After a while, when infertility begins to feel permanent, it robs the couple of the sense that they are full participants in life. The roundness of being born, growing up, getting married, having children, then grand­children, seems to get warped. One feels thwarted, stunted and sometimes ...

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Men are at war with civilization

Today is my first wedding anniversary, and in keeping with the spirit of the age, which requires that we all reveal publicly our personal traumas for the good of others who may find themselves in similar circumstances, I would like to review what I've discovered about men in the year just past. Feminist propaganda notwithstanding, there are certain fundamental and probably immutable differences between the sexes. It is a fact, universally understood by married women (or significant others who live with men in marriage-type arrangements), that men cannot see beyond the front row of the refrigerator. It must have something to do with the masculine configuration of rods and cones, but if something· isn't smack in front of their noses, they can't see it. If I had valuable jewels I wanted to hide from burglars, I'd slip them behind the mayonnaise and next to the relish, (which my husband Bob brought to this marriage and is still languishing in our refrigerator 12 months later). THIS SIDE EFFECT OF testosterone has yet to be studied by biologists, but I can provide reams of anecdotal evidence. My husband will stand for three to four minutes at the open refrigerator, sigh, shut the door and announce,"We need more mustard." I will bite my cheeks to keep a straight face, and ask, "Have you looked at the back of the middle shelf?" A great rustling sound will next emanate from the kitchen, as if he's unloading the entire contents of the refrigerator, or perhaps picking the whole thing up and shaking it. Crashing sounds will reach...

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