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Jewish World Review May 3, 2001/ 10 Iyar 5761

Kathleen Parker

Kathleen Parker
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Keeping abreast of feud proves udderly absurd

http://www.jewishworldreview.com --
HERE at breast-watch headquarters, we can't help observing that mammary glands still are wreaking havoc with men, especially among the newest victim class -- alienated fathers.

For whom, I hasten to add, I have the greatest sympathy and respect. Who can fault fathers who, wanting only to be good fathers, are stymied by weird family-court judges and unfair laws promulgated by a greedy, compassionless divorce industry?

Not I, though an exception does come along every now and then. Today's exception may be the New Jersey father who's suing his baby's mother for more visitations even though it disrupts the child's breast-feeding schedule.

Pump or dump, says the father. I got my rights.

You have to admire that kind of selfless, paternal love. It gives you chills, doesn't it? I mean, once a DNA test proved that Ateeba Brown, 21, was in fact Donor No. 1 to mother Alex Jones, 18, how could he feel otherwise?

Some have speculated that the former boyfriend/girlfriend couple, which broke up when baby Alexandra was born, is playing a revenge game. Gee, do you think? Mature adult parents playing legal games with a child's life and welfare?

But let's pretend they're not. Let's pretend that Brown's paternal heartstrings have enjoyed a staggering cosmic yank and he can't bear the thought of not bonding with his now four-and-a-half-month-old infant daughter.

And let's pretend that Jones, who nurses her child dutifully even though she both works and attends school (Jones' father brings the baby to her), can't bear the thought of her baby being away during these critical bonding, not to mention nutritious, hours.

We'll assume further that all parties are acting only out of love. If that be the case, wouldn't the parents' heightened affections for baby Alexandra suggest that bickering over who has the superior right -- the father's to bond or the mother's to breast-feed -- is a tad counterproductive for a baby who isn't exactly entering the game with a full house?

That's what a judge might say, not that we've come to expect judges to rule reasonably on family issues. A judge might even say, "Look kids, I'm going to rule in this child's best interest. Under the circumstances, your rights matter less."

Instead, we have experts and legal scholars arguing in New Jersey Superior Court about how both parents' "rights" might be accommodated.

For instance, Mom could pump her breast milk and hand it over to dad for his bonding practice.

Or, Mom could come with the baby for a few weeks during Dad's visitation while Alexandra adjusts to bottle feedings.

Or, Dad could visit Alexandra at Mom's house more frequently for shorter periods.

The notion of cooperation for baby's greater good seems beyond the intellectual scope of this kin's ken. Fools' bickering assumes undeserved gravitas once their tantrums are inscribed on court dockets, and risks legal precedents that bode ill for the future of breast-feeding and the children who benefit from such intimate care.

The ruckus over whose bonding rights carry more weight, meanwhile, seems superfluous with oceans of fish yet to fry. Besides, in about six more weeks, the child will be eating solid foods and Dad can, by golly, hold the spoon.

See why marriage matters?

Were the couple married, no one would be arguing over who gets to spend more time with the little darling. Dad would be grateful that his wife is willing to give his daughter a healthy start in life. And, of course, Mom would be placing buckets of breast milk at Dad's feet so he could share in that good ol' midnight bonding.

Best of all, the rest of us wouldn't have to suffer yet another ridiculous precedent for another unqualified couple to wrangle over at the expense of another child brought thoughtlessly and carelessly into a world that probably doesn't deserve her.


JWR contributor Kathleen Parker can be reached by clicking here.

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