Archive for Monday, November 15, 2004

His baby days are over

November 15, 2004


Let me share with you the daydream that gets me through to Friday.

I retire. I move to a house on a wooded acre from which I cannot see my nearest neighbor. My new house has a media room with state-of-the-art sound system and plush recliners. When I am not there, I am lounging on the screened-in porch out back, watching the river travel past.

Swell as all that is, here is what makes the daydream lovely: There are no children in the house. They have all grown up and moved away.

Oh, I love them to death, don't get me wrong. But I've been doing the dad thing since I was 22. So I look forward to loving them from afar. In the kid-free house of my daydreams, you can stock the refrigerator and close the door knowing the food won't disappear before the light goes out. You can walk past a room without fear of being knocked back 5 feet by the song stylings of Jack Filthy and the Foulmouths. And when the telephone rings, it might conceivably be for you.

I apologize to late-life parents everywhere for saying this, but if, at 75, I find myself walking half a block behind some 14-year-old who is terminally mortified at my continued existence, or debating some 9-year-old who can't understand why I won't let him see "Naked Nazi Coeds From Planet X," I will walk in front of a bus. While slitting my wrists.

So you can imagine how alien Aleta St. James is to me.

She's the woman who gave birth to twins last week in New York, just a few days shy of her 57th birthday. Apparently, she did this on purpose.

St. James is said to be the oldest American to give birth to twins. A press release informs us that she is an "internationally acclaimed life coach and motivational speaker" and that this is her "greatest achievement." St. James, who is single, managed this feat through the use of donor eggs and in-vitro fertilization.

"This is the most incredible thing I've ever done in my life," she told reporters.

St. James acknowledged that other people might have other words for it. "A lot of people may think I am selfish or crazy or whatever," she said. "Well, I'm a little bit crazy. I've never lived in the box. I just say if you have a dream, if you put your mind to it and don't listen to other people's negativity, you can really do incredible things."

Amazingly, her next words were not, "I would like to thank the Academy."

Your humble correspondent is forced to remind himself that other people's reproductive decisions are none of his business and that one person's daydream is another's nightmare. There are, I am sure, many people for whom a house is not a home unless the kitchen floor is sticky.

So I'm not going to say St. James is "selfish" or "crazy." I might "think" it loudly, but I'm not going to say it.

I will confess, though, to wondering what old Mom Nature makes of all this. Eons past, she installed perfectly sensible rules and limitations on this child-bearing business.

But here as elsewhere, science is breaking the rules and stretching the limitations so that it's entirely conceivable -- you should pardon the pun -- to imagine a future where it might be common for a child in middle school to have a brother who qualifies for the senior discount at Denny's.

I keep reading these predictions that someday soon, you'll even be able to design your child from scratch, choosing its gender, eye color, hair color and aptitudes. It's a brave new world. Also in some ways, a strikingly narcissistic one.

Contrary to what the Rolling Stones said, it is increasingly the case that you can get exactly what you want. Imagination is the only limitation.

If that's your idea of progress, enjoy it with my compliments. Me, I'd just as soon sit this particular revolution out.

I do think, just as a joke, I'll ask my wife if we can take a shot at senior parenthood.

So if you never see me again, you'll know why.

-- Leonard Pitts Jr., winner of the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for commentary, is a columnist for the Miami Herald.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.