Sunday, October 20, 1996
Risky view of Madonna's new baby

The Cincinnati Enquirer

Would it be churlish to wish that the birth of Lourdes Maria Ciccone Leone, 6 pounds, 9 ounces, had not been celebrated on the front pages of newspapers all over the country? Including this one.

Would it be tragically unhip to wonder whether Madonna sets a bad example for young people? I think I'll risk it.

Boy, I better be careful here. Remember what happened to Dan Quayle when he dared to suggest that Murphy Brown's fictional baby would have been better off with two fictional parents?

Mr. Quayle, not a very sympathetic public figure at the time, was relentlessly misunderstood. He didn't say Murphy should be put in stocks and branded with a big A. He just said he thought we grown-ups should try not to give kids the idea that this situation is ideal. Or easy.

Domesticating Madonna

Or, on the other side of the aisle, how about Hillary Clinton? She wrote a book called It Takes a Village. The rest of the sentiment, for those of you who have been playing Nintendo when you should have been improving your mind, is that it takes a village to raise a child.

If a kid is lucky, the mayor and sergeant-at-arms in the village are his parents. That's if a kid is lucky. And if a kid isn't, then that's not his fault. Or her fault. In fact, let me say this as clearly as I possibly can. I wish only the best for little Lourdes, who has the nearly impossible job of domesticating her mother.

And I admire the job that so many single mothers and fathers do with their children. It's tough. Most of them would be grateful for some help. Many of them are doing a heroic solo when they originally thought they'd always be part of a team.

Nobody needs to tell them that their situation is not ideal or easy. They're grown-ups. But what about kids? Why aren't we saying aloud that the goal for each baby born into this world is to be adored by at least two parents. All the time.

You probably think this is none of my business. I used to think so, too. But I stood in a church a week ago today and made a promise that I intend to keep. I was at Northern Kentucky Children's Sabbath Interfaith Service at Lakeside Presbyterian Church in Lakeside Park.

The church was filled with men, women, children and glorious music, including the Hand Bell Choir from Emmanuel United Methodist Church, the Northern Kentucky Children's Ensemble and the Ninth Street Baptist Choir.

A religious experience

The best music, of course, familiar to everybody who has ever spent any time in a church, synagogue or mosque, is the occasional gurgling of an infant. Music.

There were readings from the New Testament, Hebrew scriptures and the Koran. Twenty youth groups participated.

When I had my turn at the lectern, I spoke to those young people. And I warned them that they are valuable. They are important. So, the next time I see one of them outside on a cold day, I am going to notice if they don't have on a warm coat. If I see them trying to buy cigarettes, I will poke my nose into that too.

Even though they probably think it's none of my business.

And if I see somebody cuffing one of them around in a grocery store, I'm not going to pretend not to see. I am making children - all of them - my business. I don't want to suggest that I know how to rear everybody else's child. Including Madonna's. I just mean that, as much as possible, I want to take some responsibility. I want to help, if I can.

Part of it is self-serving. I welcome the chance to help pay for their education. One of them might be taking out my gall bladder some day. I want them to do a good job. And I don't care to live in a place where people are desperate and ignorant.

But part of it is just because as a dues-paying villager, I demand that they be given a chance at the best possible life, the greatest possible number of people committed to their welfare. And I'm willing to be unhip, a busybody and just plain disapproving at times. That's what grown-ups do. It seems worth the risk.

Laura Pulfer's column appears in The Enquirer on Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. Call 768-8393 or fax to 768-8340. She can be heard Monday mornings on WVXU radio (91.7 FM) and as a regular commentator on National Public Radio's Morning Edition.