Taking family decay in stride

November 12, 1999|By Kathleen Parker

GRAB YOUR hankies. It's time for another heart-warming tale of multiple births to an unmarried, welfare mom and ol' what's-his-name.

The story goes like this: Yolanda Harris of Newport News, Va., is pregnant with twins! Again! Her third set! And she's only 22! And she's not married!

Pardon the debutante breathlessness; it's contagious. A story in the Daily Press, in Hampton Roads, Va., relating the good news of Ms. Harris' amazing fecundity was punctuated with so many head-slapping "wows," I simply caught the spirit.

The reason Ms. Harris made the news, apparently, is because three sets of twins within one family is rare. To quote an amazed person: "The odds have to be in the realm of millions-to-one," said Susan Alt, editor-in-chief of Twins magazine.

"This is an extremely rare event, we know that for sure."

Even Ms. Harris' doctor is amazed. "I've never seen it before," said Dr. Sue Sayegh. "I laughed the second time. The third time, all I could do was laugh again."

Talk about funny. The newest twins are due in January, while the other twins, AnTony Jr. and Atashia, 3; Alexus and Alahjuan, 2 -- and Antoinette, 6, who had the womb all to herself -- keep Ms. Harris busy. All previous children have the same father -- Antony Wells, 26, with whom Ms. Harris lives -- though not the new babies. Their father wasn't named in the story.

Even though Mr. Wells is apparently aware that the mother of his children has been "seeing" someone else, he's expressing only amazement, too.

"Basically, I couldn't believe it," said Mr. Wells, speaking of the first set of twins. "When I heard it was happening a third time, I couldn't believe it again."

I have to admit, I can't believe it either. I can't believe the amazement, the celebratory schmaltz, the laughter. I can't believe that most Americans aren't shaking their heads right now, thinking, what the fool is going on in this idiot country of ours?

For those who still cling to the notion of marriage first and then family, the facts are less than inspiring. At 22, Ms. Harris is the mother of five children -- soon to be seven. She's on welfare, though is attending a job-training program to learn data entry and word processing. She is not married, but hopes someday to wed Mr. Wells. She's not ready just yet, she says, because . . . "I don't want to end up divorced."

I know, the clarity of thought is breathtaking. Heaven forbid someone should declare this behavior unacceptable, ridiculous, absurd, inexcusable, intolerable, condemnable. Did someone say stupid?

We've become so dopey in our determination never to judge another -- certainly never an unmarried welfare mother who, even after five babies, hasn't figured out that unprotected sex leads to hungry mouths -- that we can't even think straight.

Surely we have lost our moorings when we celebrate and, thus, encourage random couplings and production-line offspring inescapably moored at the government trough. The children are probably adorable, scampering around in their blue and pink pajamas. May they all grow up to be literate, successful partners in intact families.

More likely they'll play lead roles in the next act of this lousy drama of irresponsibility, dependency and family decay.

Kathleen Parker is an Orlando (Fla.) Sentinel columnist.

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