Mama, I Got 80% On The Ap Physics Exam; And, By The Way, I'm "Shvanger"*

*"Shvanger" is the Yiddish word for pregnant

by Marjorie Gottlieb Wolfe

Do you recall Cicero's famous anguished exclamation bemoaning the temper of his times: "O tempora! O mores!"? (What a time we live in! What moral ways!)

The newspaper headlines report the news:

. Approximately 32% of children in this country are born out of wedlock. Dual parent households are on the decline.

. Jame Lynn Spears, 16, and unmarried, announced the birth of her daughter in OK! magazine.

. Boxer, Evander Holyfield, has 9 children, five of them born out of wedlock to four women. (Among professional athletes out-of-wedlock births are epidemic.)

. Shawn Kemp of the Cavaliers, who is not married, has fathered 7 children.

. Frederick Meekins (NewsBusters, Aug. 30, 2005) asks, "Will Lois Lane Be An Unwed Mother In New Superman Film?"

. Barry Darin, one of the most popular American big band performers and rock and roll teen idols of the late 1950s and early 1960s, was born to a teen mother and raised to believe she was his sister.

June, 2008 . And 17 girls who attend Gloucester High School in Gloucester, Mass., are pregnant. This is more than four times the number the 1,162-student school had the year before. To make matters worse, a significant portion of the pregnancies are occurring in girls 16 ("zakhtsn") and younger. One teen went for a pregnancy test several times and was "dershlogn" (depressed mentally) when the results were negative. What a shanda!

There may even have been a pact. A member of the school committee said, "They think that a baby can give them love or give them status ("matsev") or fill an empty space in their life, and these girls are very, very young. And if you talk to any teenage ("tsenerlingn") mother who is caring for an infant ("oyfele"), the road is not easy."

Sue Todd, executive director of Pathways for Young Families Initiative, which provides day care and parenting classes for young families and teenagers, says, "Like many here, we're hoping it's a blip."

Could these students have seen and identified with the 2007 movie, "Juno"? For those unfamiliar with the film, Juno is a whip-smart teen confronting an unplanned pregnancy by her classmate. With the help of her best friend, Leah, Juno finds her unborn child a perfect set of parents, an affluent suburban couple longing to adopt. Luckily, Juno has the total support of her parents, as she faces some tough decisions, flirts with adulthood, and ultimately figures out where she belongs.

Jews have always been taught to "Be Fruitful and Multiply." "Kinder brengen glik"--Children bring good fortune.

Bernard S. Raskas ("Heart Of Wisdom") writes, "In Jewish literature we find the phrase 'tzaar gidul banim,'--the anguish of rearing children. This refers to the parental responsibilities not only to feed, clothe, house, and educate children, but also to help them mature and grow. Parents must give a child a set of values and standards." How can any 16-year-old provide such a responsibliity?

Jane Mattes, psychotherapist and single mother by choice, is the author of a book titled, "Single Mothers by Choice: A Guidebook for Single Women Who Are Considering or Have Chosen Motherhood."

In an e-mail to the writer, she said, "I think it's sad that the young girls are hoping that having babies will fill an empty place in their lives. They still need help caring for themselves, figuring out who they are, and what they want to do with their lives. Teens are still children, after all, and can't possibly be ready to take care of other children on a full-time basis. Where were their parents and why do they have to fll the empty places inside of themselves in this way?"

Studies have found that children born to single mothers are vastly more likely to be poor, have behavioral and psychological problems, drop out of high school, and themselves go on to have out-of-wedlock children.

We MUST break the cycle. "Genug es genug!" (Enough is enough!) with the expression, "And baby makes two.


Marjorie Gottlieb Wolfe is the author of a book titled, "Are Yentas, Kibitzers, & Tummlers Weapons of Mass Instruction? Yiddish Trivia." You can visit her website

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