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Monday, June 27, 2011

How Luce,White and Halberstam Helped Me Make My First Dad Decision

The little one had just been born. And after she had had her first suckle, gotten cleaned up and everything­, she started to wail.

That is when I had to make one of my first decisions as a brand new dad.

Do I pick her up and comfort her or do I let her cry herself to sleep.

In the best traditions of the Victorian Nanny, the consensus among the adults in the room was to leave her alone.

If I picked her up there would be a permanent and dire consequenc­e. The little one, would get used to my "body heat" and would never like to be put down.

Tough situation for very wet behind the ears dad.

Thinking hard I made up my mind with a little help from David Halberstam­, Harry Luce and Theodore H White.

My answer came from a brilliant book "The Powers That Be" by David Halberstam published, in the 80s.

Henry Luce the founder of Time Life and Fortune and of popular, pictorial journalism (before the advent of TV) took a great interest in the goings on in China, for among other reasons, his parents had been missionari­es in that country.

His man in China was a 24 year old, Teddy White, who had created a formidable reputation for himself as a China expert.

In keeping with the "pop" nature of his paper, Luce was a man who was curious about all the various small but colourful details that a convention­al reporter might consider insignific­ant, but which lent colour, dimension and readabilit­y to Time stories. Made them reader friendly.

On a meeting in China, when the reporters were in serious discussion about the course of the Long March etc, Luce was looking out the window, seemingly completely away from the stuff in the room.

After the meeting, he seemed to exclaim to no one in particular­, " I wonder why Chinese babies seldom cry?"

The brilliant Teddy White picked up on this seemingly pointless remark and researched it.

He found out that indeed Chinese babies seldom cried, because they were worn on their mothers' backs. Their needs were anticipate­d and attended to. They were comforted by their parent's presence and body warmth.

They rarely needed to cry.

They also had better resistance to disease and better IQs.

So you now know how I decided. I was not disappoint­ed.

This also taught me to pay heed.

I could immediatel­y make out whether she was crying because she was hungry, thirsty, scared, in pain or just because she wanted to make a fuss.

I learnt to make sure her clothes were soft and appropriat­e for the weather. That her shoes were comfortable.

In other words, when the little one was in my care, it would never, ever be her.

It would always be me.

You may also want to engage with my comments on, 

How to Talk to Little Girls:Lisa Bloom & 

Humiliating Children In Public: A New Parenting Trend? Lisa Belkin Here

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