Auschwitz survivor’s triumph: He educated his sons

An uneducated refugee, Harley Rotbart’s father educated his sons and liberated himself from his past, writes the doctor in the New York Times.

Dad hadn’t traveled much since the “big trip” to America from Poland. He was an Auschwitz survivor (No. 142178 tattooed on his arm) who lost his parents and sister in the concentration camps. My father had enough strength left to be selected for labor by the Nazis, and survived until liberation.

Still, true liberation didn’t come until that rainy graduation weekend in New York.

The family came to New York City for Rotbart’s medical school graduation.

Dad was a fruit peddler in Denver: Max’s Mobile Market. . . . Deprived of a high school education when the Nazis raided his town of Klodowa, he came to America years later as an apprehensive, thickly accented refugee from the unspeakable horrors of Europe. Despite many years in America, the emotional scars were still there. He had a sense of inferiority and was intimidated by those around him who had an education.

He’d always felt like the immigrant in the room. But in audience filled with doctors and the families of doctors, he lost his self-consciousness, fell to his knees and “shook and shivered and sobbed.”

 On that day, and again in a similar scene at my brother’s journalism school ceremony the next year, Dad was liberated from Auschwitz. He was no longer “142178,” a Nazi victim. My father could now stand face to face with doctors, journalists and other accomplished Americans. Although uneducated himself, he had educated his kids . . . No longer bound by the restraints life had forced on him, he reveled in what this new country had given him. He reveled in his family and in his fruit truck. He reveled in personally defeating Hitler. At his sons’ graduations, he graduated to freedom.

Dr. Rotbart, a pediatrician, is the author of No Regrets Parenting: Turning Long Days and Short Years into Cherished Moments with your Kids.

Girls can be doctors, but what about boys?

Disney’s ‘Doc McStuffins’ is a “cure for the common stereotype,” according to  the New York Times, which praises the cartoon for featuring a six-year-old black girl who aspires to be a doctor.

Her mother is a doctor (Dad stays home and tends the garden), and the girl emulates her by opening a clinic for dolls and stuffed animals. “I haven’t lost a toy yet,” she says sweetly to a sick dinosaur in one episode.

The series is a ratings hit with preschoolers and much appreciated by black parents, reports the Times. But where’s the role model for black boys? They couldn’t give little Doc McStuffins’ father a job? Black girls are far more likely to go to college, earn degrees and become doctors than their brothers.

The myth of the good mother

Today’s women face a new form of oppression — the pressure to be a perfect mother — argues French feminist Elisabeth Badinter in The Conflict.  The good mother is a “myth,” Badinter tells The Globe and Mail. ”A frustrated mother who is denied her own desires and ambitions is not good at all for her child.”

Ms. Badinter argues that yesterday’s patriarchy has been replaced by the tyranny of a suckling baby, and the pressures of “natural” parenting in the form of drug-free childbirth, co-sleeping, and cloth diapers. Moreover, women’s decision to step out of the workforce to devote themselves to their children is setting the cause of equality back to their grandmother’s generation.

When feminists fought to involve fathers in childrearing, bottle-feeding was “very practical,” Badinter says. Now breastfeeding and co-sleeping make fathers de trop.

The new model of super-parenting might work for some women, she concedes, but it’s not right for everyone. “And to those who don’t feel like adopting motherhood as a full-time job, don’t believe you are bad mothers.”

A retired professor, Badinter and her husband have three grown children.

No diploma, no job, 3 kids

Family Man in the Washington Post tells the story of a young father who wants to do the right thing by his 18-month-old son and his girlfriend’s two daughters by two other fathers. But 20-year-old Bobby Krotendorfer, a high school drop-out fired from his last job for skipping work and mouthing off, lacks maturity. His 22-year-old girlfriend’s bipolar but they’d rather spend their money on eating out than paying for her meds. Instead of getting his rotten teeth fixed, Bobby wants to buy an expensive gym for his little boy.

Bobby Krotendorfer plods through the garage and into the kitchen of the small, blue-gray Colonial in Southern Maryland. He drops a Snoopy diaper bag onto the kitchen table next to the GED prep book and a box of Hostess Twinkies. A lanky 20-year-old wearing baggy sweat pants, Bobby has just taken his girlfriend’s 5-year-old daughter, Faith, to school, then listened to his girlfriend fuss at him over the cellphone on his way back home. Seems she’s always yelling at him about something since she took a part-time waitressing job at the Lone Star Steakhouse & Saloon, leaving him to watch the children.

“I’ve had it,” Bobby says. Exhaustion pulls at his pale, angular face, and his day has just started. There are baby clothes to fold, floors to mop and three kids to put down for naps: 18-month-old Robert, called “Junior,” his biological child with his girlfriend; 3-year-old Hope, whom his girlfriend had with another man; and Savannah, the toddler daughter of a couple whom he agreed to watch.

By the end of the story, Bobby’s got an $8-an-hour job at a car wash. He and his girlfriend plan to get married next year. They’ll continue to live with her father — until she gets bored and moves on to another guy or Bobby gets tired of her mood swings.

The economy makes it worse for unskilled young men trying to support a family. But Bobby’s bad decisions — goofing off in school, quitting at 16, trusting a girl with two kids to stay on the pill — have dug him in a deep hole. He’s not ready to be a family man.