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What About The Children

March 2009

     Four years ago a doll called Yumel was first marketed for the "lonely elderly". Designed by the Japanese, this doll was not intended as a toy. Rather, with its ability to sense its owner's sleep patterns, sing for them, and communicate "caring words", it was promoted as a "healing partner" for elderly folks. Yumel would serve to fill the void created by grown children who failed to pay attention to their elderly parents, or by grandchildren they might never see because of the nation's declining birth rate.
     It seems like this phenomena concerning inanimate companionship has not diminished. In July 2008, police in Queensland, Australia smashed a car window to rescue what appeared to be an unconscious baby only to find it was a "reborn" doll. Police stated that the doll was "incredibly lifelike" and bystanders thought a baby was actually dying.
     Apparently "reborns" are infant-like dolls made to appear very natural through intensive attention to realistic detail. Available with features like heartbeat, and breathing movements, these "reborns" can cost over $4,000-and their buyers are not young girls wanting to "play doll," but adult women. "I take (my baby) to the park ... maybe put it in its stroller, or put it in its sling, or hold it in a blanket," a 49-year-old "mother" told ABC News reporters in January 2009, lovingly describing her play-like infant.
     Now, if you are asking whether there isn't something about all this that should give people pause, you are not alone. Our postmodern culture has seen a definite shift away from family-oriented values which we believe are God-established.
     As human beings, we have been created with specific social needs, and one of the most foundational of these is childbearing and its associated family life. It is not by accident that we have been created male and female, and marriage, one of the most enduring and wonderful of human relationships finds its anchor in this very fact.
     From time immemorial, men and women have found mates, married and established homes. Within this setting, women found their innate "mothering" desire fulfilled, and as in the words of scripture "the LORD gave her conception" they bore children, nurtured and raised them. The further challenges of parenting through the years from infancy, childhood, adolescence to adulthood were shared by both parents, and children's preparation for life was founded upon that social family circle.
     Today, demographic studies are revealing many developed countries poised for a steep decline, with birthrates not nearly at replacement values, and a rapidly aging population. Some people are applauding this trend, basing their concept upon the need for population reduction in order to "save the planet". Others fear the social implications this most surely will bring.
     God only knows the ultimate result of these values being absorbed by society. But one result we see today is a shift from a culture where "family with children" is the norm, to fewer and fewer people taking on the responsibilities of parenthood.
     I will also add that this means many men and women missing out on one of the greatest fulfillments which they can experience in life - feeling the hand of your child slipping into yours, and hearing a voice saying "mommy" or "daddy".
     But "reborn" dolls just won't fill the gap.

- Mervin Brubacher
   Barwick, ON