Thursday, August 6, 2015
License to Parent?
I parent my two dogs. I use that term carefully. When I lived in California the city of West Hollywood mandated the use of the terminology “Pet Guardian” rather than “Pet Owner.” It was a way to make sure that people took care of the beings they were trusted with. Absurd and Orwellian as it is to have a government agency dictate language – and the temptation to mock and rant - the underlying point was and still is effective. Parenting is a job I’m in awe of. Not only from my own direct experience as a son, but as I watch my siblings and friends take on and nurture the life of another it’s clear there are unique skills required to be a parent. Too bad so many people are ill equipped for the task.
I’ve been traveling a lot this summer – more than I have in many years. It’s been mostly by plane. (Nearly 40,000 miles!) I’ve been reminded that this season (along with the holidays) is when families travel. On a recent trip I had six toddlers and infants surrounding me in the rows behind and in front of me. Junior opted to spend 5 of the 6 hours kicking my seat. His siblings screamed at the top of their lungs for 6 of the 6 hours, getting all the neighboring kids to chime in. Mama (probably in her early 20’s) was useless and Papa sat in an adjacent seat reading his text book, studying for something. Other passengers, flight attendants, etc. all offered to help – to hold the kids, calm them, etc. All denied.
Society licenses nearly every activity that we participate in: hair stylists, food handlers, etc. so that there’s a minimum level of competency in getting the job done. In Massachusetts massage providers and manicurists must be licensed because it’s important to the state that its residents hair, nails and back be properly aligned. Want to be a parent? Have at it.
There was a moment in my life where my then partner and I were considering parenthood. Since the biology wasn’t in our favor we started looking into a variety of options – and attended a couple of Gayby classes on how to do so via adoption, surrogacy and other options. Today there’s a lot more options, including in most areas foster parenting. In all of these instances, however, there’s some level of screening. The consequences of having responsibility for another being’s life must actually be considered. That alone makes for good parenting – because the people are at some level choosing to be a parent.
Couples who are able to conceive sometimes don’t have the luxury of going through a deliberative process to determine their desire to become parents. Do they figure it out? Yes, most do. That’s life and that’s the way it should be. As a freedom loving, personal responsibility zealot – letting people figure it out is a core belief. As the witness/victim of bad parenting – I wonder why we don’t have a licensing process for parents. It’d never work and it’s a bad idea. Adding a governmental role to license parents is an anathema to me and I'm not proposing it. But when you’re in a metal tube with the decibel level reaching epic conditions even the strongest philosophy melts away.
In the meantime, maybe we can have some enterprising entrepreneur develop an adults-only airline?