It’s Not All Mary Poppins

Interview Question, Fifth and Final: Parenting License?

5. Some people say that people should have to obtain a License To Parent before they are allowed to bring a child into the world. The implication is, some kind accreditation is necessary to do the job right. You’ve worked with lots of untrained mommies and daddies. Are children at risk or otherwise held back by parental ignorance?

“Are children at risk or held back by parental ignorance?” If the ignorance is profound, yes. Most of us, however, trained or untrained, know to feed our children when they’re hungry, hug them often, and not to lock them in closets and hit them with sticks.

Are they at risk or held back if the ignorance is just garden-variety inexperience? No.

The idea of licensing parents is not new, of course, and there’s something to be said for the idea that we have to have a license to drive a car or own a pet, but not for something as life-altering as raising a child.

However, there is a right and a wrong way to drive a car. The rules for driving safely are clear and readily taught. A test can determine with reasonable accuracy whether or not a person is safe on the roads.

Pet licensing is more a public health/administrative issue than anything else – pets are licensed so they can be returned to their owners should they get lost, so there’s a mechanism to monitor that they’re all getting their legally-mandated innoculations, that sort of thing. We have birth certificates and innoculation records for our children which accomplish the same things.

My question has always been: who would dole out the parenting licenses? Who would determine the curriculum? What would make it onto the curriculum?

These things are so culturally-based. Moreover, they shift over the years. Parenting is just as influenced by trends and fads as anything else, and, fads as we all know, are mostly ephemeral dross. Pretty and appealing at the moment, perhaps, but with little lasting value.

Here’s only one of many, many examples: We believe that it’s vital that children be bathed in language, that communication be facilitated as soon as possible, that parents ease a child into language learning by interaction, simplified speech, repetition, and talk, talk, talk. Did you know that not all cultures believe this? That some cultures speak to their children as they would to adults? That at least one doesn’t speak directly to them at all until the child begins to speak? (In this latter culture, mind you, the children are always with adults or other children, so they hear language constantly. They are just not spoken to very much. Language is not cut up into bite-sized chunks for them.) And yet in all these cultures, the children learn to speak, speak well and fluently?

See my point? We believe you must speak to your children to encourage language acquisition; we believe this is a total and complete given. But it’s not. There is astonishingly little that can be unequivocably identified as “good” or “bad”, or “strong and effective” or “weak and handicapping”. It’s just not so clear-cut.

Who, then, would have the right and the authority to say “You may have a child and you may not.”? On the basis of what skill set and knowledge? Would physical health be a factor? Could a handicapped person be refused a license? Or a person whose family history makes them more likely to die before the task of raising the child was finished?

What would you do about accidental pregnancies to unlicensed parents – scoop the kid at birth to give to a more “qualified” parent?

Although it’s undeniably good to be prepared for parenting, I believe a license is at best of questionable value, and at worse, actively detrimental to parents and families. How does one prepare for parenting, then? Hang out with kids. Babysit. Volunteer at a daycare or a day camp. Just get yourself a little face-time with some children.

And you’ll do just fine. Even without a license.

October 29, 2007 Posted by | memes and quizzes, parenting | 12 Comments

Even we Paragons have our Bad Days

We are going to the park!

We don hats and shoes, we check sunscreen, we head out the front door and gather on the porch prior to getting into the stroller. And someone stinks. Really, really stinks.

Back into the house. This is, I confess, mildly exasperating.

I open the diaper, and the child’s mother has put the “Let’s-Gag-Mary” diaper cream on his butt, even though I have repeatedly told her the scent makes me gag. It is worse than the contents of the diaper, which are not sweet. Gag me. And this, too, is kind of annoying.

Now that we’ve been delayed, I decide to have snack before we head out, instead of at the park as we normally would. This unsettled Nigel the Anal Methodical. The second our feet hit the sidewalk out front of my house, he starts in.

“We havin’ a snack, Mary?”

“We just did, Nigel.”

“We havin’ a snack, Mary?”

“What did we just eat, Nigel?”

“Peaches and apples and cheese.”

News to me. Far as I was aware, we’d stopped at peaches. “Peaches, that’s right. So -”

“We havin’ a snack, Mary?”

I give up. “NO, Nigel. We are NOT. Today, you are going to STARVE all morning, okay?”

“Okay.” (This submission is a small mercy. I accept it as such. Phew. ‘Cuz otherwise I’d have had to scream and stamp my feet and otherwise be a very, very Bad Example. Any other day, I blip right over these exchanges. Some days they amuse me. Today, it’s only BLOODY ANNOYING.)

Walking to the park, we encounter a large, noisy truck. Now, I, personally, do not LIKE large, noisy trucks. Trucks are boring. And they’re noisy. They have limited appeal.

To the tots, their appeal is (oh, be merciful) limitless, and as a loving and professional caregiver, I make sure we spend a long, long, lllllooooong (pleasewilliteverend) time enjoying the large noisyness. And then – thank GOD – the children start to get restless, and “It’s time to go to the PARK, kids!!”

So off we go. All except Timmy. There’s a magnet in his nose, a big powerful one, drawing his face directly to that damned noisy truck. We turn left, he’s staring right over his shoulder. We ease right, he’s staring left. Which is okay, except ‘left’ and ‘right’ are not ‘straight ahead’, and the boy canNOT walk ‘straight ahead’ when his head is pointed ‘left’ and ‘right’.

The path eases left. Timmy smashes into the side of the stroller. I move Timmy to the other side of the stroller. Timmy walks directly into my feet and I turn my forty-something body into a pretzel to try not to trample him. Forty-something bodies do not LIKE being wrenched pretzel-like. Nor do forty-something brains think their bodies should have to put up with this nonsense. And I cannot even attempt to tell you what forty-something hormones feel about it – this is a Family Blog.

On another day, his fixation would be amusing. Today it’s only BLOODY ANNOYING. When next he veers into my path, I fight – successfully – the urge to accidentally-on-purpose stomp all over him. He escapes by the skin of my determination – which is weakening rapidly.

We continue the next two blocks until that damned truck can no longer be heard with my hand clamped firmly to the top of his head. His eyeballs are rolling around in a desperate attempt to see OUT THE BACK OF HIS HEAD, but he can’t. Nyah. I prevail, and I ENJOY it. It’s for his own good. If he trips me up a third time, I can’t promise restraint.

We play our run-and-freeze game when we get to the broad path in the park. Nigel and Malli are sent to run ahead. When I say “Freeze!” they are to, yes, freeze. It’s a safety procedure which I’ve not tried on these two yet. Malli gets it in short order. Nigel? Let’s just say that Nigel will be holding onto the stroller for a while yet.

“Freeze! Good job, Malli!… Nigel? Nigel, stop! NIGEL!! NIIIII-GEL!!! FREEZE.”

Several times in a row, with careful explanation and demonstration in between. The boy’s nowhere near having a clue.

“Okay bud, you have to hang on to the stroller.”

“But I want to run ahead!”

“Not if you can’t freeze when I say freeze.”

“I dii-iid.”

“You think so?”

“Yes, I did.”

He DOES think so, too. “And that, buckaroo, is why you are holding onto the stroller. Hush now.”

And it’s not cute or funny. It’s just DAMNED ANNOYING.

And we get home and Malli pees ALL OVER the bathroom. First accident she’s had in a couple of months. The puddle is ENORMOUS, her dress is saturated, her panties beyond that – and her spare clothes are a long-sleeved shirt and lined jeans, and it’s 34 degrees today and I just stepped in a tributary of the piddle puddle. Ugh. And the hem of my skirt slaps against my ankle. And sticks there, sealed to my skin with pee.

I’m quiet on the outside, but I’m not matter-of-fact about it on the inside. It’s just DAMNED ANNOYING. REALLY, REALLY ANNOYING.

When I call Timmy to change his diaper, he lies on the floor with his head facing me. Not his butt, his head. He has done this every.single.diaper change for a solid year. AND IT’S BLOODY ANNOYING.

It’s naptime now. I think they’ll stay in bed for a while. Until, oh, until the mommies and daddies come. In four-and-a-half hours. It’d be for their own good.


September 14, 2007 Posted by | aggression, Malli, Nigel, the dark side, Timmy | 12 Comments

It’s Time to Take a Stand. Make a Statement. Have a Contest.

I was telling a group of mothers about the Cocktail Playdate outrage, the shocking reality of Mothers Who Drink.

They were all suitably horrified.

“Outrageous!” they fulminated.
“This can’t be allowed!”
“They can’t be allowed to get away with it!”
“Something Must be Done!”

Then we all put our heads together to figure out what WE, a group of loving, responsible, nurturing mothers, could do to rectify the injustice, to balance the scales, to Right the Wrong.

And we did it. It is BRILLIANT, I tell you. Utterly brilliant. It will test our ingenuity, stretch our creativity, expand our skills in the kitchen. All good qualities in Quality Mommies, wouldn’t you say?

We are going… oh, this is just so good! We are going to create the World’s Best Designer Drink, the creme de la creme of Momtinis.

We have a few possibilities so far. There has been some lively discussion as to the best base. Tequila is giving vodka a stiff challenge, and then there’s the whole wine contingent. There are strong opinions as to the preferability of tart over fruity, mint over lime, the merits of crushed ice vs cubes, tonic vs soda. There are so many choices!

In fact, we’re leaning to having a number of categories, because we all know that, just like our children, every Mommy is different and special. So perhaps a sweet/fruity concoction AND a tangy/sour one? A dessert coffee category? Drinks with bubbles and those without?

We’re hunting for just the right accessories. Because a true Momtini requires accessories – teeny umbrella too kitschy for you? How about coloured straws? How about ice cubes in the shape of teeny lego pieces? And to identify glasses? None of those little beaded wine glass charms for us, we’re using beaded diaper pins. Pink for mommies of girls, blue for mommies of boys. You can have as many as you have children.

You can join in, too! Would you like to? Send me your recipes, and my team of impartial, dedicated, professional Mothers will personally taste-test each one.

But wait. That’s a lot of work, even for a group as dedicated as my team. Why, then, why don’t you, in YOUR city, start your very own Cocktail Chapter? Maybe we could have regional entries – I’m sure all you southern mamas can come up with something cool and heady, and all we northern ones can manage something to warm us on cold winter nights. I’m sure there are maritime and Pacific specialties. (With apologies to all you Newfoundlanders, however, I don’t think anything based on screech can be called a ‘cocktail’.)

It can be the National Mommy Project of 2007! Heck, if Kat, Karyn, Jenny and Z want to get involved, it can be an International – a global! – Mommy Project.

You’ll have to come up with a name for your entry, but you can’t have mine. I’ve already got a name for our group’s not-yet-invented confection.

It will be named, pending approval of the appropriate authorities, “Surburban Bliss”.

February 3, 2007 Posted by | individuality, Mischief, parenting, random and odd | 10 Comments