From time to time, people speculate about licensing parents. After all, you need a license to drive a car, fly an airplane, teach children or practice any number of other professions. So why shouldn’t you have to obtain a license for the most important job in the world—raising a baby from a complete state of dependency to a self-sufficient adult?
Like most people, the idea of licensing parents fades to the back of my mind until I read something horrible happening to children or observe a parent functioning at a level of ignorance that is beyond belief.
The latter happened to me recently, when my wife and I went to see the movie “King Kong.” As we sat in the theater waiting for the film to start, a young mother came up the stairs carrying a baby and directing her 4-year-old son to follow her. Our immediate reaction was, “How can she expect a 4-year-old to sit through a three-hour movie?” I next wondered how she was going to keep her son from disturbing others in the theater, and how she planned to shield him from the movie’s disturbing scenes.
From the nonchalant look on this woman’s face, it appeared that none of these issues concerned her. After the lights dimmed, I turned to my wife and commented on how long—and graphic—the previews were. I could only imagine what it was like for the little boy.
Then the feature began. After the first hour, several scenes were so gruesome that even my wife and I had to turn our heads. I felt sorry that the little boy sitting near us had been exposed to horrific images of people being devoured by giant cockroaches and spiders. And I was annoyed that his mother knew so little about children that she would put him in such a situation.
At the end of the movie, the young mother passed by us. Her little boy was jumping down the stairs, just as you might expect a 4-year-old child to do—especially one who had just been confined for more than three hours.
The boy’s jumping, and his unwillingness to listen when his mum told him to stay close, made her lose her patience. “This is the last movie I will ever take you to!” she shouted.
At that mument my heart went out to that little boy, stuck with such a thoughtless mother for the next 14 years. Remember, she not only exposed her son to images of ghastly violence, expected him to remain seated for three and a half hours and thrust his disruptions upon everyone else in the theater—she also mishandled his excitement about being unconfined by punishing him.
As I walked out of the theater, it struck me that perhaps adults should be licensed to raise a child.
Of course, 99 percent of the time I have only empathy and admiration for parents. But that 1 percent of the time I am appalled that some people become parents with no knowledge of what children are about, and barely an understanding of a parent’s role.
Even if they’re not actually required to receive a license proving their childrearing skills, the parents in this minority could certainly benefit from a parenting education program. Although it’s often said that parenting is something you learn on the job, a prep class never hurts!
Our parenting advice is given as suggestions only. We recommend you also consult your healthcare provider, and urge you to contact them immediately if your question is urgent or about a medical condition.