Why today’s aspiring parents should require government-sanctioned training
By Patrick Vaillancourt, News Editor
They say that nothing can adequately prepare someone for the coming of their first child. It’s fair to characterize parenting as an exercise mastered only by situational experience, but a framework to prepare parents-to-be for the coming of their bundle of joy must surely exist.
After all, having a child is one of the most important and solemn events in one’s life. Adequate preparations should be made to ensure one gets a head start into good parenting, developing good habits before the bad. In the end, a little more knowledge can’t hurt, and in the case of those who wish to have children, it should be obligatory.
Ordinary people need to undergo training and licencing for a number of things: driving a vehicle, owning a pet, opening a business, or even for getting married. The significance and lasting impacts of these activities generally pale in comparison to the importance of adequately raising a child. Yet, mandatory parenting instruction or licencing have never been seriously contemplated by government, and are even seen—as my critics will no doubt say—as controversial. As Jerry Steinberg, founding “non-father” of No Kidding!, writes, “[parenting] is the hardest job in the world to do, yet it’s the easiest job to get.”
My childhood, as chaotic as it was when I was a teenager, had far more structure than that of a child in my hometown today. These days, my hometown is filled with people who see procreation as a means of acquiring a bigger cheque from the government, be it through social assistance or the federal child benefit, among other federal and provincial subsidies. It’s not at all uncommon for kids to stay with a babysitter while mama spends her taxpayer-funded “baby bonus” at the nightclub in search of her next “baby daddy.” Nor is it uncommon for daddy to leave his kids with the neighbour while he goes to the bar, returning only after becoming sufficiently inebriated and the kids are long asleep. This knowledge just adds to my pessimistic view of the state of parenting today.
I became convinced of the need for parental licences after a friend, a case worker with the BC Ministry of Children and Family Development, told me tales of the horrible scenes she has witnessed in her work protecting the most vulnerable members of our society. I initially thought that some of her stories must have been embellished, given the gruesome details of the few cases she discussed. She then showed me a picture of a child from a relatively recent case, who she had urgently removed from the parents’ custody: it was a photo of a smiling man holding a nude, crying baby boy over a household deep-fryer while a woman, who one assumes was the infant’s mother, was laughing in the background.
The notion that, as Steinberg states, “creating a child takes very little effort and even less intelligence” is factual and dangerous. Proof of this rests in the fact that even with all of the information about the risks of smoking during pregnancy, the National Center for Biotechnology Information found that 10.2 per cent of women who weren’t smokers before becoming pregnant started smoking during pregnancy or in postpartum. While that number may seem low, consider that just under four-million babies (3,999,386 is the figure reported by the Centers for Disease Control) were born in the United States in 2010.
Maybe there’s a correlation between the advent of the digital age and the declining influence of the nuclear family. While the accessibility of information through technology benefits the average person, it’s clear that these advances in North American society have made everything convenient. A child’s cries for hunger result in a trip to the McDonald’s drive-thru; a temper tantrum is soothed with a two-hour Disney movie; homework from school takes a back seat to the newest video game. There seems to be a shift towards parents becoming increasingly uninvolved in their children’s formative years. This detachment results in seeking conveniences and short cuts that aren’t necessarily healthy for children and youth.
Regardless of intention, there are some people who shouldn’t be afforded the privilege of having children, because of their inability to provide kids with the nurturing required to develop into responsible, productive members of society. A licencing regime may not seem ideal (particularly given that I provide no logistical specifics for its implementation) but it does, at the very least, compel people who wish to become parents to actively seek out more information.
Some will argue that I’m advocating for a Chinese One-Child Policy sort of intervention into family planning by placing roadblocks on an individual’s ability and desire to have children. My position stems from a desire to elevate the level of responsible parenting in this country, in the best interests of all those who will make up the next generation.