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Saturday, January 5, 2008

A Modest Proposal

I have carefully avoided using this blog as a soapbox, although sometimes it required Herculean restraint. The Chronicles is supposed to be about entertaining stories, history, recollections, music, the Southern experience, etc. But I just can’t hold back any longer. This is me climbing on my soapbox.

Two incidents spurred this event. One took place in Memphis just this week. There was a tragic apartment fire. Two small boys – ages four and seven – perished in the blaze. Mom – well, she wasn’t around. She had gone out partying for New Year’s Eve. She locked the two little boys in the apartment and went out to do whatever it was that she did. Turns out that she didn’t even have legal custody of the kids. Her mom was the legal guardian. The little boys were only there for a visit, and mom went off, ultimately leaving them to their deaths.

Second reason: a dad – in a north Memphis area – left two young children, around four and five years old, in a vehicle without the heat running in sub-freezing temperatures for more than 15 minutes while he went into WalMart. Other shoppers saw the kids and called the police.

He’s been arrested for abuse and neglect. The mom from the first incident is in jail for negligent homicide.

We hear these heartbreaking stories of parental idiocy all the time. And it leads me to one conclusion. Parenthood should be licensed.

You must have a license to drive a car, for Pete’s sake. You’re required to have a license to marry. You have to license your dog, for heaven’s sake. But children – let biology rule. Wrong.

When my ex and I were trying to adopt, we had to produce financial statements, reports on both our complete physical exams in addition to a home visit and interview. The day of that visit my ex found me scrubbing the inside of the oven. He patiently told me that he didn’t think that she’d inspect that, but we’d (in addition to thoroughly cleaning the house) cut the lawn and edged and raked and done everything possible to present a positive family image. There’s nothing wrong with that.

So I hereby propose parenthood licensing. In my world there will be a study course followed by a written test. No less than a B+ will be accepted. Instead of a test drive, the “agency” will loan you a kid for a week and see if you can return the munchkin in good shape. There would, of course, be nanny-cams in every room of your home during the trial period so that immediate intervention would occur if necessary. (Britney, are you reading this?) Only – and I repeat ONLY – if you pass the written test and trial kid period, could you become licensed to attempt conception.

Call me crazy, but it seems to make sense to me.