As the author of a book and blog about parenting, it should come as no surprise that I am often asked questions about – you guessed it parenting. Oddly, for as long as I have been writing and advocating for parents to revere parenting as a divinely granted and highly honored profession, it has been rare that anyone has taken the time to ask what I believe is the most important parenting question – “how do you know when you are prepared to be a parent?”
Parents Just Don’t Understand
Without question, there is insurmountable and growing evidence that many parents are flat out clueless about what it truly means and what is actually required to be a parent. Sadly, there are more parents than just Justin Harris, who leave their infants and small children in cars while they go to work. It seems almost daily that there is another report of a parent who ditched their child in the car while they went to work, to lunch, to a meeting, grocery shopping, etc.
The number of parents who, like Diana Paniagua, make the decision to go beyond ditching their children temporarily to permanently abandoning their children is growing as well. For example, in Cincinnati, Ohio ,Family Services officers note an increase in the number of parents who are abandoning their children. The intent of the parents is made increasingly clear by the disturbing explanation they provide upon abandoning their children – “I’m dropping them off. I’m done.”
Let’s not forget parents like Charlie Bothuell IV, who was doing national interviews alleging that his son had been kidnapped at the exact time he was holding the “kidnapped child” captive in his own basement. As is the case for parents who leave children in cars and those who abandon their children, Charlie Bothuell IV’s case is not an anomaly. Daily we learn of parents who beat, kill, starve and neglect their children in the most horrifying manner – having little or no regard for their children’s life or well-being.
The Time For Martyrs Is Over
It is unfathomable that in 2014, a nation that has the technological sophistication to send drones into any area of the world to spy and conduct military assaults appears ill-equipped about how to end the conflict too many of our children are facing at home each day. The land of the free and home of the brave should not be a place where children are left to die in cars, where parents drop off kids when they are “done” or where a child is made to eat vomit and feces.
Suggesting that the aforementioned mothers and fathers appear unsuited for the role of parent most likely will come as neither a surprise nor an understatement. Yet at some point, those very parents who are now among the growing plague of poster children for bad parents held the same decent desire of all parents – to have children.
Moreover, today’s martyred children were born into this world by men and women – who identical to most parents since the beginning of time – intentionally participated in the one and only act that creates babies.
Who Is Ready To Be A Parent?
So how do we eliminate the offensive, egregious and oft criminal behavior of parents? How do we keep children safe and give them a chance to grow up happy and healthy? We start by doing the thing people rarely do before having a child – ask themselves two important and distinctly different questions:
- Do I want to have a baby and/or start a family? and
- Am I prepared to be a parent?
The two questions may appear similar but the questions along with their accompanying answers are distinctly different. Participating in the act that creates a child is a matter of choice – an individual freedom if you will. Being a parent is a matter of obligation that includes inherent and irrevocable responsibilities.
Preparation – as it is with almost everything we do in life – is also the first and most important of all parenting responsibilities.
Preparation, Preparation, Preparation
For the record, it is possible to answer yes to the second question and answer no to the first question and be prepared to be parent. This combination describes the person who may not want to be a parent but is nevertheless able and equipped to be a parent. But if you answer yes to the first question and cannot with undeniable certainty answer yes to the second question – plain and simple – you should not be a parent.
Confused? You needn’t be. Think of parenting this way. A doctor, a lawyer, an accountant, a rocket scientist know precisely what is required to earn the title doctor, lawyer, accountant and rocket scientist. Why should the expectation of a parent be any less? Why should the requisite parental preparation be any less detailed and intense? How can we ever have more than fleeting hope that our children will be prepared for life and the realities of this world, if we ourselves are not first prepared to be parents?
The future of our community is in the hands of parents. I hope that I don’t have to tell you that this is not a responsibility that should be taken lightly or held by those with unprepared hands.
As such, it is imperative that anyone wanting to hold the title of parent should have no less an understanding of their role, be equally committed to being similarly trained and willingly accept the mandate to be competent like the doctor, lawyer, accountant and rocket scientist. Anyone can desire to be a doctor, lawyer, accountant and/or rocket scientist. But only those who have proven themselves prepared earn the title and are endowed with the right to call themselves doctor, lawyer, accountant and rocket scientist.
This is the requirement and responsibility of all who seek to join a profession. Parenting is no different. Parenting is a profession! Parenting is a divinely granted and highly honored profession.
If you don’t understand what is TRULY required to be a parent, if you are not prepared to fulfill ALL your responsibilities – in the lyrical styling of Jay-Z, “you are not ready”.