Lately I've been on a parental soap box. Not that that's a bad thing, seeing as how parenting is one of the last things we can do in America without a license or degree. Sad, really....
Anyway, I thought that I'd give my single readers a break from... no, no I'm not. Sorry guys.
Anyone can become a parent. In case you don't know -- or forgot how it works -- here. Don't worry, that site assumes you already know the birds and bees of it, and just focuses on the fertility tips.
My point is not that anyone can get pregnant, but that there are plenty of people that shouldn't get pregnant. I'm even going to focus on American culture for this, so please don't bother responding with comments about 9 year olds in Africa giving birth or stereotypes surrounding boys being the preferred sex in China.
If you get pregnant and don't want the kid, you can abort it pretty easily. If you're too young or have some other "handicap" (read: no job) that keeps you from being able to take care of the kid, there are some lovely social programs like WIC and welfare. Or you can give the kid up for adoption and go on with your life, letting your mom or maybe your big sister raise the kid. We may even still have orphanages; I know there are all sorts of private and government-funded adoption agencies and programs.
Here's the kicker. If you want to adopt or foster through a state agency, you have to take a series of parenting courses. They send out social workers to check your home for the physical and environmental safety of any potential child living there. They screen you to make sure you can 1. afford the changes a child would bring to your lifestyle, 2. aren't a listed sex offender or have a record of abuse, 3. don't have any outstanding warrants for your arrest, and 4. the list goes on.
So if you want a kid you didn't create in your own bed, you have to apply for the proper licensing/credentials to get one, unless you can fork over the cash to adopt privately.
Otherwise, all it takes is a couple of beers and a broken condom. Or not even that. No agency is gonna come make sure your 6 or 8 month pregnant self has prepared a "proper environment" for your kid. No one is gonna come see if you have lead paint on your walls or outlet plugs in your sockets. No one is gonna force you to give up the kid for adoption or by abortion if you smoke and drink. No one is gonna take the child from you at the hospital if your baby-daddy beats you. No one is gonna keep your kid if your house just got raided for being a crystal meth lab. Well, maybe the last one, but only if you were there with the kid when it happened. If you were at the hospital giving birth, you're probably ok.
My point is simply that our society handles all life's newest footprints much differently than say, getting a job or a driver's license. You need all sorts of documentation to prove you're responsible enough to handle a car or the demands of flipping burgers. You need nothing... not even a photo I.D. ... to create life.
We have agencies that pass out free birth control pills and condoms. We have all sorts of school sex ed programs. We even have arguments over whether or not abstinence should be taught as a form of birth control.
What we don't have, beyond some lame reality shows and daytime talk shows, is any sort of hands-on litmus test for whether or not a person is individually and rationally ready for the responsibility of having and raising a child. This includes those stupid school projects where you have to keep an egg cared for and unbroken for a week as if it were your child.
Even babysitters have to take some sort of infant/child CPR classes and child care classes now if they want to be credible and make decent dough these days! And those kids/adults can at least tell you their honest opinions of themselves as potential parents, because they already know that they don't want to give up their prom to change diapers.
So do I have a solution? No, I just like ranting.
The final decision is up to us individually, which is quite possibly the last great freedom we have in this country. (You even have to have a license to get married....)
But it shouldn't be a casual decision. Kids require far more than just the 18 years it takes to legally be able to kick them out of the house again (or emancipation, but that's another story). They bring with them neat little things like... grandkids. And they never quit calling home for money and advice. They want to visit and bring their brood so they can show off their significant other and maybe get a free meal. Sometimes they even want to move back in.
And some people really should not breed. People that don't much like themselves, let alone anyone else, really should not have children. People with tendencies to self-destruct or harm others should think a few times about having a baby. Folks, it's okay to get an abortion, but as soon as that kid takes a breath, you can't kill it anymore! Shake it to death and you go to jail for murder!
My solution is the same as I have for every other real pet peeve of mine: education.
Get educated on what being a parent is all about. Read books on what pregnancy is like. Ask young parents and your parents and grandparents questions. Ask strangers if they'd do it differently if they could do it again. Ask about the ups, the downs, the unexpected. Ask about the cost of ER visits with broken arms and health insurance options for families. Ask if you can babysit your older sibling's kids for an entire weekend and try out the parenting thing.
Then ask yourself what you want for your life. Is it college and a career? How will a child hamper those? Do you want to make lots of money and then have a kid? Do you want to get pregnant in your junior year in high school? Why? To force your parents to emancipate you? How will that affect your child in the long run?
The minute you bring a life into this world, you never make a single decision that doesn't affect more than just you. Think beyond right now, this minute, and think beyond yourself and consider all the options and consequences of becoming a parent. Think, rethink, and think it through again. When you become a parent, it's the most incredible and irreversible thing in the world. Be as ready as you can be, and become the kind of parent you said as a kid you wanted to be.