There are various tests to be passed in life. Some we pass, some we fail. Sylvestra hated tests. Practise or don’t practise, learn by rote or don’t, nothing made any difference. It coloured her life.Spelling tests at school: Rhubarb, Psychosis, Blancmange, Rhododendron.
The egg-and-spoon race.
The driving test, certification to drive a motor vehicle.
The breathalyser test, when stopped for driving erratically in charge of said motor vehicle.
Sylvestra tried, and failed them all. She was not a clever woman, but she would not call herself stupid. She knew right from wrong, right from left, she knew wars were started by men who thought they knew better than everyone else, she recognised when she was being over-charged and knew instantly whether or not someone could be trusted.
Then came a new Government test. The ‘clever enough to vote’ test. Over 10 years ago, voter turnout fell. Subsequent governments elected were all further and further right-wing. This was the first test Sylvestra had ever passed, but she took no delight.
Now Sylvestra awaited the most controversial element of the next Queen’s Speech. It was a white paper anticipated with relief by an ageing electorate tired of decades of family-dominated government policy, screaming children, and selfish parents who ignore their screaming children. Sylvestra didn’t have a boyfriend or husband, but as a woman she automatically received a form which had by law to be completed by every woman of child-bearing age.
Why not the men too, Sylvestra mused. That, she decided, said something about men and women.
Form: BZx23-2.2-01.9 ‘Understanding How Having a Baby will Change your Life’
Please tick the appropriate box:-
1: We [the above-signed] accept the decision to have a baby is our own decision, in full understanding of the financial and social effects this will have on our life. We will never have enough money or time again. And we will always feel tired. This is no-one’s fault but our own. Yes/No.
2: We accept that though our child may be the centre of our own lives, we should not expect complete strangers to feel the same way. Yes/No.
3: We agree that we have no divine right to expect relations/friends to undertake free childcare on our behalf. Yes/No.
4: We will teach our child to be a responsible citizen, to be polite and quiet, respectful to his/her elders, and how to behave in public spaces. We accept this means we may not eat out at a public restaurant until the child is a teenager. Yes/No.
5: We accept that having a child does not give us any special rights or benefits, and that adults who do not have children are equally valuable to society. This especially applies to priority car parking spaces in supermarkets and early boarding on airplanes. Yes/No.
6: We undertake to support our child in his/her education, but never to do the child’s homework for him/her in an effort to gain a favourable assessment or grade. Yes/No.
7: We will toilet-train our child and not expect anyone else to do this job for us. We will ensure he/she is able to dress him/herself, to speak, and is able to socialize with other children at school without fighting, biting or stabbing. Yes/No.
8: We accept that teachers, teaching assistants, librarians, cub/brownie/scout/guide leaders, sports instructors and team coaches understand the subject they are teaching better than we do and that we should not challenge, shout at or punch these responsible adults or other parents. Yes/No.
9: It is our duty to raise our children to not be obese and we will feed them a healthy diet and participate in exercise with them. Food need not be organic but must contain five fruits and/or vegetables a day and follow Government guidelines about fat, salt and sugar content. Meals must be eaten together as a family, around a table, with the use of a knife and fork. Talking must take place. No television during mealtimes. Yes/No.
10: We will spend time with our children, rather than ignore them. We will not leave them on their own in front of the television for hours, un-monitored, or allow them to play games on mobile telephones, tablets or computers, un-monitored and without communication. We will encourage them to play outside, play a sport, kick a football, climb a tree. Yes/No.
If you answered ‘Yes’ to all 10 questions, please start conception at your own discretion.
If you answered ‘No’ to one or more questions, your application is rejected.
Sylvestra posted her form, and on the way home went to the dog rescue home. She adopted two tawny brown mongrels, the smaller one with a ragged ear, the bigger one smelled rather unpleasant but she thought that could be fixed with a bath and dog shampoo.
Ten years later, the Government introduced the ‘Being a Responsible Dog Owner’ contract.
Sylvestra tore up the form. Then she went to the cat rescue home and came back with two cats, brother and sister, black and white. One missing an eye, the other missing a tail.
© Sandra Danby
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New parenting tests for mothers & fathers: THE TEN QUESTIONS #flashfiction via @SandraDanby http://wp.me/p5gEM4-CV