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Nicole Leigh Shaw Headshot

License to Be a Parent

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In college, my sorority advisor, a wonderful man who was Zen enough to handle the near constant tears/cat fights/drunkenness/PMS of a group of young women, often marveled that we required licenses to drive, but not to parent. I imagine he also wondered how most of his advisees had managed to wrangle driver's licenses. Hint: Perfectly executed k-turns, if you know what I mean.

Well, I'm a parent now. I have had four practical exams and, if we admit my children's homework, registration paperwork, medical history documents, sports sign-up sheets and school photo order forms -- I've had countless written tests. As such, I've learned enough to create a licensure exam for parenthood, and I have, right here.


About this exam. Please have with you a minimum of 2 sharpened number "2" pencils with the erasers chewed off, a package of Goldfish Crackers, baby wipes, the emergency contacts you'll use for your children (at least one must be smarter/richer than you are), two Happy Meal toys, a travel coffee mug, a leaky sippy cup, a bottle of pre-mixed formula for which you've misplaced the disposable nipple and a sense that your dignity is not that important.

Your practical exam will be administered simultaneously. Professional children ranging in age from 10-month, early-walker to emo teen will approach you during the test. Your successful attention to both your written exam and the children will determine your success.

While we recommend two parents apply for licensure, it is not necessary, but we wish you luck if you're going it alone, because have you met kids?

This test is pass-fail, but even a passing grade will feel as though you've failed. You will have 18.3 minutes to complete this exam, which is the average length of time spent in a pediatric waiting room.

Good luck!


Name(s) of Prospective Parent(s): ______________________________________.

Potential Names for Your Child (please note, names containing numbers or names that ARE numbers will disqualify you from obtaining a Parenting License): __________________________________________ .

Question 1: You have four preschool children and three car seats. Explain how you will safely transport them to Caregiver and Me class.

Question 2: You've caught your 10-year-old in a lie. Which of the following is the best punishment?

  • Time out, for you, with wine.
  • Cursing at her.
  • Blaming someone else instead of your precious snowflake.
  • Eating the child's dessert while the child watches.
  • None of the above, but if you have a good idea, we'd love to hear it ________ .

Question 3: Please watch this Bill Cosby "Chocolate Cake" clip on your Smartphone. In this scenario, are you the mother, the father or the cake?

Question 4: Your children will sometimes hate you, and will always tell you about it. We thought you should know.

Question 5: You've forgotten to buy the appropriate gear for the sporting activity you've signed your children up for. Which of the following items will prove most useful to you as you make DIY replacements?

  • Duct tape
  • Maxi pads
  • Halloween costume accessories
  • Instuctions for assembling an Ikea Billy Bookcase
  • A medium-thickness tree limb
  • A friend with sports equipment hand-me-downs

Question 6: You haven't showered in three days, you need milk, the coffee has run out, and the only laundry that's clean has a hole in the crotch. As a parent, how often will this circumstance occur?

  • A few times a year
  • Monthly
  • Weekly
  • Ad nauseam

Question 7: Your child is crying because she doesn't want to do her math homework AND because she doesn't want to fail her math test. Is this...

  • A paradox
  • Her way of screwing with you
  • Cause for concern
  • Typical

Question 8: Look at this picture of an adorable baby.


This baby is...

  • So cute your insides ache
  • A wittle cootie wootie pie
  • Mr. Puddingbottom, winner of the World's Cutest Baby Award
  • Meh

Question 9: Your child only seems to want to be BFFs/Buddies with children you find, at best, tolerable. This is...

  • Unlikely because you think all children are precious in their own ways
  • Possible, but not common
  • Very likely, but you will handle it with frank, open discussion between you and your child
  • An ironclad guarantee

Question 10: Yes or no? You enjoy: feeling elation and devastation within the same 24-hour period; sleeping less than you do now; always having someone in the house who is disappointed with the things you've brought home from the grocery store; being forever blamed for someone else's behavior and personality, even long after that person has become an adult; and having all of your planning ignored, derailed or diminished by the people you share your home with.

  • Yes (because I'm on the good meds)
  • Yes (because I acknowledge that these statements are at the heart of parenthood)
  • No (because that sounds horrific)


Congratulations! You've completed the examination for your Parenting License. You're not good enough, but then, no one is. Your license will arrive in approximately 9 months. It will need its diaper changed.

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