Until a few years ago, people had to get a licence to own a dog. Back then good parents used to reflect that you needed a licence to drive a car, or go fishing, you even needed a licence to own a dog. But any damn fool could have a child.
I had a social worker a while back, a brilliant girl, who said she thought that if a person had a second child taken away from her (we'd been talking about a mother of ten children, each of whom had been taken into care) then that person should be prevented from having more children. There are ways.
I was thinking about all of this driving home from the morning school run the other day, because one of the other mums had been talking about her parenting.
Her story of the way we regard our pets versus our parenting gets a neat twist from this mum.
She is a charming lady, quite well-heeled, her husband is a company director so she doesn't need to work, they have three children, one of whom is a "problem" child. The problem child is always being discussed by the mother with other mums, it's as if she wants everyone to realise that just because she's middle class and well-to-do doesn't mean she's in clover.
What's the "problem"? The problem is the child doesn't like school. The child is highly academic, reads books day and night, is very popular with friends. But the mother tells anyone who'll listen that the child is reduced to tears of misery about having to go to school. And the mother quite understands this because after all, they have a lovely loving home and the mother is a wonderful mother, so the child's reluctance to leave home every morning is proof that wonderful parenting is going on.
This has been going on ever since I started taking one of our brood to this school, nearly three years. The "problem" is getting worse for the mother and the child. She tells us the school is failing her child in every way because they don't have the facilities in place to help her child with the "problem", and that individual teachers are particularly hostile to her child's "problem" and to her, the mother.
I've heard the mother say to the child on a Friday afternoon "Well done, you've made it through another week".
This week, the mother told us that she'd started bribing the child to go to school: the going rate seems to be material goods, toys and presents to the value of around £20-£30 a week.
So am I the only parent who can see what might be going on here? The training you get at Blue Sky about child psychology doesn't make you an expert, but it does give you an edge over most ordinary parents. I've suggested a couple of times to the mother that since the situation is bringing her family down she might consider talking to someone professionally. Anyone can get counselling either on the NHS, or privately. This family could afford Sigmund Freud himself.
But no. Definitely not. Idea completely laughed off. Why? Well not the expense. Not even the stigma (not that there is any stigma in reality, but some people still think there is). I think the reason the mother won't take any kind of professional advice or support is because, like parents everywhere, she thinks she knows everything you need to know to be a parent; she was born with it, and her natural world experience only enhances her inborn skills.
Just like the parents in dysfunctional families whose children end up with us in foster care.
Here's the little twist; a few months ago they bought a dog, this family. Not any old mutt, a pedigree thing whose name I've forgotten. Turns out the dog is a bit scatty, doesn't do everything it should.
So the other day, the mother was telling us, she signed up with a dog whisperer person. This person comes to the house, for about £40 a time and "works" with the dog and with the mother to help develop understanding and promote a healthy functioning relationship for all concerned.