The Parenting System

Some people shouldn’t be parents.

Ever had that thought before? So did the government. It’s why they implemented the system.

What system, you ask?

The system that will not allow anyone to have children unless they went through a detailed system that proves they are capable of being a father or mother.

The world was overpopulated. It was falling apart. The future generations were proving to be more uncapable than the next of fixing the mistakes of the generations that came before them. With this realization in mind, the government took complete control of the family functions.

They created a serum that has since been injected into all citizens. When a child hits the age of 9, they are required to have the serum injected into them. This injection causes a sort of paralysis of the reproduction system, if you will. It puts the function of the system on hold until the individual is capable and ready to become a parent. In other words, you can’t have children until you are given an injection that reverses its affect. There are no more “accidents” coming into the world anymore.

After the serum comes the rules. You can’t be a mom or dad until you have a stable job that makes enough to provide a well-kept environment. This usually means you need to go through school. Obtain a degree.

You must have a partner. Male, female, it doesn’t matter as long as you have been with that partner for a minimum of three years. There needs to be a marriage license along with that. At least one individual needs to be in the work force.  You have to be settled. Ready for a family.

There are plenty of other rules and regulations, but you get the idea of what is required.

Then, there are the tests.

These tests are detailed tests on how the mind works inside of an individual. It’s capable of calculating how an individual would react in certain circumstances. It isn’t a simulation of parenting situations, in case you were wondering. You answer simple questions. They have nothing to do with becoming a caretaker, but the answers you give determine whether or not the government allows you to take the next step into creating the family a couple desperately desires.

When it came to Tanner and Bethany, they would not give up on taking those tests. Even when they continued to fail for three years, they kept trying. Unfortunately, Bethany just couldn’t make the cut. Each time they went into the tests, they came out with disappointment and a failing grade. They were loved and well respected among their neighborhood. Both had stable jobs, been together for six years, a house. They followed the rules almost to a fault. Yet, it was the test that kept them from obtaining what they wanted most.

“Just one child,” Tanner spoke to Tamara, the front desk receptionist of the clinic, “How is it this difficult?”

“You know, it’s not you who’s failing,” the receptionist said, eyeing Beth, “I’m sorry, but we simply can’t allow you to have children until the test has been passed. If you would like to try again, we can reschedule you in 6 months. I’m sorry, Tanner. Beth. It’s disheartening for you, I am certain, but there are rules for a reason. Do not forget that.”

As the couple sulked out of the clinic, Bethany burst into tears, “What’s wrong with me? I’ve worked so hard to prove I’m able to be mother. That’s all I want. I can’t pass the test? What is wrong with me?”

Tanner placed his arm around his sobbing wife as he directed her to their vehicle, “Nothing is wrong with you sweety. We just… We’ll try again in 6 months.”

Tanner and Beth remained quiet through the ride to their home. It was a simple, three bedroom, two bathroom house. There was an empty room that sat in waiting for a child.

You weren’t allowed to purchase baby items until you had been approved. Once you had been approved for a child, you were given a card from the government that said you were allowed to make purchases. Security in those isles were extremely high in the stores. You were only allowed to purchase certain things throughout the pregnancy or during the months after adoption was approved.

Once in the house, Tanner began preparing for lunch. Beth sat at the counter watching her partner cut peppers, “Why even bother trying again in 6 months? I’m just going to fail again.”

“Don’t say that, Beth. This time, you can do it. I know you. I know you are going to be a capable mother when the time comes. It’s just taking time is all. We’re almost there.”

“There’s a reason for the tests, right? If I can’t pass it means I shouldn’t be a mom. We should just give up.”

“Please don’t say that…”

“But I am!” Beth raised her voice slightly, “I’m sick and tired of going there every 6 months only to be told that we can’t. It’s the same thing every time!”

“Just be patient,” Tanner stopped making lunch and gently placed his hand on his wife’s tear streaked face, “Everyone in the community knows that we would be excellent parents. Our time will come. We’ll be ready when we’re ready. The tests will let us know.”

Bethany looked at him with her sad brown eyes, “I’m going to lay down. Let me know when lunch is ready.”

Tanner continued to cook lunch in deep thought. It pained him to see his wife in such distraught. How could he make things better for her? The best way would be if they were allowed to make a tiny family, but he had no control over how she took the test. It was on an individual basis. Tests were taken in private, separate rooms. You weren’t allowed to talk about the testing either. It was randomized, complicated. Who knows what questions were being asked or what answers were being given.

It didn’t make sense. Beth was the nicest person he knew. She was stable, smart, strong. Her biggest dream was to have a child. Tanner believed she was a good enough person to have the maximum amount of kids. Three. The tests got more difficult as you desired more children. Tanner knew her capabilities. She would be a terrific mom.

Maybe… Something was wrong with the test. It had to be the only explanation. There was no way Bethany was not capable of being a mother. Tanner loved her and knew her best. He knew she was meant to be a mom.

In their community, Tanner and Bethany were well known and looked up to. Tanner was a doctor. Everyone in the community came to him for all their medical needs. Bethany was a high school teacher. Which made it more puzzling that she couldn’t pass the test. She worked with kids every day. Sure, they were in their teenage years, but those were known to be the most difficult. Everyone praised her teaching skills. You had to be the best in order to be a teacher. Bethany was the best.

That must be it.

“The test is wrong,” Tanner mumbled to himself as he set the table for their meal.

In the next few months that followed, Bethany had stacks of books on her desk. She read through them all. Books about self-control. Books about parenting in different stages of a child’s life. Books about self-improvement. She poured over every word, taking it to heart. She never read the same book twice. There were notebooks full of things she had handwritten in for the three years they had been working toward being worthy of having a little boy or girl. She would do anything if she could just have a little one to hold and love.

During those months, Tanner was doing his own part. Something he didn’t tell his wife about. He was trying to figure out how to persuade others from the clinic to get his wife to pass the test. If he could find people who would be willing, he and his wife could finally get what they wanted. The best people to persuade would be someone from an older generation. Preferably someone they knew personally. Older generations didn’t agree with the government’s decision to make the changes to the family. Many of them still believed that people should be able to have families without government intervention.

He spent every opportunity he had weeding through people in the clinic. Because the clinic was next to the hospital, clinic and hospital workers often ate lunch together outside. Tanner used that to his advantage to make conversations, taking in their character. There was one individual who was coming around to be the perfect candidate.

“How are things going in the clinic, Clyde?” Tanner asked as he sat next to the old man.

“Just the same old thing,” Clyde said quietly.

“Is it frustrating for you?”

“What do you mean frustrating?”

“I mean. You probably see it all the time. You’ve seen it with Beth and myself. Couples who desperately want a child. Yet, they can’t have one because of those tests you give them.”

“It is frustrating at times. I always feel bad, especially when I know they deserve to have a child, like you and Beth,” Clyde turned to Tanner.

Tanner shook his head, “It’s disheartening, you know? Not being able to figure out how to get Beth to pass the tests. In her free time, all she does is read. Trying desperately to figure out how to improve herself personally. She works so hard. She works harder than anyone I know. She wants a child more than anyone.”

“I’m certain you do too.”

“Do you think…” Tanner could feel sweat forming on his forehead, “there’s a way to get Beth to pass the test… in another way?”

Clyde raised his brows, “You mean,” he began to whisper, “illegally?”

Tanner shrugged, “Well…”

The older man looked around him, “Tanner, I’m against the governments decisions, I am, but I also don’t want to do anything stupid. I’m too old to deal with that.”

“Clyde, we’ve been friends for years. You know us. You know we deserve this. Beth is a teacher for Christ’s sake. She is more deserving than I am.”

“What you’re suggesting,” Clyde continued to whisper, “is crime punishable with jailtime for who knows how long. You really believe she’s meant to be a mother?”

“I don’t doubt it. We’ve known each other longer than we’ve been together. I know she’s supposed to be a mother.”

They sat in silence for a while. The hustle and bustle of lunch whirred around them, “I’ll tell you what,” Clyde sighed, “I’ll look into it. I’ll see what I can do. Do not tell anyone, you hear me? Does Bethany know?”

“She doesn’t. I don’t want her to know—”

“That’s we’ll be cheating the test for her? If we can do it at all?”

“Yes.”

“Tanner, I respect you. I know you both. I have for a long time… Only this once. If we aren’t able to make happen what you want to have happen, that’s it. I will only take the chance once,” Clyde stood from the circular table, “Tanner, the tests are accurate. I hope you know that.”

When Clyde left, Tanner let out a breath he didn’t know he was holding in. All he had to do now was wait. Hopefully Clyde wouldn’t turn him in for trying to persuade him on this idea. It was the last chance he had. They had. Him and his wife. If she couldn’t pass this time, chances are, she would never pass. Eventually, they would have to accept that.

Weeks pass with no word from Clyde. Tanner didn’t even see him at lunch. Life continued to pass normally. Tanner and Beth worked. Beth read. Tanner wondered. A million questions passed through their heads. The one they had in common was: Would they pass the test this time?

One month before their scheduled testing date, Tanner sat with Clyde at lunch, “Have you been avoiding me?” Tanner chuckled as he sat down.

“I’ve been trying to figure things out for you is all,” Clyde took a bite out of his sandwich, “The good news is, I’ve figured out how to do it. I also have a partner who is willing to help out, make sure the test goes through as a pass.”

“But there’s bad new?”

“Well, the bad news is that, if it works… We could still get caught if something wrong happens in your parenting schematics after it goes through. You better truly believe she’s capable.”

Tanner scrunched his face, “Of course I do. Why do you think I’m taking such a huge risk for her? I love her. She is my world. I want nothing more than to see her happy. I’m risking everything, just like you. Thank you.”

Clyde stared, his chin quivered slightly, “God damn it. Be grateful I like you two. I wouldn’t do this for anyone else. Your appointment is coming within the month. I’ll make sure that Trisha and myself are set to give your wife the test on that day at the scheduled time.”

“Wait, Trisha is helping you?”

Trisha’s husband had died two years ago. Along with his death, her two children were taken from her. Those were the rules. Single parents were not allowed. It was the greatest injustice the government had decided upon. If a couple decided to divorce or if a parent passed on, their children were taken to be raised by the government until they could be re-homed, or the parent remarried. Considering you had to be with a partner for three years until you could consider a child, if your child was taken, you didn’t get them back.

“Of course she’s helping me,” Clyde laughed, “Why wouldn’t she? She hates the government with a burning passion. She’s actually the one who figured out how to rig the system. That one is a genius. It’s a shame what happened to her.

“Well, I better get going. Lunch is over for me. I’ll see you in a month?”

Tanner nodded his head. His heart began racing. This was it. They were going to be able to pass the test. They were going to be able to have the child Bethany and himself so desperately wanted. He almost couldn’t contain himself. Even when he returned home to his wife that day, he was giddy with excitement. Finally, he could wave away the cloud of doubt he had.

All that was left to do was assure his beautiful wife everything was going to work out. He had done it many times before, but this time, he meant it. There was no doubt. She was going to pass no matter what.

The day of testing finally came. It felt like years had passed. Beth looked herself in the mirror with a sigh. Would this be the one? There was still uncertainty in her head, “Am I meant to be a mother? Or just a teacher?”

“I think,” Beth yelled out of the bathroom to her husband, “if we don’t pass this time…”

Clyde came in, wrapping his arms around Beth’s waist, “We’ll pass.”

“But if we don’t—”

“We will.”

“Stop. Tanner,” Beth pulled out of his embrace, “if we don’t. We should call it quits. We can still be perfectly happy without a child. We could always get a pet. The tests for those are insanely easy. Also, we always have each other.”

Tanner nodded his head, “I understand. There’s nothing to worry about. We’ll pass this time. I can feel it.”

Hand-in-hand, they went to the clinic. One final time. They were placed in separate rooms. Wires were attached to their bodies as they laid in a chair. The couple answered individual questions from the clinic scientists, while another watched the monitor for answers. For Tanner, he passed with flying colors.

In Bethany’s room, Clyde sat at the monitors while Trisha asked questions.

How does this noise make you feel? What does this color mean to you? What is your favorite meal? Favorite animal?

Beth answered them honestly, truthfully, like she always did. Her answers varied. Sometimes they would change from the last time she had been asked the question. The test was never the same.

When the testing was finished, Trish eyed Clyde. Clyde shook his head. She didn’t pass. It was time for them to work their lies into the system. Make it look like she had passed. Change the answer, the brain waves. Make her pass. Clyde’s fingered worked furiously on the keyboard as he inserted answers from patients who had passed with the same questions, working his way into a passing score. When he had finished, Clyde and Trisha locked eyes. It was done.

Beth and Tanner sat together in the waiting room. Dr. Brass, the head director of this clinic, walked into the room with a smile, “I have excellent news. It seems you have both passed and are now capable of being parents. If you’ll stay here, I’ll get my assistants to come in, and get all the paperwork started. Congratulations, you deserve it.”

Once the doctor left the room, Bethany burst into tears, but this time it was out of happiness. She was finally capable of being a mother. She couldn’t hold in the emotions. Tanner hugged his wife. They smiled wide, but Tanner wondered; should he tell Beth that he had persuaded someone to cheat the system for her? No. He couldn’t possibly do that to her. It would be his, Clyde’s, and Trisha’s secret to keep amongst themselves. The less people who knew, the better. Plus, it may upset Beth if she learned she hadn’t passed. There was also a possibility she had for real. Tanner decided to keep the information to himself.

In the clinic breakroom, Trisha and Clyde sat, coffees in their hands, “How did she do for real?” Trisha asked.

There was sadness in Clyde’s eyes, “I mean, I know who she is. It’s always the noise questions that get to her. She’s sensitive to sounds. That’s never a good sign, but she’s a teacher. She deals with worse noise than a baby crying. I’m sure she’ll be fine.”

“No matter what, it’s over now. We don’t tell anyone about this.”

“Absolutely not.”

“Don’t let your conscious get to you. I know you, old man. You’ll feel bad eventually for lying.”

“I already feel bad. This better not backfire.”

“It’s a risk worth taking, don’t you think? If they believe they are capable parents, they should be allowed to have children. It’s that simple. You believe that. It’s just your honesty and integrity getting in the way. It will be fine. By the time she has the kid, we’ll forgot about this whole thing.”

One year later, Bethany and Tanner welcome a beautiful baby girl to the world. They named her Clarissa. She had dark hair like her parents with dark brown eyes that matched her mother’s. She was a joy. For the first few months, Tanner and Beth had no problems parenting their tiny human. As time went on, Bethany became more tired. She became less forgiving to the crying infant. She didn’t realize how much she would hate the crying. It was essential to life. Clarissa cried if she needed something. Sometimes Tanner had to take over because Beth couldn’t figure out why her daughter was crying. In her frustration, she would ask for Tanner’s help. He would willing relieve the crying baby.

For the child’s first year of life, one parent is required to stay home. It was said that keeping a parent around for at least a year was optimal for the baby.

When Clarissa was 6 months old, her father had to go on a business trip. This meant Bethany was completely alone with the baby for two weeks straight.

It was two weeks without Tanner’s aid that drove Bethany to insanity.

Sirens flashed, police sped to the Johnson’s home. An ambulance drove up onto the curb as law enforcement flooded the house.

It was the crying.

“She wouldn’t stop crying,” Beth yelled as they dragged her in handcuffs into a police vehicle, “Why does she never stop crying? I had to stop the crying!”

That was when doubt went out like a torrent among communities everywhere. The test was wrong? How did a psychopath like that get a go-ahead for a baby?

On the news, two days later, Fable, the head of the Family Functions Department held a press conference in response to what happened.

“I understand the confusion. The utter despair and disgust that is being spread around concerning the situation of Bethany and Tanner Johnson. I would like to take this moment to make this a grim reminder of why we do what we do.

“Bethany Johnson never passed the tests. For three years, she couldn’t pass the tests. Behind her back, her husband spoke to clinic officials. He persuaded two of them to change her test results if she failed. Because of that, Bethany passed without truly passing.

“If the laws had been followed, there would never be such a disturbing story cast out about a mother who killed her baby with her own two hands. All because she went mad. It was the crying that drove her to it.

“This is why we have the tests. The original results of her tests all had sounds as her trigger. Because the testing was blatantly ignored, a baby is dead now.

“All personnel involved are now in custody. Tanner Johnson. Bethany Johnson. Clyde Burge. Trisha Evans. All involved. They all have the blood of this child on their hands.

“Let this be a reminder of why we implemented this system. Fifty-seven years ago, we laid down rules. We created a system. A system to make better parents, better children, and ultimately, a better world. This is a perfect example and reminder of why what we do is extremely important.

“Remember, the rules. The tests. They are here for a reason. Not to prevent, but to protect. Thank you.”

For the rest of their lives, the four sat in jail. No chance of release. They had to be a case that proved how valuable the system was. To prove one simple idea. One that drives the system:

Some people are just not meant to be parents.

 

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