What if there were congressional hearings on parenting? Would any parent agree to testify unless subpoenaed and granted immunity?
If you think corporate executives and baseball players have squirmed in the witness chair, imagine how parents would fare under stiff questioning. Mark McGwire might not look nearly so bad in comparison.
Congressman: For the record, let it be known that Mr. Smith is not the witness' real name. He is the father of three children, two boys and a girl, ages 5, 13 and 16. Is that correct, Mr. Smith?
Witness (sighing): Afraid so.
Congressman: Would you like to make an opening statement?
Witness: Only that this is a very, very tough job for which I am totally unqualified. I run a multimillion-dollar business, supervise 60 employees, serve on five community boards and yet I can't get my 5-year-old to brush his teeth before he goes to bed.
Congressman: Would you consider yourself a successful parent?
Witness: Maybe 50% of the time, if I'm lucky. They seem like good kids, but do you think I don't lie awake every night wondering what the next day will bring? Who they're playing with, what they're watching on TV, when the day will come that they don't listen to a word my wife and I say?
Congressman: Have you instilled a sense of morality in them?
Witness: We've tried. Is there a foolproof way to do that? I keep hearing that parents are the most influential people in children's lives, but sometimes I think we're the least.
Congressman: Do you spend at least 30 minutes of uninterrupted time each day with each of your kids?
Witness (huddles with attorney): I'd prefer not to answer that.
Congressman: Sir, you have immunity. Please answer the question.
Witness: I don't get home until 7:30 every night. I'm exhausted. Besides, I'm not sure they'd want to spend 30 minutes with me.
Congressman: Sir, can you identify what subjects your 16-year-old son is taking in high school?
Witness (mumbling): Well, he's got, uh, probably some history, English, probably some, uh, (unintelligible) ...
Congressman: Sir, please speak into the microphone.
Witness (sweating profusely): My wife would know that. I could get her on my cell.
Congressman: Have you ever had a heart-to-heart talk with your teenage son?
Witness: About what?
Congressman: About anything.
Witness: He's never asked.
Congressman: Is it your testimony that he doesn't have any significant issues in his life?
Witness: Uh, I don't know. He probably has some girl-related problems. At least, I'd assume he does. Most boys that age do. (Takes a drink of water.) I guess.
Congressman: Have you ever asked him?
Witness: It'd embarrass him. We used to shoot hoops in the driveway together and talk about things. Does that count? Now he doesn't want to.
Congressman: What's the last thing you say to your kids before they go to bed?
Witness: See ya tomorrow.
Congressman: When was the last time you told your 16-year-old son you loved him?
Witness: Let's see. Probably when he went online last month and burned some Led Zeppelin CDs for me.
Congressman: Are you confident that each of your children would make the correct choice if faced with any moral dilemma?
Witness: How do I know? Of course, I hope they would. I think they would. You're asking an impossible question. We can't cover every possibility with them. There's so much out there. I can't compete with all of it.
Congressman: And why is that?
Witness: Come on, I'm just one person. I'm just a parent, not a superhero. You know how it is. Don't you?
Dana Parsons' column appears Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. He can be reached at (714) 966-7821 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. An archive of his recent columns is at www.latimes.com/parsons.