Remember that game you played when you were a kid, called “Mother May I?”—in which the kid in charge tells you to do something, but you still have to remember to ask before you actually do it, because otherwise you’re penalized? Sort of like “Simon Says,” but with apron strings?

This is a lot like that.

Montgomery County is your mother, and it worries.

Eleven years ago, we moved to Montgomery County from Washington, D.C., with our then-toddler, The Wanderer. The Wanderer required a fenced yard. This became the occasion for an important milestone in our new lives as County residents: We purchased our very first County permit.

The yard in the new house was already fenced on three sides. We only wanted to finish enclosing the yard. Perhaps our past as D.C. residents could explain our surprise at the permit requirement. As long as we paid our taxes, D.C. would not have noticed if we held a nightly bonfire in our living room.

While I understood the importance of verifying the property line, there was still something about it that nagged at me. Maybe it was the whole idea of “permission.” As my husband likes to say, “To ask permission is to beg denial.” (Yes, I’ll remember that, honey.) This is America, damn it. Why do we need to ask “permission” to do anything?

Little did I know, this was only the beginning of what has evolved into an endless game of “Mother, May I?” Every time I turn around, I’m asking permission for something: to replace the broken gas cooktop with a new gas cooktop, replace the hot water heater, replace the furnace, activate the fire/burglar alarm. In case you’re wondering, that’s different from the fine you pay for false alarms. We’ve only been subject to that once. Even though there was no responder faster than our valiant neighbor who, upon hearing our alarm, arrived in our backyard wielding his golf club, ready to fend off the intruder. And I hear the County has contacted him: Does he have a permit for that nine iron?

Of course I understand the need to obtain a permit for a home renovation (something I know can be a much more frustrating process in D.C. than it is here), but for the new window that didn’t change the structure or footprint of the house? And for the new gas stove that eventually replaced the new gas cooktop?

Most of these permits are mere formalities, but I can’t help the nagging feeling of uncertainty. After all, the need to ask for permission implies that there’s a risk I could be turned down: No, I’m sorry, you’ll have to make do with that cooktop that only has one working burner. And, no, though you might have already replaced your furnace, we’ve decided not to let you actually use it. And, finally, please tether your child to a rock; there’s no way we’re letting you put up that fence.

The first conclusion I reach is that the County does not trust me. Like a child, I require close supervision. If it were possible, the County might place me in a padded room and remove all sharp objects and any item I could mistake for food.

But as much as they might like to, they cannot do that—yet.

The second and more likely conclusion, of course, is that it’s all about the revenue. The latest brand new permit requirement can only be explained that way.

Many residents may have already heard that dog owners now must obtain a $40 permit to bring their dogs to a County park. When I was investigating this issue, I dutifully looked up the Dog Park policy. There were amendments made to the original policy a few years ago. The amendments are 70 pages long. This is why when we are told to request a permit, we do not ask a lot of questions. If we ask questions, we might be told to read a document containing the answers. By the time we have reached page 10 of the document, we are begging the County to take our money.

That aside, I was wondering, don’t dog owners already pay for upkeep through their taxes, like the rest of us? (And, full disclosure, I do not currently own a dog.) Do we really want to go the route of making dog owners pay more than everyone else? I mean, is everyone else’s behavior in County parks so … perfect…?

Consider if you will, the unpleasantly sticky railing on the ladder leading up to the slide, the flattened juice box under foot, the holes dug in the mulch, the ruts left in the grass by strollers, the damage to hedges inflicted by games of hide and seek, and you will no doubt agree with me that a permit should be required to bring preschool children to County parks with playgrounds. I will call it the “Sticky Hands Permit.”

If you have spent time in a County park where there are teenagers, you will know there are at least two kinds of permits to be considered for this group of park users. For younger teens, or “tweens,” I propose a “Giggle Permit,” since the incessant giggling and gossiping constitutes noise pollution and detracts from the experience of those who come to the park for peaceful communion with nature. And the giggling frightens the dogs. The second type of permit is for older teens. I will simply call it the “Make-Out Permit.” Nothing more needs to be said on this.

In conclusion, if we obtain permission for all of our activities in the park, our parks will be more welcoming places for everyone.

For more from Paula Whyman, see and her online parody newspaper