Sunday, June 13, 2010

If Everyone Else Jumped Off a Bridge, Would You do it Too?

Two weekends ago we were watching 20/20. It was discussing the idea that there are several parents out there who are pushing their children to do more than the average child. To set a huge goal and go after it. Sounds really admirable right? Till you realize that the goals these particular sets of parents are encouraging these kids to accomplish are all goals that will put them in the record books. We're not asking a child to read 40 books over summer break or run a marathon. These parents had a 13 year old child climb Mt. Everest and a 16 year old girl sail solo around the globe. I definitely believe in pushing your child to do more, to be more, but not at the risk of your own life.

When questioned about the safety of encouraging and allowing their children to engage in this behavior, both sets of parents cited to the parenting of others saying things such as, "Other parents are waiting in line to 'supersize' their childrens' meals at McDonalds. What I'm doing is safer for his health than that." Or, "How could I stop her when she's so capable and determined?"

Great reasoning right? So, your next door neighbors might be teaching their children to play with handguns and smoke pot, so that definitely justifies another parent to use poor judgment in their own parenting techniques. In other words, if I parent just as poorly as they do, no harm done.
I'm certainly no ideal parent, but where do you draw the line? The 16 year old, Abby Sunderland, was lost in the middle of the Indian Ocean earlier this week. Do you think her parents flew out to find her? Do you think they spent one dime to help in the situation? No, other countries had to dispatch three different ships and an aircraft to locate this missing girl who was 2,000 miles away from either Africa or Australia. That irks me.

Why are we invested in trying to save this showboat (no pun intended) and her parents? They said they recognized the risks and were willing to accept them, but when it came down to it, they weren't. They were begging for help from any agency that would offer it.
It seems to be a common theme that you hear in parenting anymore. "Well, kids are going to be kids, so I just want to be aware of what they are doing." I've heard of parents encouraging their teenage children and their friends to drink in their homes, so at least, the parents know the children are safe. Seriously? When did we decide to just accept poor behavior and cater to it instead of setting up a standard and trying to achieve it. Isn't this the whole teaching abstinence in school debate all over again?

Do I think we should save every human life that we can? Certainly. But, I do believe that if you engage in purposefully dangerous behavior there should be repercussions. If I choose to speed and I'm caught I have to pay the fine. If I choose to send my 16 year old daughter into the middle of the ocean and she gets stuck--well, she's a minor and I should pay for it. I would just like to see some accountability here.

Do I blame the 16 year old? To some degree. I mean, she and her parents both kept citing back to her incredible skills--which skills they apparently didn't trust enough to leave her to her own devices for even a couple hours of losing her signal. Mostly though, her parents are to blame for this whole thing. I guess the take away message they want to send to her is--accomplish your goals, no matter what the cost to you or anyone else around you.


Tina said...

I hadn't heard this story. It is a bit maddening. I know there are parents who try and show-off their kids, but risking their lives in the process? I wouldn't- no couldn't- do that.

(PS- Because I know you care about typos- paragraph 5, "their".)

rachel said...

I read this story and had thoughts similar to yours. The Everest boy was also very disturbing to me. Parents hoping for attention and hype anyway they can get it. It's unfortunate that the extremes are the only ones that get covered. Parenting in general has become more and more selfish. I feel like it's not about children being the greatest in the kingdom for their amazing selfless qualities, but rather how much attention they can attract from the rest of the world for their parents. Many examples in the media of this, especially in the last few months. Sad and Disturbing!

Jacqueline said...

Thank you, Thank you, Thank you. I felt the same way when I heard this story.
At the lower end of the scale, it irks me when parents bring children into my home and don't control them, either because they haven't taught them how to behave in other people's homes, or they don't like to hinder their children's fee expression by correcting them. So the kids are allowed to just run around messing with your stuff and doing things that could do damage, and I'm the one that has to correct them and tell them to stop every five minutes.

Lacey said...

Craziness-Chris and I were discussing this over dinner last night. I was wondering what the heck would be the incentive to doing this. Apparently her brother did the same thing at 16 and succeeded. Hmm....a whole family of showboats!

kjirsti said...

I saw this trailer online and thought of your blog. What do you think of this?
Pretty incredible, but again imagine the responsibility and sacrifice? Is it worth it? He'll be set financially I guess!

wackywilsons said...

i was troubled by this same thing...

seriously, what more do we need to ask of a young girl? the ocean? alone?