Brave Parenting?

One of the contributing editors at Outdoors magazine wrote this op-ed piece that touched a nerve with me.

Remember Abby Sunderland, the 16-year-old girl from California who attempted to sail solo around the world, only to be rescued by a French fishing vessel? Not surprisingly, her parents have received a lot of flak for allowing their daughter to sail alone in the first place. Bruce Barcott, editor at Outdoors, said the opposite. The Sunderlands were simply exhibiting a rare virtuous trait: “brave parenting.”

Read on:

Now that Abby’s OK, the inevitable storm of criticism is raining down on her parents, Laurence and Marianne, who wished their daughter bon voyage when she cast off from Marina del Rey, Calif., in January. Allowing a 16-year-old girl to sail alone around the world — were they insane?

Not at all. Unusual, yes. But hardly “the worst parents in the world,” as I’ve heard them called recently. In fact, they may be the opposite. Like Paul Romero, the father of Jordan Romero, the  13-year-old Big Bear Lake teenager who climbed Mount Everest last month, the Sunderlands are practicing something bold and rare these days: brave parenting.

Raising kids today (I have an 11-year-old and an 8-year-old) is like working on a construction site with an overzealous risk manager. Everywhere you look there are signs reminding parents that Safety Is Job One. We’re told to cut up hot dogs and grapes to prevent choking, to lash the kids into car seats, to never let them out of sight at the park. A certain amount of this is progress, of course. I’d rather my kids not launch through the windshield like human missiles in a head-on, thank you.

But in our obsession with safety, we’ve lost sight of the upside of risk, danger and even injury: raising bold children prepared for adventure and eager to embrace the unfamiliar.

Okay, I will stop right there. First of all, Abby Sunderland’s parents were also reluctant to allow their daughter to sail around the world solo. But she insisted so they caved. “Brave” parenting? I don’t think so.


But I digress. My main beef with this article is the way Barcott equated prohibiting your kid to sail solo around the world to never letting them play outside.

It’s true that child obesity rates in this country are up, partly due to the lack of outdoor activity. Barcott listed some disturbing statistics such as how children today are less likely than previous generations to ride their bike or walk to school, or even play in their neighborhood parks alone. But I really do not believe this is emblematic of helicopter parenting — but the opposite.

With more parents working outside the home and for longer hours, sadly for many children in this country, there isn’t an adult to make sure that kids engage in healthy and safe afterschool activities. In many urban centers, traffic and crime are legitimate concerns.

But rules and regulations such as the choking label on hot dogs are emblematic of another sad reality in our country, that of our lawsuit culture. Unfortunately, there are parents out there that if their child did choke on a hot dog, or fly out of the windshield of a car, they would sue for not having been told this information in the first place. I think in some of these instances the parents simply do not have insurance to cover medical bills and/or funeral expenses, so they lash out at the companies instead.

But you can’t blame corporations, the government, or even parents, for this reality.

82 thoughts on “Brave Parenting?

  1. No, but…

    IF the Sunderlands were convinced that Abby is as capable now as she will ever be, and IF they were convinced she will do this anyway once she comes of age, and IF they believed there was nothing more to be gained by waiting for her to age a couple of years, then yes, it would be brave parenting.  Sailing around the world is an insanely risky activity at any age, but the life of a 16 year old is not inherently more valuable than the life of an 18 year old.  If waiting two years wouldn’t increase her safety (I have a bit of trouble believing this, but I have no basis to judge) I think it was right to let her go.  But only if the parents genuinely held that conviction based on their judgment of her sailing skills and maturity.

    But she insisted so they caved.

    Whoopsie.  This sounds to me like ordinary bad parenting.  Because I’m pretty sure they could have hidden the keys to the boat – it’s not like she was going to sneak off and do this behind their backs.

    • Hmm

      I’m not sure it’s dependent on whether or not they thought she could do it.

      By giving their permission, they own the outcome regardless.

      Once she is 18, they don’t have a say anymore, and if she had been hurt, it wouldn’t have been on them anymore.

      • Of course it would have.

        Not legally, but I would hope people don’t care about their children’s well-being only because they’re legally obliged to.

        • not legally

          I didn’t mean legally. As I wrote below, they would still feel bad if a tragedy struck, but not as responsible.

          Legally though, if she had died or something, would they have been guilty of neglect?

      • parents always own the outcome

        This is a situation that’s a little hard for me to relate to since I’d do everything in my power to stop the trip at any age.  From 16 to 18 there would be an easy legal strategy, of course, but if my 46 year old son announced his intention to sail solo around the world they’d soon find a 97 year old lady on the dock with power tools trying to sink the boat before he could leave.  

        That said, it’s clear that this entire family is completely nuts has a different definition of acceptable risk than mine.  Since they apparently think that sailing solo around the world is a perfectly sensible activity, what matters is readiness and ability.  And while I’d have a hard time ignoring the age/judgment/maturity factor, I honestly don’t think I’d be one bit happier about my 18 year old being hurt or killed than my 16 year old.

        • sure

          To your last sentence, of course a parent would be equally devastated should a tragedy strike no matter what the age. But the parents of an 18+ yo wouldn’t be considered “bad” parents by our society, but a 16 yo’s would.

        • My dad wants to sail around the world

          I’m not happy about that. It’s not age. It’s a damn risky activity…and without a point as far as I can see.

    • well…

      …I garuantee there was an element of “why could my brother do it and not me???  Is it because I’m a girl?!?!?”

      Still bad parenting, but slightly nuanced…

    • Well

      By waiting until she’s 18, they can at least wash their hands of it — no publicity then. The reason she did it at 16 was to set a record, and IIRC, her older brother did the same trip at age 17, AND these folks are shopping for a reality show.

  2. No, but…

    IF the Sunderlands were convinced that Abby is as capable now as she will ever be, and IF they were convinced she will do this anyway once she comes of age, and IF they believed there was nothing more to be gained by waiting for her to age a couple of years, then yes, it would be brave parenting.  Sailing around the world is an insanely risky activity at any age, but the life of a 16 year old is not inherently more valuable than the life of an 18 year old.  If waiting two years wouldn’t increase her safety (I have a bit of trouble believing this, but I have no basis to judge) I think it was right to let her go.  But only if the parents genuinely held that conviction based on their judgment of her sailing skills and maturity.

    But she insisted so they caved.

    Whoopsie.  This sounds to me like ordinary bad parenting.  Because I’m pretty sure they could have hidden the keys to the boat – it’s not like she was going to sneak off and do this behind their backs.

    • Hmm

      I’m not sure it’s dependent on whether or not they thought she could do it.

      By giving their permission, they own the outcome regardless.

      Once she is 18, they don’t have a say anymore, and if she had been hurt, it wouldn’t have been on them anymore.

      • Of course it would have.

        Not legally, but I would hope people don’t care about their children’s well-being only because they’re legally obliged to.

        • not legally

          I didn’t mean legally. As I wrote below, they would still feel bad if a tragedy struck, but not as responsible.

          Legally though, if she had died or something, would they have been guilty of neglect?

      • parents always own the outcome

        This is a situation that’s a little hard for me to relate to since I’d do everything in my power to stop the trip at any age.  From 16 to 18 there would be an easy legal strategy, of course, but if my 46 year old son announced his intention to sail solo around the world they’d soon find a 97 year old lady on the dock with power tools trying to sink the boat before he could leave.  

        That said, it’s clear that this entire family is completely nuts has a different definition of acceptable risk than mine.  Since they apparently think that sailing solo around the world is a perfectly sensible activity, what matters is readiness and ability.  And while I’d have a hard time ignoring the age/judgment/maturity factor, I honestly don’t think I’d be one bit happier about my 18 year old being hurt or killed than my 16 year old.

        • sure

          To your last sentence, of course a parent would be equally devastated should a tragedy strike no matter what the age. But the parents of an 18+ yo wouldn’t be considered “bad” parents by our society, but a 16 yo’s would.

        • My dad wants to sail around the world

          I’m not happy about that. It’s not age. It’s a damn risky activity…and without a point as far as I can see.

    • well…

      …I garuantee there was an element of “why could my brother do it and not me???  Is it because I’m a girl?!?!?”

      Still bad parenting, but slightly nuanced…

    • Well

      By waiting until she’s 18, they can at least wash their hands of it — no publicity then. The reason she did it at 16 was to set a record, and IIRC, her older brother did the same trip at age 17, AND these folks are shopping for a reality show.

  3. weird

    Abbey’s brother, Zac, was also allowed to sail around the world solo at the age of sixteen. Maybe it’s a right of passage in their family.

      • Thanks!

        But I haven’t updated it in weeks. I have just been swamped by work. I’m not even cooking, which shows you how bad it’s been. The kids are living on take out pizza and store-bought empanadas. I fear they may revolt soon.

    • I thought he was 18?

      I took it as almost a family competition–not only was she so driven and competitive that she wanted to set the world record, but I got the distinct impression that she also wanted to beat her brother.

  4. weird

    Abbey’s brother, Zac, was also allowed to sail around the world solo at the age of sixteen. Maybe it’s a right of passage in their family.

      • Thanks!

        But I haven’t updated it in weeks. I have just been swamped by work. I’m not even cooking, which shows you how bad it’s been. The kids are living on take out pizza and store-bought empanadas. I fear they may revolt soon.

    • I thought he was 18?

      I took it as almost a family competition–not only was she so driven and competitive that she wanted to set the world record, but I got the distinct impression that she also wanted to beat her brother.

  5. My mother had a cousin

    she never met, she would have been a year older than my Mom. She died choking on a bit of hot dog. So, yeah, I am sorta glad my Mom told me to cut up the babies’ hotdogs into teeny weeny pieces, not because I am lawsuit happy, but because they are a choking hazard.

    • my dad jumped on that

      when we served hot dogs years ago – DS1 was probably between 3 or 4. He had been a police officer for 20 years and had saved several little kids choking on hot dogs (I remember news clippings in the photo albums.)  I’m sure he was too late for a few too. So he was all “You have to cut that up! don’t give it to him!” Of course we’d been just about to do that, but it was endearing.
      My dad’s not very cuddly, but he will take care of you.

      • The hotdog thing was a wicked bad analogy

        It’s a little hard to imagine why it’s not a good idea to treat toddlers like toddlers.  Helicopter parenting is only harmful when preschoolers are treated like toddlers, or elementary kids are treated like preschoolers, or adolescents are treated like elementary kids – in other words, when kids are not guided into growing up.  

        There are 10 kids in grades 2 – 7 that hang as a group in our cul-de-sac.  The two youngest were 3 when we moved in and they were too young to play unsupervised, so one or both usually had parents in the front yard while the kids were out front.  But gradually, as appropriate, we all moved to supervising surreptitiously from inside the front windows, and it’s been a few years since they’ve needed direct supervision at all times.  This is a safe and close neighborhood and there are always adults with their eyes out.

        But there’s one more kid in the neighborhood, only 6 months younger than the youngest of this group.  He has never been allowed to run with the others.  He only recently started joining the nightly kickball games, but only with his mom or dad standing on the sidewalk watching the game.  It’s a little creepy.  And the other day as I came home I saw his mom run over to pull him and his friend out from in front of my driveway – as though a first grader could not be expected to do that himself (or perhaps she thought I was planning to run him down).  Either this kid has no sense, or he’s not being taught to use it.

        • This struck home

          Helicopter parenting is only harmful when preschoolers are treated like toddlers, or elementary kids are treated like preschoolers, or adolescents are treated like elementary kids – in other words, when kids are not guided into growing up.  

          Having kids spaced the way I do, we still have to keep the house pretty much baby proofed even though my older two don’t really need it.  I try to provide them with ways to feel more grown up but when we watch tv it’s still usually NickJr even though Joey is old enough for bigger kid shows and channels.  He doesn’t mind and luckily I can find other media choices for him with the Internet but sometimes I feel bad that he doesn’t have as many big kid opportunities right as his fingertips.

          • oh, I have that problem

            With an 18 month age difference I don’t have the option of keeping their activities and stuff separate, so everything ends up developmentally a bit off for one or the other.  Stories are either too complex for one or too simple for the other.  I can usually balance things out, more or less, but I’m sure it’s so much harder to accommodate 3 kids and a 4 year age range.

            • LOL

              That sounds like something my daughter would do.  The boys are much more sensitive than she is.  If we accidentally watch regular tv she doesn’t care but Joshie gets scared.

              • It’s funny

                my 7 year old has always done things beyond his years because he’s the youngest – you’ll find that the baby gets to do things that you never would have let Joey do because it’s the way the family is set up.  

                Really though, is it so bad that a 7 year old is forced to watch Peep or Cyberchase instead of iCarly (NO!).  

                • My seven yr old

                  watches over my two-year old’s shoulder when she watches Elmo or Blue’s Clues on my iPhone. And he still likes Cyberchase :)

                  • I know, I know

                    And we have several families in the neighborhood that have 3 and 4 kids so I know for a fact that at least 2 or 3 of Joey’s buddies have younger siblings and are in the same boat.  So he’s not the only one picking up his more obnoxious speech/behavior from other kids who have access to more grown up media rather than from watching it himself.

                    • Picking up things

                      For better or worse, my son has never imitated tv, movies, other media, or even us. He’s absolutely impermeable. My daughter, however, is a little parrot. It’s cute right now, but I know it will become annoying soon enough.

    • and I am sorry

      about your mother’s cousin – that’s an awful family tragedy. It’s scary how much is unsafe for small children.

    • I think it’s different, though

      There is no significant advantage to a toddler eating a hot dog whole.  There is a significant advantage for having the ability to take a very, very brave leap of faith, and a distinct disadvantage to being overly timid.  The confidence and tenacity that these parents have nurtured in their daughter is going to put her at an advantage in everything she tries to do–I don’t see it as just being about sailing.

  6. My mother had a cousin

    she never met, she would have been a year older than my Mom. She died choking on a bit of hot dog. So, yeah, I am sorta glad my Mom told me to cut up the babies’ hotdogs into teeny weeny pieces, not because I am lawsuit happy, but because they are a choking hazard.

    • my dad jumped on that

      when we served hot dogs years ago – DS1 was probably between 3 or 4. He had been a police officer for 20 years and had saved several little kids choking on hot dogs (I remember news clippings in the photo albums.)  I’m sure he was too late for a few too. So he was all “You have to cut that up! don’t give it to him!” Of course we’d been just about to do that, but it was endearing.
      My dad’s not very cuddly, but he will take care of you.

      • The hotdog thing was a wicked bad analogy

        It’s a little hard to imagine why it’s not a good idea to treat toddlers like toddlers.  Helicopter parenting is only harmful when preschoolers are treated like toddlers, or elementary kids are treated like preschoolers, or adolescents are treated like elementary kids – in other words, when kids are not guided into growing up.  

        There are 10 kids in grades 2 – 7 that hang as a group in our cul-de-sac.  The two youngest were 3 when we moved in and they were too young to play unsupervised, so one or both usually had parents in the front yard while the kids were out front.  But gradually, as appropriate, we all moved to supervising surreptitiously from inside the front windows, and it’s been a few years since they’ve needed direct supervision at all times.  This is a safe and close neighborhood and there are always adults with their eyes out.

        But there’s one more kid in the neighborhood, only 6 months younger than the youngest of this group.  He has never been allowed to run with the others.  He only recently started joining the nightly kickball games, but only with his mom or dad standing on the sidewalk watching the game.  It’s a little creepy.  And the other day as I came home I saw his mom run over to pull him and his friend out from in front of my driveway – as though a first grader could not be expected to do that himself (or perhaps she thought I was planning to run him down).  Either this kid has no sense, or he’s not being taught to use it.

        • This struck home

          Helicopter parenting is only harmful when preschoolers are treated like toddlers, or elementary kids are treated like preschoolers, or adolescents are treated like elementary kids – in other words, when kids are not guided into growing up.  

          Having kids spaced the way I do, we still have to keep the house pretty much baby proofed even though my older two don’t really need it.  I try to provide them with ways to feel more grown up but when we watch tv it’s still usually NickJr even though Joey is old enough for bigger kid shows and channels.  He doesn’t mind and luckily I can find other media choices for him with the Internet but sometimes I feel bad that he doesn’t have as many big kid opportunities right as his fingertips.

          • oh, I have that problem

            With an 18 month age difference I don’t have the option of keeping their activities and stuff separate, so everything ends up developmentally a bit off for one or the other.  Stories are either too complex for one or too simple for the other.  I can usually balance things out, more or less, but I’m sure it’s so much harder to accommodate 3 kids and a 4 year age range.

            • LOL

              That sounds like something my daughter would do.  The boys are much more sensitive than she is.  If we accidentally watch regular tv she doesn’t care but Joshie gets scared.

              • It’s funny

                my 7 year old has always done things beyond his years because he’s the youngest – you’ll find that the baby gets to do things that you never would have let Joey do because it’s the way the family is set up.  

                Really though, is it so bad that a 7 year old is forced to watch Peep or Cyberchase instead of iCarly (NO!).  

                • My seven yr old

                  watches over my two-year old’s shoulder when she watches Elmo or Blue’s Clues on my iPhone. And he still likes Cyberchase :)

                  • I know, I know

                    And we have several families in the neighborhood that have 3 and 4 kids so I know for a fact that at least 2 or 3 of Joey’s buddies have younger siblings and are in the same boat.  So he’s not the only one picking up his more obnoxious speech/behavior from other kids who have access to more grown up media rather than from watching it himself.

                    • Picking up things

                      For better or worse, my son has never imitated tv, movies, other media, or even us. He’s absolutely impermeable. My daughter, however, is a little parrot. It’s cute right now, but I know it will become annoying soon enough.

    • and I am sorry

      about your mother’s cousin – that’s an awful family tragedy. It’s scary how much is unsafe for small children.

    • I think it’s different, though

      There is no significant advantage to a toddler eating a hot dog whole.  There is a significant advantage for having the ability to take a very, very brave leap of faith, and a distinct disadvantage to being overly timid.  The confidence and tenacity that these parents have nurtured in their daughter is going to put her at an advantage in everything she tries to do–I don’t see it as just being about sailing.

  7. Brave parenting, hmmm?

    Anyone sailing the Indian Ocean alone in the middle of the winter storm season seems more foolish than brave to me.  Can’t there be  some middle ground between parents who do these extreme things and parents who want to bubble wrap their children?  I don’t think you can automatically go from saying no to a venture like this to being a helicopter parent.  

    Besides, I have a feeling that the helicopter parenting trend is over reported like many of the NYT trend pieces.  Or maybe it’s an upper middle class and lower class phenomenon.  For example, in the fancier suburbs there probably are not as many kids out and about as both parents are probably working and the kids are in care of some sort and in the inner cities it genuinely is not safe.  I am square in the middle in an older suburb where I would say the majority of families are comfortable but not necessarily affluent and my kids go out in our backyard unsupervised all of the time and I see many kids riding bikes through the neighborhood and going off to the school playgrounds by themselves.  Granted they usually start venturing off independently or in groups between ages 8-10 but that seems pretty sensible as it’s about the age that they can safely follow the rules of the road although we don’t have busy streets.  It’s about the same as when I was growing up.

      • But I think

        it’s on the extreme end of brave parenting.  It seems like these people trained their kids for their entire lives to have the ability to do this kind of thing, it was as successful as anybody could have hoped for, and then they took the risk with the deck as stacked in their favor as possible.  It will never be something the average person could do, for a number of reasons.  But for them, I think it was more reasoned than foolhardy, KWIM?  They knew exactly what she was getting into, as did she.  If something had happened to her, it would have been their loss, and their own regret to live with.

        • Yeah

          I would put it in the category of “I wouldn’t do it, but if you want to that’s your business.”

          Kind of like drinking raw milk.

        • I don’t know

          I’m sure it was within her abilities but is sure seems like the decision was made based on getting her off in time to get the record for the youngest ever to do it rather than doing it for the sake of doing it.  I think that they should have timed the trip differently.  My understanding is that expert sailors tend to avoid those waters at that time of year.  One of the French fisherman who came to her aid fell overboard.  I’m not sure that it was fair to him and his family or the families of the responders that they had to rescue her.  I think it was a large expense for Australia as well so there’s that to consider.

    • I’m torn

      My kids play out in the back yard by themselves (they’re 7 and 8).  The yard is fenced, the neighborhood is safe, and I trust in their ability to follow the rules and behave generally in a safe way.  But we have some wildlife issues.  We have bears in our neighborhood – we see them a couple times every year.  There are frequent reports of mountain lions.  We also spend a lot of time in the mountains where there are more bears and mountain lions.  

      We teach them the proper procedures and everything, but they are still prey-sized!  I worry less now than when they were itty-bitty, and I try not to let my fears interfere with their independence, but it’s hard…

      • But that’s an Actual Risk

        I think there is a difference between knowing what risks are in your area and parenting around those AND being afraid of the boogeyman.  We live on a county highway where the speed limit is 55 mph…therefore my kids don’t bike on the road.  I based that rule on real risk.  

        You’re not watching them because you’re afraid a child molester will jump out of the trees and attack.  You watch and worry because they are prey sized and there are predators in your area.  

        • true…

          It is an actual risk, but it’s probably still pretty small.  The animals are here, but there aren’t nightly news reports of kids getting carried off by mountain lions.  It’s just something that has always been a boogeyman for me.

          I think the greater struggle between being a “brave” parent and being overly cautious is the what-if.  I think, sure, it’s so important for them to learn to take some risks, to learn to be independent and trust themselves.  But “what-if” they climb that tree and fall and break their neck?  What if they are bike riding alone and don’t see that car pulling out of the driveway.  How would I feel knowing I let that happen?

          Plus, in our family, DH is much more cautious than I am.  He would not let our 8 1/2 yo ride around the block alone (1/2 mile circle with one access point).  He would not let our 7-yo non-swimmer be in the pool without a parent (even though he has a swim-vest and there are life guards).  So then when I do let the kids do those things I get guilt from him, along with the feeling that if something bad happened he would never forgive me.

          This is a tough topic for me!  I want to be a brave person but I never have been.

  8. Brave parenting, hmmm?

    Anyone sailing the Indian Ocean alone in the middle of the winter storm season seems more foolish than brave to me.  Can’t there be  some middle ground between parents who do these extreme things and parents who want to bubble wrap their children?  I don’t think you can automatically go from saying no to a venture like this to being a helicopter parent.  

    Besides, I have a feeling that the helicopter parenting trend is over reported like many of the NYT trend pieces.  Or maybe it’s an upper middle class and lower class phenomenon.  For example, in the fancier suburbs there probably are not as many kids out and about as both parents are probably working and the kids are in care of some sort and in the inner cities it genuinely is not safe.  I am square in the middle in an older suburb where I would say the majority of families are comfortable but not necessarily affluent and my kids go out in our backyard unsupervised all of the time and I see many kids riding bikes through the neighborhood and going off to the school playgrounds by themselves.  Granted they usually start venturing off independently or in groups between ages 8-10 but that seems pretty sensible as it’s about the age that they can safely follow the rules of the road although we don’t have busy streets.  It’s about the same as when I was growing up.

      • But I think

        it’s on the extreme end of brave parenting.  It seems like these people trained their kids for their entire lives to have the ability to do this kind of thing, it was as successful as anybody could have hoped for, and then they took the risk with the deck as stacked in their favor as possible.  It will never be something the average person could do, for a number of reasons.  But for them, I think it was more reasoned than foolhardy, KWIM?  They knew exactly what she was getting into, as did she.  If something had happened to her, it would have been their loss, and their own regret to live with.

        • Yeah

          I would put it in the category of “I wouldn’t do it, but if you want to that’s your business.”

          Kind of like drinking raw milk.

        • I don’t know

          I’m sure it was within her abilities but is sure seems like the decision was made based on getting her off in time to get the record for the youngest ever to do it rather than doing it for the sake of doing it.  I think that they should have timed the trip differently.  My understanding is that expert sailors tend to avoid those waters at that time of year.  One of the French fisherman who came to her aid fell overboard.  I’m not sure that it was fair to him and his family or the families of the responders that they had to rescue her.  I think it was a large expense for Australia as well so there’s that to consider.

    • I’m torn

      My kids play out in the back yard by themselves (they’re 7 and 8).  The yard is fenced, the neighborhood is safe, and I trust in their ability to follow the rules and behave generally in a safe way.  But we have some wildlife issues.  We have bears in our neighborhood – we see them a couple times every year.  There are frequent reports of mountain lions.  We also spend a lot of time in the mountains where there are more bears and mountain lions.  

      We teach them the proper procedures and everything, but they are still prey-sized!  I worry less now than when they were itty-bitty, and I try not to let my fears interfere with their independence, but it’s hard…

      • But that’s an Actual Risk

        I think there is a difference between knowing what risks are in your area and parenting around those AND being afraid of the boogeyman.  We live on a county highway where the speed limit is 55 mph…therefore my kids don’t bike on the road.  I based that rule on real risk.  

        You’re not watching them because you’re afraid a child molester will jump out of the trees and attack.  You watch and worry because they are prey sized and there are predators in your area.  

        • true…

          It is an actual risk, but it’s probably still pretty small.  The animals are here, but there aren’t nightly news reports of kids getting carried off by mountain lions.  It’s just something that has always been a boogeyman for me.

          I think the greater struggle between being a “brave” parent and being overly cautious is the what-if.  I think, sure, it’s so important for them to learn to take some risks, to learn to be independent and trust themselves.  But “what-if” they climb that tree and fall and break their neck?  What if they are bike riding alone and don’t see that car pulling out of the driveway.  How would I feel knowing I let that happen?

          Plus, in our family, DH is much more cautious than I am.  He would not let our 8 1/2 yo ride around the block alone (1/2 mile circle with one access point).  He would not let our 7-yo non-swimmer be in the pool without a parent (even though he has a swim-vest and there are life guards).  So then when I do let the kids do those things I get guilt from him, along with the feeling that if something bad happened he would never forgive me.

          This is a tough topic for me!  I want to be a brave person but I never have been.

  9. I’m ambivalent

    about this particular decision, but I do see it as an example of brave parenting.  Taking risks is important, symbolically and concretely.  I’m with Jenna as far as waiting until a kid is 18–there are some risks I just won’t be willing to absorb, so my kids won’t be getting my permission to, say, marry or join the military before they are 18.  Once I can’t stop them, I can at least register my disapproval (if appropriate), and wash my hands of the whole thing.

    The only part of Abby sailing around the world solo that I really question is my understanding that something delayed the trip, so she ended up starting at a bad time of year, but was allowed to do it anyway so she could set the record–as a parent, I think that’s the only part of this I can definitively say I would have not allowed.  Of course, I know nothing about sailing, nor am I involved in anything equivalent–my kids will definitely not have the expertise to do anything this risky at 16.  

    This was discussed on Jezebel last week, and the writer there brought up the fact that some people are bitter about the cost of rescuing here.  The Jezebel writer found that “distasteful”, but I don’t.  I’m glad she was rescued and wouldn’t change it, but I understand some questioning and resentment about it.  I know that Australia has a better social safety net than the US (where we still have search and rescue teams for this kind of thing), but even so–most tax payers cannot afford the time or money to undertake such a thing, or provide their children with it.  Why on earth would taxpayers happily fund rich people hobbies?  Especially since it was, to some extent, a conscious decision on the family’s part–normally I believe that a sailor would have rescue insurance, which would not have been approved in Abby’s situation.  So the family decided that, hey, if anything goes wrong, let the little people pay for it.

  10. I’m ambivalent

    about this particular decision, but I do see it as an example of brave parenting.  Taking risks is important, symbolically and concretely.  I’m with Jenna as far as waiting until a kid is 18–there are some risks I just won’t be willing to absorb, so my kids won’t be getting my permission to, say, marry or join the military before they are 18.  Once I can’t stop them, I can at least register my disapproval (if appropriate), and wash my hands of the whole thing.

    The only part of Abby sailing around the world solo that I really question is my understanding that something delayed the trip, so she ended up starting at a bad time of year, but was allowed to do it anyway so she could set the record–as a parent, I think that’s the only part of this I can definitively say I would have not allowed.  Of course, I know nothing about sailing, nor am I involved in anything equivalent–my kids will definitely not have the expertise to do anything this risky at 16.  

    This was discussed on Jezebel last week, and the writer there brought up the fact that some people are bitter about the cost of rescuing here.  The Jezebel writer found that “distasteful”, but I don’t.  I’m glad she was rescued and wouldn’t change it, but I understand some questioning and resentment about it.  I know that Australia has a better social safety net than the US (where we still have search and rescue teams for this kind of thing), but even so–most tax payers cannot afford the time or money to undertake such a thing, or provide their children with it.  Why on earth would taxpayers happily fund rich people hobbies?  Especially since it was, to some extent, a conscious decision on the family’s part–normally I believe that a sailor would have rescue insurance, which would not have been approved in Abby’s situation.  So the family decided that, hey, if anything goes wrong, let the little people pay for it.

  11. brave parenting

    I’m not down with letting a sixteen year old sail around the world alone…that seems like irresponsible parenting to me. But I do see the point about brave parenting.

    We let our kids do things that other parents think are nuts (climbing to the top of the tree, climbing up some huge boulders near here, wandering around the bush alone). And it does take bravery. There are times that I have to physically control my reactions to seeing my kids climbing up so high. Or disappearing into the distance. But I do it because I think it’s important for them to take safe-ish risks. And I do sometimes take flack from other parents because of it (it’s fine to let YOUR kids do these crazy things, but it makes MY kid want to do it too!). And sometimes other parents thank me for making them realize how overly cautious they are.

    So brave parenting is something that I believe in. But they are NOT sailing around the world alone. I would however sign them up for a youth sailing program  for the summer on a two masted ship….

  12. brave parenting

    I’m not down with letting a sixteen year old sail around the world alone…that seems like irresponsible parenting to me. But I do see the point about brave parenting.

    We let our kids do things that other parents think are nuts (climbing to the top of the tree, climbing up some huge boulders near here, wandering around the bush alone). And it does take bravery. There are times that I have to physically control my reactions to seeing my kids climbing up so high. Or disappearing into the distance. But I do it because I think it’s important for them to take safe-ish risks. And I do sometimes take flack from other parents because of it (it’s fine to let YOUR kids do these crazy things, but it makes MY kid want to do it too!). And sometimes other parents thank me for making them realize how overly cautious they are.

    So brave parenting is something that I believe in. But they are NOT sailing around the world alone. I would however sign them up for a youth sailing program  for the summer on a two masted ship….

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