Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Sailboats and Toddlers...Did Anyone Think This Through?

Here are my thoughts in response to the ridiculous sea journey undertaken unsuccessfully (duh) by Eric and Charlotte Kaufman:

It isn't about you anymore.

When you decide to have kids, their needs trump your needs.  Period.

If you have a hard time internalizing that message then don't have kids.  I know it sounds harsh, but it's how I feel. However, if you do decide to have kids, put their needs first. It's the most basic rule of parenting. It is an inverse principle that ebbs and flows depending on the circumstances at any given time and the age of the child, but it is the underlying theme a good parent understands...it's called sacrifice. You may need a good night's sleep, but if your two year is up with a stomach bug, I dare you to sleep through it. This push and pull, this dynamic of your child's needs versus your own will inform many decisions you will make regarding your child and the kind of relationship you would like to have with him/her...and that is truly a personal decision. But I think we can all agree that the very basic instinct of a parent is to keep their child safe.

If you feel the burning need to sail from Mexico to New Zealand, get it out of your system before your kids are born, because frankly, no one buys that crap that this was intended to be an adventure for a one and a three year old. Adventure to them means wandering away from their parents in a busy mall or being released from the confines of their stroller to be allowed to toddle unhampered down a street stopping to peruse...well, just about anything and everything within their line of vision. So this sailboat nonsense was a wholly selfish, self-indulgent conceit and let's not sugar coat it.

Very young children love to explore, yes that's true, but there isn't much to explore looking out over miles of ocean day after day, and I doubt the workings of the jib and pulleys and whatever goes into sailing could have held any interest to them whatsoever. This stunt more likely stunted their interaction with their environment far more than it enriched it. A young child needs to run and touch, I would venture to say running and touching would have been minimized in the confines of a sailboat. Yes, if they were teenagers and they had this experience of sailing the sea for a week and learned valuable life skills and plucky tidbits about themselves previously undiscovered then score one for intrepid parenting. But with two toddlers it is just plain foolish, dangerous and bordering on abuse.

It isn't about you anymore.

If you're a frustrated adventurer who never scaled Mt. Everest that doesn't give you license to drag your kids out to the Himalayas, and if you are an unfulfilled pianist that doesn't give you the right to force your child to take piano lessons when they'd rather read. Yes, please allow for lots of different experiences and expose your children to various lifestyles and new ideas, but first, keep them safe.

An adventure can be rewarding and stimulating in ways that a classroom can't be and I'm all for getting kids out there. There isn't only one way to raise children, and those that are raised in other cultures in other lands might be subject to things at a young age that would raise a few eyebrows here, but the underlying point to keep in mind that the safety of children beats all. What seems like a great idea might best be left for when children are older and can willingly participate in them.

Children aren't props or pawns...they have rights too.

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