4/20/15

Parenting Decisions . . .

I was running errands Saturday and listening to KMUW (as I almost always do on Saturdays) and This American Life came on with a (repeat) episode titled "Call for Help" and an opening segment looking at the controversial decision of  two parents, Eric and Charlotte Kaufman, who chose to take their house boat on a cross-Pacific adventure with their three-year-old and about-one-year-old, only to realize while way, way out to sea that a minor leak and equipment/boat damage and a sick infant were going to require an emergency rescue.

And that emergency rescue, while successful, would lead to a whole different level of hurt and turmoil for the family at sea. Apparently when you require a military aircraft and a Coast Guard vessel traveling some 2,000 miles to rescue you on your vacation - people (taxpayers or otherwise) get salty and your parenting is called in question.

Let me be clear about this - I don't remember this happening (it was in 2013 - that was an eternity ago for my brain and memory) but I am pretty sure that if I was aware of it at the time I called them dumb asses and made it clear that they deserved whatever pain they were suffering and their decision making was a nightmare. No, no . . . not because of the infant and the toddler but because to put a family on a 36' boat to head around a major portion of the EARTH is just a really, really stupid and horrible idea. Parenting decisions and judging them are not typically my thing.

But the point of this story is that, while listening to the program, I remembered that when our daughter was just five months old we lived in Connecticut, not far from New York City, and I really, really wanted to take her in to "the city" for the lighting of the Christmas Tree at Rockefeller Center. Yes. I knew she would have no idea of what was going on and would never remember it but I also wanted her to have the experience of it and - selfishly - I wanted to take some pictures (seriously). Her mother was having NONE of it.

There were lobs from the expense (minimal in the scheme of living in that part of the world) to the danger of it (there are hundreds of thousands of kids on the island of Manhattan at all times and there are many, many more that come in just for things like this) and the police presence to safeguard idiot tourists (like the family Amore) balloons for thse sorts of moments. We argued. A few times. I let it go. A year later we had relocated and went to the Mayor's tree lighting here in Wichita . . . I'm not complaining - just contextualizing. Experience and opportunity lost.

When I listened to the piece about these parents on Saturday I found a few things notable.


  1. How well prepared they otherwise were for this trip. He is a certified captain who can (and has) been in charge of commercial boats and has enough training to qualify him for high-levels of high-seas adventure.
  2. How thorough they were before just saying "Well, we need help and we're getting it." They really did, by their accounts, try everything short of it including mapping out how long it might take to get to their destination (three weeks, minimum) and how well the boat would make it (it probably would have made it).
  3. How much they lost. The boat was their home. It was their everything and everything they owned was on it when they left it to sink (the penalty of being rescued, I suppose).
  4. How much they had agreed on this decision and how little concern or worry they had, going in to it, that they might eventually raise the ire of a nation of critics and sofa pundits when they left port to start the trip.
I don't know a lot about parenting - I'm doing my best and think I'm doing fine. I know less about marriage. I know, probably, even less about consensus and deliberation, and true agreement between two people. But I know that if you're going to set sail with two little kids on a tiny-assed boat you'd better be pretty good at all of the above. Even if the world will later judge you for it.