Rescued from sea, couple buffeted by storm of parental criticism

In this photo provided by the U.S. Coast Guard, sailors from Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigate USS Vandegrift (FFG 49) assist in the rescue of a family with a sick infant via the ship's small boat as part of a joint U.S. Navy, Coast Guard and California Air National Guard rescue effort, Sunday, April 6, 2014. Eric and Charlotte Kaufman said their daughter Lyra's medical condition continued to improve after they boarded the San Diego-bound Vandegrift hundreds of miles off the Mexican coast so the girl could get to a medical facility. (AP Photo/U.S. Coast Guard)

Last weekend’s warm weather brought Minnesotans out of their winter bunkers and renewed one head-shaking exercise that hits me every spring: watching the number of kids out on their bikes riding without helmets.

I thought of that as I read today’s review of the parenting of Charlotte and Eric Kaufman, who had to be rescued from their sailboat at sea after their one-year-old child got sick. I wondered how many of those parents who send their kids out to ride bikes without helmets, were “tsk-tsk’ing” the parental abilities of someone else. Nothing makes us more an expert at parenting than commenting on someone else’s attempt at it.

But the Kaufman’s asked for it when they chose to sail the South Pacific with little children.

“I saw this coming — I saw the potential for every bit of it,” Ms. Kaufman’s brother, James Moriset, told a San Diego TV station. “I don’t understand what they were thinking to begin with. I’m sorry, I don’t even like to take my kids in a car ride that would be too dangerous, and it’s like taking them out into the big ocean?”

The Kaufmans are giving no quarter in this debate. The New York Times today reports they’ve issued this statement from aboard their Navy ride:

“When we departed on this journey more than a year ago, we were then and remain today confident that we prepared as well as any sailing crew could. The ocean is one of the greatest forces of nature, and it always has the potential to overcome those who live on or near it. We are proud of our choices and our preparation, and while we are disappointed that we lost our sailboat and our home, we remain grateful for those who came to our aid and those family and friends who continue to encourage and support us.”

The people of the Internet are not amused. They’re letting the Kaufmans have it on Ms. Kaufman’s blog– Rebel Heart.

Perhaps the most self-absorbed and and stupidest parenting decision EVER!! You are so very immature, and are part of the “I want WHAT I want, when I want it” generation of those having children that is a serious problem for our society. I won’t give you the dignity of calling you parents, as your decisions show a stunning lack of awareness beyond what you want–your children don’t have a say in this, and certainly, at their tender ages, will have no memory of this ill advised effort, perhaps thankfully. Your behavior and defense of it, without a smidgen of apology is ridiculous. Bozos, complete Bozos!

Unsigned, of course.

I get wanting to travel and exploring mother nature. I’ve done quite a bit myself and it’s a great experience for yourself and for your family. But this was completely and utterly horrifying to see on the news. What you did wasn’t just reckless, you wilfully put two children’s lives in danger. It doesn’t take a parent or doctor to see that it was an awful idea to sail when your second child had just gotten over being sick, Charlotte’s blog entries about suicide and her misgivings on this trip, and a max time of only 4 days’ time at sea amongst the other things posted are all red flags that shouldn’t have been ignored from the beginning.

People here aren’t angry because you chose to go sail around the world. People here are angry because you went with TWO children under the age of five and it seemed you resented them from the way you talked about them. Your dreams are not as important as your children’s or your spouse’s health. You cannot be selfish when you’re married with children. Your priorities should lay in the direction of “how can I be the best spouse/parent possible while balancing my goals, eg travelling when they’re a lot older.”

I suggest you both take a long hard look at yourselves as people and parents. Go to marriage counselling and therapy. Charlotte, as someone who has struggled with depression and abuse, please see a psychiatrist or psychologist. You owe it to yourself and to your loved ones. Contrary to popular opinion, what doesn’t kill you only makes you weaker.

But not all of the comments are critical:

So happy to hear that your family is safe and on the way to shore.

I just wanted to speak to the media reports of people posting comments critical of your decision to bring your children on this adventure.

Those are two very lucky children. Lucky, of course, to be heading home, but lucky to have parents that refuse to shield them from wonder, awe, uncertainty, and “controlled” danger.

In an era where friends count their “friends” by the number of connections on Facebook, and the simulation of every phenomenon – typically involving graphic displays of death and destruction – through immersive video games is what passes for “experience”, your kids will be light-years ahead of their peers in evaluating the world. These experiences will equip them with a radiant sense of the possible, advanced skills of risk assessment, and, hopefully, a broad, inclusive worldview for other ideas, places and people.

As to those that say that your trip was foolhardy to involve the children, I encourage them to look at any intersection – or more appropriately – any crosswalk, for those parents that rush into traffic with their children in strollers and Venti Starbucks in hand. That absurd behavior, fueled by a need to get somewhere entirely unimportant, is the risky activity we should police. For one, I’d feel considerably safer under the control of two experienced sailors,than walking my child into traffic with a texting teen hurtling toward me.

I hope you get home safely. And I hope you continue to involve your children on your travels, explorations, learnings, etc. They’ll be amazing young people as they grow.

Your turn.