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Should Abby's Parents Have Let Her Sail?

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When Abby Sunderland went missing at sea yesterday, the blogosphere started buzzing with questions ... and judgment (especially for Abby's parents).

Abby Sunderland

Should Abby's parents have let their 16-year-old daughter sail solo in the first place?

When we spoke with Abby's mom earlier this year, she said, "I ... think every kid is different, and every parent is different. Some are more prone to trouble than others. But Abby is a good kid, and I trust her completely. I understand that need to protect, but you've got to let go at a certain point."

Abby's story has drawn comparisons to that of Jessica Dubroff, the 7-year-old pilot trainee who died attempting to become the youngest person to fly an airplane across the United States.

Are we pushing our kids too far, too fast?



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61 comments so far | Post a comment now
anon June 11, 2010, 2:19 PM

“Are we pushing our kids too far too fast?”

It doesn’t sound to me like anyone was being pushed, it sounds like Abby had a dream and set out to do something she wanted, something that most adults would be scared to even try! She was obviously capable of handling herself in the situation and I think it is great that her parents were supportive. At 16 she is old enough to understand the possible consequences and her parents were right to let her go.

Anonymous June 11, 2010, 2:37 PM

I’m glad that Abby’s parents let her pursue her dream. Most parents today want to lock their kids in the basement and not let them do ANYTHING. Kids have to be allowed to be kids. They must learn about life. Not the cellphone addicted,ipod obsessed,sexting kind of life. They need to learn about the real ‘experience is out there’ kind of life so that they’ll be prepared for it when they grow up.

Peggy Brister June 11, 2010, 5:04 PM

Letting your kids ‘go’ is not the same as turning a teenager loose on a sailboat out in the ocean ALONE. I could see letting her go with an adult and just letting her do all the sailing but having supervision while she does the sailing. She could die out there all alone. I think it is one of the most irresponsible things I have ever heard of.

ConcernedMom June 11, 2010, 6:37 PM

I don’t think ANYONE should sail around the world alone, but that’s me… I definitely wouldn’t let my 16 year old do it, no matter how well equipped she may seem.

Kelly June 11, 2010, 7:41 PM

As parents, we have a responsibility to protect our children. I have two teens, and I encourage their dreams while using common sense and good judgment when it comes to their safety. Abby absolutely should have had, at the very least, an adult sail with her. What were her parents thinking?? “Letting go” is one thing. Allowing a minor child to sail solo around the world is quite another.

Rita June 11, 2010, 7:54 PM

It’s not like they just put her in a sailboat and say “See you in a few months.” She had the proper training and skills and for someone of such a young age to do something so extraordinary is inspiring, especially when most 16 year olds are partaking in premarital sex, drugs and other stuff they have no business doing.

She has the proper equipment, instructions and safety skills to sucessfully complete her mission if she so chooses.

This reminds me of earlier at nursery when one mother didn’t want her 2-year old child to participate in the water-balloon fight with the other children at VBS because she 1) Didn’t think he could throw a water balloon (have some faith in your kid) and 2) She didn’t want him to get wet. Parents need to let go and let their children get dirty and have fun. I promise you they probably won’t die.

Cut the apron strings, moms, and let your child experience life.

Michelle June 11, 2010, 7:57 PM

I agree with peggy. i think its fine to let a 16 year old sail the boat but there should be an adult present just in case. isnt this just common sense?

Mary June 11, 2010, 8:01 PM

I think that if her parents felt she could handle the rigors of circumnavigating the globe in a sailboat on her own, and they were all aware of the risks, I have no problem with the choice they made.

Seems to me, letting a 16 year old get behind the wheel is in many ways more risky. And parents around the country do that every day.

Anita Zanotto June 11, 2010, 9:29 PM

Absolutely NO!!!!….no 16 year old girl should be out on the ocean by herself!!!!! All in good time……and accompanied by other people for “back up”. Accidents happen every day—even to well trained and educated people throughout this world. You don’t mess with the oceans……look at the BP mess…good old Mother Nature reacted to the drilling and pumping being done….

sandy June 12, 2010, 7:52 PM

Not only are the parents irresponsible, but they are criminally negligent. In this age of piracy on the high seas, allowing your child to sail anywhere on the ocean alone is completely insane. Then broadcasting it all over world TV is just plain stupid. Parents need to be parents - they can be their child’s friend once they are of legal age. And 16 doesn’t qualify in my book.

Matt June 13, 2010, 8:33 AM

NO!!! The parents are the ones who wish to bask in the glory of their children and that is wrong. The son almost had a run in with pirates on his sail and they let their 16yo daughter go it alone as well. They,the parents are the selfish ones.

Carol June 13, 2010, 9:43 AM

I wonder how mny people syaing that the parents were right, know how to sail or navigate?
I know many highly experince people (some who actually enter races) would not engage in this under taking alone. Do you really have a full grasp of the hahrdships and difficulties that sailing aroud the world is? Are you aware of the winds, currents, storms? And being not hundred of miles away from any shores but thousands and thousands miles away? Weeks and months by yourself on a tiny boat at the mercy of the ocean and weather?
And her equipment can malfunction. GPS can fail to work because of weahter interference and yes there are plenty of “dead zones” where cell phones and GPS do not work.
In fact it can days for any rescue ships to reach stranded sailors in the middle of the pacific.
And do you reralize how hard it is to spot any single boat in the middle of any ocean by palne or helicopter?
I am really sick of parents giving in, okay-ing their child’s every whim and wants.
You can teach your child to be independent and self relaince without allowing them to undertake extrremely dangerous activities.

Anonymous June 14, 2010, 6:15 AM

Absolutely NOT. She’s 16!! She should be in school and sailing as a hobby or team sport, not jetting off by herself. Why not just let 16 year olds go get married then?

Nicole A. June 15, 2010, 3:13 AM

I am all about letting my kids have their independence and following their dreams, this however is not the same at all. I think it’s completely crazy to let a 16 year old loose in the ocean ALONE. I don’t care what kind of training or equipment she had it’s just plain dangerous.

Louise June 15, 2010, 3:35 AM

I AGREE EVERY CHILD IS DIFFERENT, THE FACT IS, ABBY IS AN EXPERIENCED SAILOR, AND EVEN THOUGH SHE IS ONLY 16, SHE’S VERY MATURE FOR HER AGE, AND VERY LEVEL HEADED.

TIMES ARE SO DIFFERENT NOW THAN THEY WERE EVEN 20 YEARS AGO, CHILDREN REALLY DO MATURE FASTER AND YES, I THINK UNDER THESE CIRCUMSTANCES HER PARENTS WERE RIGHT IN LETTING HER SAIL.

AS PARENTS WE HAVE AN OBLIGATION TO “LET GO”, TO KNOW WHEN IT’S TIME TO “STARTING LETTING GO”, HER PARENTS KNEW HER LEVEL OF MATURITY, HER SAILING EXPERIENCE, UNDER THESE CIRCUMSTANCES LETTING HER “SPREAD HER WINGS AND TEST HER LIMITS” WAS THE RIGHT THING TO DO.

Anne k June 15, 2010, 3:42 AM

Abby’s parents should have criminal charges rendered against them for irresponsible parenting failing to keep their child safe. Of course most kids want to do insane things…but that is why we have parents..to guide us into adulthood and prepare us for the challenges that await us…..if we chose to accept those challenges. But at 16, it is the parents responsibility to keep their child safe….and to do our best to protect them from dangerous situations. To allow your child to do something like that counteracts even primal parental instincts.

Sarah M June 15, 2010, 4:02 AM

I completely agree that every child is different, and the only people qualified to know exactly how different are a childs parents. One sixteen year old cannot be compared to another.. I do not believe Abby’s parents would have let her set sail if they were not comfortable with her ability to do so. I commend her parents for recognizing Abby’s ability and strengths and letting her nurture them. I don’t think this is a case of pushing our kids too far too fast. It is a case of recognizing their passions and letting them grow.

patricia June 15, 2010, 4:31 AM

I think her parents were wrong…no matter how mature she seems, she’s still in an unnecessarily dangerous and unpredicable situation. Is this part of the current trend to become “famous” at any cost?..No, she’s still a child and I think her parents should be held accountable. And what about the fact someone had to rescue her. I’ve been on the ocean, (and NOT on a cruise). It’s no place for a child alone, which is what this girl is.

Kelly June 15, 2010, 4:34 AM

Abby had an experience most adults would be afraid to even think about. Her parents were right to let her go, with peace of mind that she would be able to mentally and physically handle all aspects of this trip. On the flip side, if her cruise had been uneventful and successful, she would be lauded as some sort of hero for being so brave to take on this endeavor. In fact, most of you would never had heard of her or her attempt at circumnavigating the globe in a sailboat alone if she had been successful!

Michelle S June 15, 2010, 4:35 AM

These Parents are extrememly irresponsible. When I hear tragic stories of neglect like this I have to wonder if these Parents are motivated by the publicity and fame that it would bring their family. I know that when I was blessed with each of my four children that I was given a responsibility to protect, care and raise my children to be responsible adults. Not to throw them to the sharks before they are ready. Times have changed in the last 20 years, for sure, All the more reason to hold are kids closer. If her dream would have been to be a Mommy, would she have been found responsible enough for that? Sounds to me like another case of Parents afraid to say “NO” to their child. Where is she now???


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