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.

  • Why, oh, why would anyone want to take a 1-year child with them on such a trip? The child will have no memories have it. Trust me. My parents took me along on a trip from Minnesota to Wyoming when I was just under a year old. They have fun pointing things from trip photos out to me but I have zero recollection and, quite frankly, zero interest.

  • Kassie

    People seem concerned that the kids were “so young.” What if they would have been 8 and 10 and got appendicitis? How about 14 and 16? Should parents not be allowed to sail with their kids until they are of legal voting age?

    The parents knew they were taking a risk. It is a lifestyle. Kids around the world are put in dangerous situations every day. Kids on farms are around dangerous heavy equipment. Parents take kids hiking deep into the woods for week long trips. Parents send kids to day care facilities full of germs and low paid undertrained staff and don’t even vaccinate them before doing so. Kids may die from any of these. Or they might not.

  • KTN

    The tax payers are on the hook for this families misguided decision to take this trip. In Europe, if you choose to put yourself (and your family) at risk, and have to be rescued, then you are liable for paying for that rescue – this ought to be the case here to. Of course, they will not have to pay a dime, and others will see that they too might be able to escape any consequences, and responsibility for their inability and entitlement in a similar situation.
    If you are going to take you chances, you had better be prepared to pay up if things go wrong – unless you are entitled, spoiled, and clueless about the nature of nature.

    • I always wonder about this “who pays for it?” angle which, yes, is popping up. The Navy isn’t on call. The ships are out there sailing around anyway. The Navy people are getting paid anyway. What exactly is this burdensome extra cost? I would think it provides decent training.

      Disclaimer: A family member, who used to fly F-18s, used to use your taxpayer dollars to fly to Maine to pick up lobster. It was called a “training mission.”

      • KTN

        The who pays for it comes from the risk that family put on those rescuers. Those events are not without peril, and sometimes they go bad (Mt Hood in the early 00’s comes to mind). To think that the rescues are benign is foolish, and all it takes is one small mistake to change the metric from rescuing to tragedy of innocents.

        • Nobody said they were benign. That has nothing to do with the question of the cost to the taxpayers. What is the additional COST to the taxpayers. The taxpayers aren’t out there assuming any risk.

          It’s presented as a mathematical equation. So it should have a mathematical answer.

          I mean, we hear this all the time. in Moorhead, the city stopped defending people from the Red River because they chose to live there. There, there is a mathematical calculation.

          There’s a calculation for fighting wildfires because it deploys resources not already deployed.

          What are the resources here that weren’t already deployed?

      • Matt K

        A real live rescue mission still involves extra risk and cost.
        Ambulance drivers are already on the clock and out on the road, but we still shame people for jaywalking across 8 lanes of highway traffic.

    • Kassie

      People put themselves at risk every day. If you drive 5 miles over the speed limit and get in a crash, should you have to pay for the fire department to come and use the jaws of life to get you out of your car? If you go hiking and break your ankle, should you have to pay emergency personnel to come in and rescue you? If I walk in a dangerous neighborhood and get jumped, should I have to pay for my medical expenses if I’m on Medicaid?

      Or, in the case of this family, if an adult on the ship got sick and you never heard about the case, should they have had to pay?

      • KTN

        The difference is that this family chose an adventure, without the insight most of us have – don’t bring a 1 year old to sea, and then expect to be rescued because you are of the entitlement class, and oops, my baby got sick- and I am under prepared to deal with this.
        My 5 mile drive is not an adventure, (well sometimes if I get on the go peddle it can be an adventure), but my choice to move off the beaten path has consequences, sometimes lethal. This is not to say stay on the path, but rather, that if you choose to be an adventurer, you might not get the help you think you deserve.
        Cruise ships generally have physicians.

        • Kassie

          So it would have been totally ok if the child in question was 5? Or 10? How about 20? They didn’t expect the child to get sick. A one year old is not more likely to get sick (when not in day care) than an older child, is he?

          Some people say adventure, some people say lifestyle.

          And people get airlifted off of cruise ships all the time.

      • jon

        In plenty of places when you go hiking and have to be pulled out you do end up paying.

        When I was a kid and my parents took us to hike the grand canyon, it was well documented that the helicopter ride out of the canyon was one of the most expensive rides you’d probably ever have. Having some one else drag you and your gear out is expensive also…

        I’ve been told that when the US government diverts military resources to remove it’s citizens from countries that were on the US department of states a travel warning for they do charge for that, though rarely actually ever send the bill to collections if it goes unpaid.

  • jon

    I don’t see anything innovative about these parents, nor do I see anything criminal or negligent in their actions…

    Parents should expose kids to the world… hiding them from it because it’s dangerous is ridiculous. if you can’t take your kid on a car ride because it is too dangerous, you are teaching them to live in fear of unrealistic risks.

  • deegee101

    Could have been worse…witness this French family, who were far more reckless: